THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
Visit of President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan
The President was pleased to welcome President Aliyev of Azerbaijan to the White House today. He said that President Aliyev's visit marks a milestone in the partnership between our nations and shows the promise of our growing cooperation.
The President reaffirmed that America strongly supports Azerbaijan's efforts to build a strong, independent nation because we have a major stake in its success. Azerbaijan lies at the strategic crossroads between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is the gateway to Central Asia. It is rich in natural resources. A confident, sovereign Azerbaijan will promote stability in a troubled region, provide a secure route for east-west trade, and enable swift, reliable transport of its energy resources to world markets.
The President noted that under President Aliyev's leadership, Azerbaijan has made significant progress in meeting the challenges of independence. The United States wants that progress to continue -- so the people of Azerbaijan can share the full benefits of democracy, prosperity and security.
The President emphasized that a key to that goal is an early, peaceful settlement to the tragic conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Together with Russia and France in the OSCE Minsk Group, we are working with the parties to find a just and lasting solution -- but the parties themselves must make the tough decisions peace requires. Only through peace can the states of the Caucasus develop their full potential.
The President pointed to Azerbaijan's vast energy resources as a clear example of that potential. The Caspian Sea basin is a vital region for new oil and gas development, and the decisions made in the years ahead on energy extraction and transportation will profoundly affect generations to come. As the President explained, in a world of growing energy demand, our nation cannot afford to rely on any single region for our energy supplies. By working with Azerbaijan to tap the Caspian's resources, we not only help Azerbaijan to prosper, we also help diversify our energy supply and strengthen our nation's security.
President Clinton and President Aliyev signed a Joint Statement that reinforces our two nations' commitment to expand our partnership, promote regional peace and help Azerbaijan play its rightful role in Europe's new security structures. They also signed a Bilateral Investment Treaty that will create a better basis for our trade and investment, help promote an open business climate in Azerbaijan and further strengthen our economic ties.
In closing, President Clinton told President Aliyev that we want Azerbaijan to become our full partner -- stable in its democracy, secure in its independence and working at peace with its neighbors.
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