Remarks With Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov Before Their Meeting

By:  John Kerry
Date: June 3, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY KERRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I am very, very happy to welcome Foreign Minister Mammadyarov from Azerbaijan and very, very pleased to spend some time with him today. I've had occasion to talk to President Aliyev several times in the last months and we've talked about a number of different issues. But Azerbaijan -- we were just talking together -- is a wonderful statement about the ability of different religions, different sects to come together and live together and to find a way forward. And the Foreign Minister just spoke to the American Jewish Committee here in Washington and received a standing ovation when he talked about the commitment to fighting anti-Semitism and a commitment to diversity and pluralism.
So we're particularly grateful to welcome the Foreign Minister here. Azerbaijan has been an important partner in Afghanistan, in ISAF, and equally important with respect to the northern distribution route but also the southern gas line and other issues that are of great importance to us.

We've also talked -- I've had occasion to talk with the President about Nagorno-Karabakh. And this is a frozen conflict, as we call it, one that threatens the stability of the region and one that we need to deal with. As co-chair of the Minsk Group, we have a serious interest -- the United States -- in helping Azerbaijan and Armenia to be able to find a path forward. The last thing we want is a return to war and to conflict. I believe there is a path forward, and we will continue to work quietly and patiently in an effort to try to encourage the parties to be able to take either confidence-building measures that may get to further down the road or to find a way towards a settlement with respect to this issue. Both have been close before, and at the last minute things have happened that have denied everybody that opportunity. So we have a big interest in that.

We also have an interest in seeing Azerbaijan continue to walk down this road, march down the road towards greater democracy to help build the pluralism of the country and ultimately to be able to find a way for peace and stability in the region and with its neighbors. So we are going to work on that and we are going to have a good discussion in a few moments about a number of these issues. But Mr. Foreign Minister, I'm glad to have you here. Thank you for your efforts and we appreciate the effort to try to walk down this road together.

FOREIGN MINISTER Mammadyarov: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Just a few words. It's very difficult to add something to what was so skillfully articulated by the Secretary for our discussion for our agenda. But one thing is extremely important: We consider Azerbaijan as a partner, your strategic partner, taking the consideration what Mr. Secretary said about the agenda of our cooperation with the United States and all of the issue which was indicated is definitely of the strategic nature.

Of course, Azerbaijan, it's far from United States, but we still believe that to all these challenges which we're facing together with United States will successfully move forward, including on the -- one of the biggest problem of the conflict resolution with the neighbor Armenia, with whom we are definitely and desperately interested to live in peace with dignity, always that there will be all the negative outcome of the conflict will be in the past, and we will look to the bright future of successful cooperation and living next to each other as a good neighborhood.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good. Thank you, my friend.

FOREIGN MINISTER Mammadyarov: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, do you have any plans to increase United States role in resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

FOREIGN MINISTER Mammadyarov: We're going to discuss this issue in particular on this detail.

SECRETARY KERRY: We are working on that. We're co-chairs of the Minsk Group. We have thoughts about how we can proceed down that road carefully and thoughtfully. Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER Mammadyarov: Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.