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State Sen. Joe Simitian, black-listed by the Azerbaijani government after traveling to a separatist region while on a diplomatic visit, was back at his Palo Alto office today, not entirely crestfallen.

"Let me put it to you this way," the Democrat said. "It's a disappointment I can live with."

Simitian was among a group of California senators visiting Azerbaijani officials in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital city, when he went on his own to Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominately ethnic Armenian region and the center of a longstanding dispute.

The visit violated Azerbaijani rules restricting travel in the region - though the United States does not restrict travel there - and Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan's consul general in Los Angeles, said Tuesday that Simitian was "basically black-listed ... will not be allowed back."

No one in Azerbaijan told Simitian, apparently. The news, first reported by local media, reached the senator via Google alert.

"I have not actually heard directly from anyone in Azerbaijan," he said.

Simitian said that after listening to Azerbaijani officials' concerns about Nagorno-Karabakh, he felt compelled to hear from the other side.

"I was trying to get a better sense of the dynamic," Simitian said. "My view was that since I was halfway around the world, I would just continue on. ... Fundamentally, my view is that the public is better served by elected officials with a broader world view rather than a narrower world view."

The Senate Rules Committee said lawmakers paid their own way. The only public resources involved were travel expenses for two staffers on the trip.


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