Recent strides made in Azerbaijani-Israeli relations

It is a historical fact that no country in the Eurasian region has a closer strategic relationship with Israel than Azerbaijan.

Flag of Azerbaijan (photo credit: REUTERS)
Flag of Azerbaijan
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The tradition of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel that is predicated on friendship and trust is an exemplary model for international partnership. In the most challenging times, these countries have always acted together and rendered mutual support to one another.
It is a historical fact that no country in the Eurasian region has a closer strategic relationship with Israel than Azerbaijan. Within their borders, Azerbaijanis never treated Jews as foreigners. According to the Jews of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the country is an “oasis of tolerance” that protects all religious minorities in a world where persecution has become a norm. Currently, more than 16,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan: Mountain Jews, approximately 11,000 (6,000 in Baku, 3,600 in Quba and 1,300 in other regions); Ashkenazi Jews, 4,300; and Georgian Jews, 700.
Currently, Azerbaijan is exporting huge amounts of oil to Israel, while Israel shares with Azerbaijan many of its technological innovations. Further, the alliance is solidified by a close military cooperation between the two states.
The ethnic communities that exist within Azerbaijan are actively involved in their country’s social and political life, helping strengthen the unity of the republic and present Azerbaijan’s vibrant culture to the global community.
The principles of this policy are successfully implemented through different Azerbaijani government institutions, including the State Committee on Work with Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
This institution is aimed at strengthening relations with Azerbaijani and other diasporas around the world. With the appointment of Fuad Muradov as chairman, linkages with the Azerbaijani and other diaspora communities were strengthened, coordination councils have been founded in 27 countries, contacts with several international organizations have been established, and delegations have been sent to meet with the different Azerbaijani communities around the world. Moreover, official visits by other countries’ delegations are regularly undertaken, of which the Israeli delegations are particularly notable.
For instance, in October of this year, representatives of AZIZ (the Azerbaijan-Israel International Association) visited Azerbaijan. During the visit, the delegation got acquainted with famous historical, architectural and cultural monuments, such as Martyrs’ Alley, the Alley of Honor, the Heydar Aliyev Center, the synagogues of Baku and Quba, and the unique “Red village,” where Mountain Jews have lived since the 1700s. Additionally, there were official meetings in a number of government agencies and among members of the Israeli-Azerbaijani inter-parliamentary friendship group.
The State Committee on Work with Diaspora of the Republic of Azerbaijan frequently sends delegations to Israel. Thus, the most recent delegation led by chairman Muradov travelled to Israel with the intention to strengthen existing relations with Jewish organizations, and to meet with the Azerbaijani Israeli community.
Tel Aviv University hosted a conference titled “Preserving the Memory of the Holocaust in the Post-Soviet Space,” which was held with the support of AZIA and Moscow State University and named after MV Lomonosov. The Holocaust, along with the numerous massacres committed by the Armenian Armed Forces against Azerbaijani civilians, were extensively discussed, and the conference was concluded with a call for politicians, public figures, religious leaders, non-governmental organizations, and the media to unite their efforts in the fight against ethnic cleansing.
THE REPRESENTATIVES of the state committee also attended “Laughter League of Israel,” during which the Azerbaijani team “Like Oil” took first place.
As a part of the visit to Israel, the delegation also visited Modсon Systems in Acre. The chairman of the committee met with Modcon Systems president Gregory Shahnovsky. During the meeting, the sides were informed about the policy of the Azerbaijani diaspora, projects implemented by the state committee, and contacts with communities living abroad. It was noted that one of the goals of the committee is to introduce compatriots to business opportunities in the motherland and encourage them to closer integration into the countries where they live, including Israel.
Muradov also met with MK Mark Ifraimov. The meeting was attended by a deputy of the Azerbaijani Parliament, Rauf Aliyev, and Yisrael Beytenu member Inna Zilbergers.
The delegation also met with the Azerbaijani community living in Acre and the surrounding cities. During the meeting, they were given detailed information about the state’s diaspora policy, the projects implemented, the work carried out to unite the Azerbaijani diaspora, the role of diaspora organizations in interstate relations and the delivery of Azerbaijani realities to the local community.
There was also a third congress of AZIZ held in Tel Aviv. The congress elected as chairman of the organization Lev Spivak, who thanked the participants of the conference for their confidence and wished everyone success in their future activities.
After, the delegation of the state committee met with the chairman of the Israeli-Azerbaijani Intergovernmental Commission and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, along with the director of the Eurasia 2 Department in the Israeli Foreign Ministry with Ambassador Itzhak Carmel Kagan.
During the meeting, which was held amid an ambience of sincerity and mutual understanding, it was confirmed that there are stable friendly Azerbaijani-Israeli relations and cooperation in political, economic and social spheres. Elkin noted that Azerbaijan has a wonderful multicultural environment in which a large Jewish community lives. Having peaceful conditions, without any kind of discrimination, the Jews did not sever their ties with Azerbaijan even after repatriation to Israel, and this stems from their interethnic friendship and connection to Azerbaijani culture.
Muradov stressed the great importance of the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations and expressed confidence that multilateral cooperation between the two countries would continue successfully. He mentioned the importance of the role of the Azerbijani Jewish community in maintaining the sustainability of these relations.
In the history of these two peoples, there are many painful and unforgettable events, and it is important that Jews and Azerbaijanis take certain agreed steps to avoid repetition of such atrocities. Israel, in accordance with that sentiment, has stood by Azerbaijan on the issues of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and clearly expressed this unchangeable attitude.
At the end of the meeting, the chairman expressed his confidence in continuation of the great tradition of friendship and close cooperation with the State of Israel.
The writer is a BA candidate in history at Harvard University.