US – Azerbaijan relations


A first encounter of the United States-Azerbaijani inter-state relations was the meeting between President of the United States Woodrow Wilson and the delegation of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Azerbaijani delegates were unimpressed by the meeting in Paris, as instead of recognition, President Wilson advised them to develop a confederation with Transcaucasian neighbours on the basis of a mandate granted by the League of Nations. The Azerbaijani question, Wilson concluded, could not be solved prior to the general settlement of the Russian question. But recalling this meeting in his speech at the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco on September 18, 1919, Wilson outlined his positive impression of Azerbaijani delegation:

Following the Red Army invasion in April 1920Azerbaijan SSR was proclaimed, which in 1922 joined Soviet Union as a part of the Transcaucasian Federative Soviet Socialist Republic. No direct inter-state relations existed between Azerbaijan SSR and the United States.

Contemporary relations

On October 18, 1991, the Azerbaijani parliament adopted a declaration of independence. Subsequently, on December 25, 1991, Soviet Union ceased its existence and the United States formally recognized 12 former Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, as independent states. On March 6, 1992, Azerbaijan opened its embassy in Washington, and on March 16, 1992, the United States opened its embassy in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Currently, the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States is Mr. E. Suleymanov. The Consul General of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles is Mr. Nasimi Agayev.

The partnership between Azerbaijan and the United States is based on mutual respect, interests alike and successful cooperation. There is a fruitful cooperation between two countries in different areas, including energy security, peaceful operations, counter-terrorism and etc. Mutual visits, contacts and dialogues are regularly held between Azerbaijan and the United States in different spheres. Azerbaijan is the largest trade partner of the United States in the South Caucasus.

High-level visits and meetings

Heads of State

25-30 September 1994 working visit of President H.Aliyev in the framework of UN GA

20-26 October 1995 working visit of President H.Aliyev

27 July- 6 August 1997 official visit of President H.Aliyev

22-27 April 1999 working visit of President H.Aliyev

12-18 February 2000 working visit of President H.Aliyev

4-9 September 2000 working visit of President H.Aliyev in the framework of UN GA

1-13 April 2001 working visit of President H.Aliyev

23 February–14 March 2003 official visit of President H.Aliyev

23-25 September 2004 working visit of President I.Aliyev in the framework of UN GA

25-28 April 2006 official visit of President I.Aliyev

24 September 2010 working visit of President I.Aliyev in the framework of UN GA

2-4 May 2012 working visit of President I.Aliyev

20-21 May 2012 working visit of President I.Aliyev

30 March – 1 April 2016 working visit of President I.Aliyev

Heads of Government

19-23 May 1997 official visit of Prime Minister A.Rasizade

25 August 2003 official visit of Prime Minister I.Aliyev

3-4 September 2008 official visit of Vice-President D.Cheney

Ministers of Foreign Affairs (last 5 years)

22-29 September 2014 working visit of E.Mammadyarov in the framework of UN GA

23 September-5 October 2015 working visit of E.Mammadyarov in the framework of UN GA

30 March-1 April 2016 working visit of E.Mammadyarov

19-24 September 2016 working visit of E.Mammadyarov in the framework of UN GA

17-27 September 2017 working visit of E.Mammadyarov in the framework of UN GA

21 September-1 October 2018 working visit of E.Mammadyarov in the framework of UN GA

18-20 June 2019 working visit of E.Mammadyarov

Security partnership

The U.S.-Azerbaijani security relations developed along several paths, including Azerbaijan’s active participation in the NATO‘s Partnership for Peace program and the U.S.-led missions in KosovoAfghanistan and Iraq; and the bilateral military ties to ensure Caspian energy and transportation security. In support of the U.S.-led War on Terror, apart from troop contributions, Azerbaijan provided overflight, refueling, and landing rights for U.S. and coalition aircraft bound for Afghanistan and Iraq; shared information to combat terrorism financing; detained and prosecuted suspected terrorists. Apart from usage of Azerbaijani airspace by U.S. air forces, over one-third of all of the nonlethal equipment including fuel, clothing, and food used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan travels through Baku. In November 2011, the United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus met with the Azerbaijani President and Defense Minister announcing the military ties between their countries would expand. The U.S. State Department already offered Azerbaijan $10 million to enhance its security structures in the Caspian Sea earlier that year.

