Well, it’s wonderful to see you again. How many of you were here when I was here two years ago? Oh, good. (Laughter.)
Well, it’s great to be back and to have this opportunity to thank you in person once again for the outstanding work you do every day on behalf of this very important relationship between our two countries, and I want to thank Adam Sterling for taking the reins in Baku once more. I know it’s been difficult not to have an ambassador for much of the last few years, but we are very lucky to have Adam’s leadership. And I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that we’ll put the ambassador-designee who has his hearing next week on a fast track, because I certainly heard firsthand from the government here how much they are hoping to get an ambassador and be able to go from there.
I’m glad to be back in this beautiful chancery garden, though I know it is a somewhat bittersweet reminder that Embassy Baku just lost a member of the Embassy family. I know how difficult it was for you when Myaka passed. He had been – was one of the very first employees when our Embassy opened in 1992, and he was one who saw our relationship grow over the last 20 years. He was, by all accounts, an exemplary colleague, and the tree that you planted in his memory will be a lasting memorial to his service.
During the past few years, you’ve done so much. You worked hard to gain openings for freedom of political expression and to support the people of Azerbaijan, to stand up for our values and our interests, to work on behalf of American businesses. I just came from the Gas & Oil Exhibition and saw a number of the American businesses represented there. I thanked the locally employed staff for your critical monitoring services during the past election. Our Foreign Service and local staff are empowering women and girls to become innovative business leaders. And I’m especially pleased to hear about your work helping girls at risk of early marriage develop practical skills, find jobs, and gain financial independence.
And when you launch programs that show farmers how to produce enough crops to feed their families and have enough left over to earn a decent living, you are truly expanding economic opportunity. Just as when you connect American businesses with Azerbaijan markets, you’re helping create American jobs. And when you talk to Azerbaijani students about opportunities to study in the United States, you are helping to build bridges between our people. So on these and so many other areas, I’m very grateful.
I spoke specifically to President Aliyev today about building a new, state-of-the-art chancery for you to work out of, and I reminded him that this discussion began when my husband was president. So – (laughter) – we need to speed it up, and we’re trying to do just that. I hope one day soon you can work together in one modern and secure location. In the meantime, I especially want to thank Gunnery Sergeant Lance Grubin and the Marine security guards for all the extra hours they put in to help keep you safe over the last year.
Now I know that you’re going to keep working long after I’m gone, and I know that secretaries, charges, ambassadors come and go, and our locally employed staff provide the memory bank for all that went before and are absolutely instrumental. And I know that many of you representing the United States Government in all our various incarnations here in this mission are going to be absolutely devoted to doing everything you can during your time here in Baku to broaden and deepen this significant relationship. I think we’re making real progress. There’s a long way to go, but it is one of the most strategically located countries if you look at any map, and the opportunities for us to work closely on everything from security to the economy to human rights to opportunity for women and others is just unlimited.
So please take a moment to think about how much you’ve already done, and I look forward to hearing from Adam and then from the new ambassador all that you are continuing to do. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)