Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise to draw my colleagues' attention to the tiny nation of Azerbaijan, which is a giant in world affairs.
Situated between Iran and Russia, Azerbaijan stands as a friend of the United States and that friendship frequently concerns nearby nations.
Part of what makes Azerbaijan a remarkable ally for the United States is that some 20 million Iranians are of Azeri descent, a large part of northern Iran is frequently referred to as ``southern Azerbaijan'' as a reminder that the territory was--for centuries--part of Azerbaijan.
The development of Azeri oil and gas in the Caspian Sea, along with the major Azeri export pipelines that pump energy to Western markets, makes the region all the more strategic as a U.S. ally.
But it is their geographical location to Afghanistan that makes them absolutely an essential ally for the U.S. Azerbaijan provides a crucial transit route to supply our troops in Afghanistan. With the expected closing of Manas air base in 2014, this route will be even more essential to our troops. They are a Muslim nation that is our friend, and our ally in the world.
This Muslim nation is the example for a secular society of religious diversity. A majority Muslim nation with a significant population of Jews, Azerbaijan is an ally of Israel. Just this month, on the anniversary of Pope John Paul II's visit to Azerbaijan, the Vatican's Cardinal Fernando Filoni spoke at the Catholic Church of Baku, reminding us that ``An atmosphere of exemplary tolerance exists in Azerbaijan.''
Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me today in recognizing the importance of Azerbaijan--both to the United States and to the world.