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Azerbaijan

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CUELLAR. Mr. Speaker, I recently returned from a visit to the nation of Azerbaijan, the tiny democracy in Central Asia located between Russia and Iran. They are our friends, and they live in one of the world's most dangerous neighborhoods.

They celebrate a culture of diplomacy, which they credit with surviving as a nation since humans began walking the Earth. A population of mostly Muslims, Azeris have long welcomed other faiths. They have a large Christian community, and a proud Jewish community *.*.* as well as dozens of ethnic minorities.

Even before the United States gave women the right to vote, Azerbaijan gave women the right to vote. Women serve in their legislature. As the father of daughters, I wanted to see a Muslim country that was not the stereotype of how Americans often see a Muslim nation.

Azerbaijan really does offer a remarkably different look at how developing democracies in the republics of the former Soviet Union can welcome people of all faiths, and institute the organs of civil society. They are a model for other developing democracies.

In the famous "Old City,'' ancient walls surround the old city of the 12th Century. This walk through history, mind you, is in the midst of a modern capitol city--a bustling city where infrastructure is constantly improving.

Here's something Azeris have in common with Texans: they are a rich oil producing nation. As we do in Texas, Azeris have a long history with oil. Today, they supply the pipeline that moves Caspian oil to the west, via Turkey, without running the oil supply through Russia or Iran. That greatly increases the security of the pipeline.

Azeris have an interesting way of investing their oil profits in future generations, using the money they make from oil to build roads, bridges, tunnels, city parks, and public buildings. They also use it for overseas scholarships *.*.* and to build alternative energy sources in Azerbaijan. They know oil is a finite resource.

But their present day energy supply feeds a large part of the energy needed in Europe and Turkey, our NATO allies. Azerbaijan supplies close to half of the energy needs of Israel.

I encourage my colleagues in the House of Representatives to learn more about Azerbaijan and their evolving economy.


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