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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt Travels To Azerbaijan To 'Strengthen Strategic Partnerships'

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt meets with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan on Tuesday.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt meets with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

Governor Kevin Stitt and a small delegation are in Azerbaijan this week, a small country east of Turkey and north of Iran, where Eastern Europe meets Western Asia.

Stitt's office said the trip, at the invitation of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, is intended to strengthen strategic partnerships between Oklahoma and the nation. That partnership first began in 2002, when Oklahoma's National Guard participated in a Department of Defense program linking the Guard with Azerbaijan's military.

This trip marks the start of a new agreement between Oklahoma State University and Azerbaijan state Agricultural University to develop joint academic and exchange programs.

"I am honored to accept President Ilham Aliyev’s invitation to visit Azerbaijan and look forward to productive meetings with his administration on ways we can continue to work together," Stitt said in a release. "Oklahoma and Azerbaijan have a shared focus on energy, agriculture, and innovation, and I am excited to explore this country and meet the Azerbaijani people."

Azerbaijan's government has been broadly criticized by Human Rights Watch for civil rights violations, including imprisoning and torturing activists; the nation ranks 167th out of 180 countries in press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) named Aliyev its 'Person of the Year' in 2012. The award recognizes "the individual or institution that has done the most to advance organized criminal activity and corruption in the world."

Subsequent winners include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Ryan Gaylor is a freelance reporter.
Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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