BUZZFEED: AZERBAIJANIS VAINLY TRY TO COMPETE WITH ARMENIAN LOBBY IN U.S.
18:00 04/06/2014 >> REGION
Azerbaijan has launched an unusual campaign to win influence among
U.S. lawmakers as it seeks to translate its immense oil wealth into
political support, reads the article published on the U.S. site
According to the article since early 2013, state legislators in
17 states have introduced pro-Azerbaijani resolutions. What the
initiatives had in common was they nearly all had at least one sponsor
who attended a conference in the capital Baku in May 2013 organized
by the Turquoise Council for Americans and Eurasians. The council
is a Houston-based group connected to Fethullah Gulen, the leader of
the moderate Islamist Hizmet movement that grew in Turkey.
"The initiatives -- brought in Utah, New Mexico, Tennessee, Kansas,
South Dakota, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona,
Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Illinois, West Virginia, Wyoming, and
Hawaii -- play well domestically in Azerbaijan, a country run by a
regime accused of corruption and widespread human rights abuses,"
the article reads.
In an effort to improve its image, Azerbaijan has become one of the
top 10 foreign spenders on lobbying in the United States, spending
$2.3 million last year.
"Azerbaijan lobbies in the U.S. through three main conduits: its
embassy; a fairly new group called the Azerbaijan America Alliance; and
its state oil company SOCAR, which has opened an office in Washington,"
the article reads. The author notes that the Azerbaijan America
Alliance, which helped finance a Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania
in 2013, is run by Anar Mammadov, the son of Azerbaijan's Transport
Minister Ziya Mammadov, who is best known for once paying a restaurant
$1 million to slaughter and grill a bear for him.
According to the article the link between the Azerbaijanis and
the resolutions was even more direct. In Tennessee, Representative
Joe Towns, who was invited to attend the 2013 trips, introduced an
Azerbaijan-related bill this year. Local media noticed that he had
received $10,000 in campaign donations from the Azerbaijanis to
support the pro-Azerbaijani resolution.
The Turquoise Council, headed by a Gulenist follower named Kemal Oksuz,
paid for the travel of U.S. lawmakers who went on a trip to Baku to
"meet there with the government officials, civic society leaders,
U.S. Embassy staff," BuzzFeed writes.
Experts say the Azerbaijanis are looking to both compete with the
Armenian lobby in the U.S. and also show their bosses back home they
are simply accomplishing something. According to the former U.S.
Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich the actions of the
Armenian lobby who try to pass similar kinds of resolutions on behalf
of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh is a sign for them.
On a state level the lobbying is useless believes Elmar
Chakhtakhtinski, the president of Azerbaijani Americans for Democracy.
This is all happening as Azerbaijan has drawn sharp criticism worldwide
for its treatment of its people. The Council of Europe criticized
Azerbaijan earlier in May as the country was assuming its chairmanship
of the ministerial committee, saying that the human rights situation
there "is a more than worrying state of affairs."