Partnership in peaceful operations

Azerbaijani servicemen serve shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers for a peace-keeping mission in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan provides specialized training for Afghani police, border guard officers and civilian and military medical doctors. Since the beginning of the American-led peace operation in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan made its infrastructure available to these operations and its transport infrastructure was used for transiting of non-lethal cargo for coalition forces in Afghanistan. As a key component of the Northern Distribution Network, Azerbaijan provided uninterrupted multi-modal transit for the coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Working closely with the U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Mobility Command, Azerbaijan extended important over-flight clearance, medical evacuation flights as well as landing and refueling operations for U.S. and NATO flights to support ISAF.

The Azerbaijani military has assisted over the years in American-led efforts in Iraq and in the Balkans.  Azerbaijan is an active participant of the international anti-terror efforts. Azerbaijan and the United States work together to counter nuclear proliferation and narcotics trafficking and to promote security in the wider Caspian region and beyond. Azerbaijan’s military has also developed a fruitful cooperative State Partnership program with the Oklahoma National Guard.

Cooperation in the Energy Sector

The ongoing productive cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United States has a successful history. The US companies have received shares in the “Contract of the Century” on the joint development of the Azeri, Chirag and Guneshli oil fields in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea and production sharing in 1994, also since that time the US side has actively supported the construction of the main oil and gas pipelines implemented by  initiative of Azerbaijan. The US companies Chevron and Exxon received shares by the amended and restated production sharing agreement signed by Azerbaijan and its international energy partners on September 14, 2017 on the Azeri, Chirag fields and the Deep-Water Portion of the Gunashli Field (ACG) to extend its development until 2050.

The United States also supports the contribution of Azerbaijan to the energy security of Europe, especially the Southern Gas Corridor.  İn this regard several times, President Trump noted that the United States remains strongly committed to the Southern Gas Corridor and welcomes the efforts of Azerbaijan and its international partners to complete it. “I appreciate Azerbaijan’s important role in bolstering global energy security, including the development and exportation of energy resources from the Caspian region.”

Parliamentary cooperation

A working group on inter-parliamentary relations between Azerbaijan and the United States operates in the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan. This working group was established on March 7, 1997 and was headed by Ilham Aliyev. The working group comprises 10 Members of Parliament and is headed by Samad Seyidov.

Azerbaijan Caucus at the US Congress was established in March 2004 and currently co-chaired by Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Steve Chabot (R-OH). Azerbaijan Caucus comprises 10 members of the US Congress. 

Mutual visits and meetings have been held between the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan and US Congress. Recently, and especially in 2018 and 2019 the delegation comprised of Samad Seyidov, Chairman of the Committee on Foreign and Interparliamentary Relations of the Milli Mejlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Members of Parliament Sahiba Gafarova and Asim Mollazadeh conducted a working visit to Washington. Furthermore, as a part of the regional trip Congressman Robert Goodlatte, Charman of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives of the US Congress visited Azerbaijan in 2018. The delegation consisted of Congressmen Michael Bishop, Kenny Marchant, John Curtis, Chris Stewart, and Henry Cuellar. The delegation held meetings with H.E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Taxes. Additionaly, in 2018, Devin Nunes, Charman of the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Eric Alan Crawford, Member of this Committee, visited Azerbaijan.

Economic cooperation

U.S.–Azerbaijani ties in economic sphere developed primarily in the context of Caspian energy resources and their transportation to Western markets. The U.S. companies are actively involved in the development of Caspian hydrocarbons in offshore Azerbaijani oilfields, and the U.S. government actively supported the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline as the primary route of transportation for Caspian oil.

