Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt remains out of the state in the country of Azerbaijan.
The country of 10 million people is about a 14-hour flight from Oklahoma. The central Asian country was a part of the Soviet Union and later became an official Oklahoma state partner through a State Department program in 2002.
Stitt and his family arrived Monday along with the leader of the Oklahoma National Guard and the secretaries of agriculture and economic development. The governor’s office said Thursday they cannot release information on when he plans to return to Oklahoma due to “security reasons.”
The governor said he was invited by the country's president, adding in a statement, "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.”
Stitt gifted President Ilham Aliyev an Oklahoma cowboy hat and a statue of Will Rogers.
Since he's been out of the country, Oklahoma House Democrats have called the governor “AWOL” while “COVID is exploding across Oklahoma.”
“Vaccines are effective and available to anyone who wants one,” a spokesman for the governor said when asked about the Democrats' comments.
In the governor’s absence, a group of Republicans are calling on the lieutenant governor to take "executive action to prohibit vaccine mandates for Oklahoma healthcare workers.”
They argue the state Constitution gives him the power to do so in the governor’s absence.
The Oklahoma National Guard first began providing training to the country's military in 2002.
According to the governor’s office, Oklahoma hosted a Azerbaijan Agriculture Forum in 2019.
On the current trip, Oklahoma State University and Azerbaijan State Agricultural University are expected finalize a student exchange program.
The U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Earle D. Litzenberger, said in a statement, “Gov. Stitt is also helping identify new opportunities for American companies to do business in this country. Companies from Oklahoma have expertise in areas – like agriculture – where Azerbaijan is looking to invest.”
The governor’s office said they do not have an estimate for how much the trip is costing taxpayers.