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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Houston gains influence in foreign policy with ties to Azerbaijan

The city of Houston, Texas, is reportedly gaining influence in American foreign policy through its sister relationship with Baku, Azerbaijan, and through its courting of foreign investments in the energy sector.

Josh Walker, a transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a recent post that Houston has become a hub for bilateral U.S.-Turkic economic relationships, thanks to a strong business-led Turkic-American presence in America's fourth-largest city, according to The Huffington Post.

Walker said the U.S. traditionally works less with the Turkic world in favor of larger partnerships within the region. Certain states, however, have taken advantage of the federal government's lack of interest, creating oil and business partnerships directly with Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan made its first footprint in the energy sector with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline during the Clinton administration. Since then, the country has developed deals in the Southern Energy Corridor and in the Eastern Mediterranean and Caspian Seas, The Huffington Post reports.

Walker pointed to Russia's longstanding influence in the region, adding that U.S. economic sanctions against Russia and national energy companies may have a substantial impact on the city.

"[I]t is in everyone's interest to carefully recalibrate America's relationships throughout the Turkic world to fully leverage the private sector's investments in the natural resources of this region," Walker said, according to The Huffington Post. "As a result, any silver lining will come from Houston rather than Washington during these dark days, and it's in America's best long-term interest to encourage economic engagement and pragmatic diplomacy at this local level."

Walker said Baku's natural gas resources could encourage energy diversification in the same way "that Houston in the heart of Texas is leading America's energy revolution."

"As a result, just like Eurasia's future is likely to play out in and around Azerbaijan, America's future foreign policy may be playing out as much in Houston as it is in Washington these days," Walker said, The Huffington Post reports.