by Max Brantley
What is it about Azerbaijan? Except, of course, that that country — and Turkey — are apparently willing to provide junkets for untold numbers of state politicians in return for political backscratching.
I bring it up because Secretary of State Mark Martin has posted on Facebook that he's sought after in Azerbaijan. He writes:
I am honored to be an invited participant in the Azerbaijan and United States Convention. Azerbaijan is located at the Eurasian/Mideast crossroads bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.
He is, in fact, listed as being among the speakers at the "US-Azerbaijan Convention" in Baku this week.
Maybe it's all about fracking. Oil companies are major sponsors of this junket. More likely it's thanks to another sponsor, the native Turk-led lobby group, Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, which provides a lot of travel for state officials around the country.
Back in February, Secretary of State Martin hoisted the Azerbaijani flag at the State Capitol on behalf of a visiting delegation. They were also honored this year with a legislative resolution decrying a past massacre in the country.
A government news release on the February visit to Arkansas recounted:
Visiting Little Rock to join the event, a delegation of Azerbaijani and Turkish representatives the same day met with State Secretary of Arkansas Mark Martin, Deputy Governor Mark Dar and Speaker of the House of Representatives Davy Carter, and discussed deepening of cooperation and partnership.
That day, the Azerbaijani and Turkish flags were raised outside the Arkansas State Capitol Building.
That same day, an Azerbaijani press reported noted:
... Turkey-Arkansas-Azerbaijan friendship banquet was held at State Governor's Palace in Little Rock
I know I should be proud Arkansas has a secretary of state of sufficient stature to be invited to a world conclave in a faraway place. And a speaker yet.
I am awaiting an answer from his press staff, nonetheless, on what in the Sam Hill Azerbaijan has to do with running the state Capitol grounds, filing corporate papers and compiling election materials.
UPDATE FROM MARTIN SPOKESMAN ALEX REED:
He was invited to speak with a group of bipartisan leaders from around the country. It is not a state funded trip. The amount is unknown as of now, but will be disclosed on his Statement of Financial Interest. It is sponsored by the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians.