Pastor General Gerald Flurry hosted the delegation of Yashar Aliyev, ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan, at Herbert W. Armstrong College on March 1. During what was the first state visit to the college, Mr. Flurry invited Ambassador Aliyev to visit Armstrong Auditorium and deliver a special forum to college students and headquarters staff.
“I am honored to present my country to your country,” Ambassador Aliyev said in his address, which consisted of a brief overview of Azerbaijan’s culture, history, economy and international relations.
Azerbaijan is a country of about 9 million people covering approximately the same area as Maine and sandwiched between Russia and Iran. Predominately Muslim, the country maintains a good relationship with Israel and assists United States forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ambassador Aliyev brought out several similarities between the distant nation and the United States and Oklahoma in particular, highlighting its mix of cultures, its full spectrum of climate zones, its emphasis on oil and natural gas, and its young age of only 20 years.
“Our most important thing for Azerbaijan is our independence. That is the dearest and most important thing for Azerbaijan,” the ambassador said. Ambassador Aliyev also spoke of Azerbaijan’s special relationship with the United States, underlined the importance of international relations, and invited students to visit Azerbaijan.
Following his remarks, the ambassador held a short question-and-answer session in which students and faculty inquired about the country’s economy, its relations with other nations, its outlook on the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, and his personal outlook about his job.
Regarding his country’s relations with its southern neighbor, the ambassador said, “Iran is very influential in the areas where Shiites live. … Once you see a Shiite community, you can theoretically imagine that there should be connections with the Iranian clerics.”
The ambassador emphasized peaceful solutions to dangerous world problems, and said that “small countries in small contributions can do a lot.”
“What really stood out when he described the geography of his country was the vulnerability of Azerbaijan to a great nuclear power to the north, Russia, and a potential nuclear power to the south, Iran,” International Relations instructor Ron Fraser said. “When push comes to shove, Azerbaijan will fall to one of its closest neighbors. As an Islamic state, the odds would appear to be in Iran’s favor.”
The ambassador was visiting Oklahoma as a guest of the Oklahoma National Guard, with which Azerbaijan has held a partnership since 2003. He spent the morning visiting Guard headquarters in Oklahoma City.
Following the talk, Mr. Flurry met briefly with the ambassador in the auditorium lobby and showed him its large installations of caramel onyx, which were originally quarried in Azerbaijan. After he was presented with a copy of the Herbert W. Armstrong College Envoy annual pictorial, Ambassador Aliyev gave Mr. Flurry a collection of cds of Azerbaijani symphonic music before bidding farewell.
The meeting came about thanks to the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation’s recent public relations initiatives, including the Young Ambassadors’ performance at the governor’s inauguration reception in January, which helped bring the college to the attention of the governor’s office. This prompted Chris Morriss, chief of protocol for the Oklahoma secretary of state, to arrange the visit.
Ms. Morriss accompanied the delegation, along with officers from the Oklahoma National Guard and Azerbaijani officials from the Washington, d.c., embassy.
Following the ambassador’s visit, Ms. Morriss wrote, “Thank you so very much for your kind hospitality while hosting Ambassador Aliyev yesterday. I believe your efforts made a significant impact on the ambassador’s impression of Oklahoma.”
“He was genuinely impressed by the college and its beautiful facilities,” dean of students Stephen Flurry said. “Hopefully the ambassador’s visit will be the first of many other speaking engagements.”
Reporters from the Edmond Sun and iON Oklahoma magazine also attended the event.
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