Andrew F. Tully, Washington
WASHINGTON, April 28, 2006 (RFE/RL) - Bush praised Aliyev's efforts to ensure a secure flow of energy from the Caspian region, and Aliyev thanked Bush for his help. "We are very grateful for the leadership of the United States in the promotion of energy security issues in the region, in assisting us to create a solid transportation infrastructure which will allow [us] to develop full-scale Caspian oil and gas reserves and to deliver them to the international markets."
Aliyev and Bush said they also discussed the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. The meeting coincided with the release of a report by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, accusing Iran of defying the UN Security Council’s calls to halt its uranium enrichment program.
Bush has often said he intends to resolve the issue without the use of force, but he stresses that all his options are open, including the use of military force. On Friday, Bush repeated his desire for a peaceful solution.
"We obviously talked about Iran. I assured the president of my desire to solve this problem diplomatically and peacefully," Bush said.
Bush didn't mention the military option. On Wednesday (April 26), Aliyev said that if the United States decides an attack is necessary, it would have to do so without Azerbaijan's help because Azerbaijan and Iran -- which share a nearly 300-kilometer border -- have a non-aggression treaty.
But Aliyev said on Wednesday and Friday that Azerbaijan remains a strategic partner with the United States and a strong ally with Washington in the war on terrorism and in Iraq. After Friday's meeting, Aliyev said:
"We are allies in the war on terror. We have been from the very first day shoulder to shoulder with the United States in peacekeeping operations in various parts of the world, and we'll continue to contribute to the creation of peace and stability in the region."
Bush also praised Azerbaijan as a Muslim nation that is becoming increasingly comfortable with democracy.
"We talked about the need for the world to see a modern Muslim country that is able to provide for its citizens, that understands that democracy is the wave of the future."
Aliyev and Bush also discussed Azerbaijan's continuing dispute with neighboring Armenia over the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan and Armenia's occupation of a large part of Azerbaijan after the war the two countries fought in 1992.
Bush and Aliyev said little of their discussions on these matters. The Azeri leader said only: "I informed Mr. President [of] the latest status of the negotiations [on Nagorno-Karabakh] and expressed my hope that a peaceful settlement of the conflict will happen and will serve the peace and stability in the whole region."
Talks on Nagorno-Karabakh have been in progress for more than a decade under the mediation of the so-called Minsk Group of nations: France, Russia and the United States.