The United States has signed a bilateral trade agreement with Azerbaijan, granting it the status of a “most favored nation”, in 1995; and a bilateral investment treaty with Azerbaijan, naming it a beneficiary country under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, in 2008. The U.S. also supports Azerbaijan’s application for accession to the World Trade Organization.

Azerbaijan is the largest trade partner of the United States in the South Caucasus and has successfully pursued major mutually beneficial trade deals.

For example, Azerbaijan signed several major contracts with Boeing. Currently, “Azerbaijan Airlines” operates a direct flight between Baku and New York. In April of 2016, Azerbaijan and the United States signed the bilateral “Open Skies” agreement.

Trade with Azerbaijan helps to support more than 11,000 jobs throughout the United States.

The State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan has invested approximately $8 billion in the United States, including in the U.S. Treasury, Federal Home Loan Bank, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, as well as in U.S. corporate debt and equities.

Major US exports to Azerbaijan include civilian aircrafts and its motor and spare parts (47.1 %), machinery, equipment and tools as well as their spare parts (19.6 %), pipes, cisterns and their parts (3 %) and other goods (30.2 %). Azerbaijani imports to the US include crude oil and other petroleum products (93.9 %). US also imports from Azerbaijan natural fruit juice and jams, carpets and textile goods, plants used to prepare medication and perfumes, wine products, chemical goods as well as radio and radio equipment. The overall trade turnover between Azerbaijan and the US was 781.78 mln USD and 858.61 mln USD in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Trade turnover between the Republic of Azerbaijan and United States of America (in USD millions)

  Year  Import  Export  Trade turnover

Azerbaijani exports to the US: crude oil and other petroleum products, natural fruit juice and jams, carpets and textile goods, plants used in the preparation of medication and perfumes, wine products, chemical goods, radio and radio equipment.

US imports to Azerbaijan: civilian aircraft and aircraft motor and spare parts (47.1 %), machinery, tools, equipment and their spare parts (19.6 %), pipes, cisterns and spare parts (3 %) and other products (30.2 %).

Major intergovernmental agreements in economic cooperation

Agreement on trade relations between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Government of the United States of America (1993), Agreement on protection and promotion of investments between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Government of the United States of America (1997), Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of Azerbaijan-US Economic Partnership Commission between the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Government of the United States of America (2007).

Joint Intergovernmental Commission: Azerbaijan-US Economic Partnership Commission was set up in 2007. The Commission held its most recent meeting in Baku on May 2019.

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Modern U.S.-Azerbaijani relations have been strongly influenced by the U.S. official position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The U.S. was actively involved in the attempts to resolve the conflict since 1992. As a part of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE; now OSCE) mission, US Secretary of State James Baker III proposed a set of rules named after him, which eventually defined the representation of the conflicting sides within the OSCE Minsk Group negotiation format.

In 1992, the U.S. Congress adopted Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which banned any direct U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan. The ban made Azerbaijan the only exception to the Post-Soviet states receiving U.S. government aid for facilitating economic and political stability. Passage of Section 907 was influenced by the powerful Armenian American lobby in the U.S. Congress, in response to the blockade imposed by Azerbaijan on Armenia in the course of the first Nagorno-Karabakh War. Azerbaijanis consider this legislation to be unfair as, during the same period of time, Armenian forces took control of the fifth of Azerbaijani territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh. Consecutive George H.W. BushClinton and George W. Bush administrations opposed Section 907, viewing it as an impediment to impartial U.S. foreign policy in the region and an obstacle to the U.S. role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict mediation efforts. In her 1998 letter to the House Appropriations Committee chairman, Bob Livingston, then U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote:

Section 907 damages US national interests by undermining the administration’s neutrality in promoting a settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh, its ability to encourage economic and broad legal reforms in Azerbaijan, and efforts to advance an East-West energy transport corridor.

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, Congress passed the foreign appropriations legislation of 2002, granting President the right to waive Section 907. In view of Azerbaijan’s contribution and support for the US military operations in Afghanistan,] President George W. Bush waived the section in January 2002; and President Barack Obama further extended that waiver.