Netanyahu travels to Azerbaijan, meets with President Aliyev

Several agreements in economy, defense, energy, education and agriculture signed; Aliyev speaks at length of strong ties with Jewish people & Israel; Netanyahu: Partnership between Israel & Azerbaijan good for world, specifically Arab world

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Photo: Haim Zach, GPO

 

Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled to Azerbaijan Tuesday where he met with President Ilham Aliyev at the Zagulba Palace in Baku. Their meeting was centered on increasing bilateral cooperation in technology, trade, agriculture, academia, science and energy. The meeting is significant as Azerbaijan has a Muslim majority.

Several agreements were signed during Netanyahu’s visit, including increases in a preexisting defense trade agreement. The agreement from over a decade ago surpasses $4.5 billion.

Speaking to the press following their meeting, President Aliyev began by stating “You visited Azerbaijan almost 20 years ago and now it’s a second visit of yours. Though it’s a short visit, but very productive. Definitely the visit will strengthen bilateral ties between our countries. We cooperate in many areas and documents signed today clearly show that we have a very big potential for cooperation.”

Addressing agreements signed during Netanyahu’s visit, specifically the joint-economic commission, the Azerbaijan President stated “All the documents are very important; among them I would like to underline the importance of the document which will allow us to create a joint economic commission, which is a very efficient mechanism of bilateral cooperation. I’m sure it will help to increase trade turnover and to diversify it. Though trade turnover is at a good level, but mainly because of the oil supplies from Azerbaijan to Israel. We need to work in order to diversify it and to increase it.”

The President highlighted cooperation and agreements in agriculture and tourism as significant, speaking however specifically on defense agreements with the Jewish State. He stated “we actively cooperate in the area of defense industries and this cooperation lasts already for many years. I’ll just bring you one figure just to illustrate how broad this cooperation is: So far the contracts between Azerbaijani and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment is close to 5 billion dollars. More precisely – $4,850,000,000. The biggest part of these contracts have already been executed and still we are continuing to work on that and we are very satisfied with the level of this cooperation.”

Finally, the President spoke of the long history of friendship between the Azerbaijanis and Jews, referring to these relations as an “important part of our bilateral cooperation, because Jews in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani diaspora in Israel, which consists mainly of Jews from Azerbaijan, is an important factor of bilateral relations”. He added “For centuries Jews and Azerbaijanis lived in peace, friendship and continue to live here in Azerbaijan, and the Jewish community of Azerbaijan is a very active part of our society. They contribute a lot to the development of modern Azerbaijan and these close relations between our people is a very important factor in our bilateral relations.”

He ended by stating, “Our relations are very broad, diversified. They covered many areas. I mentioned some of them and I am sure that the visit of Mr. Prime Minister will allow us to discover new areas of cooperation. We have established very close friendly relations and the visit of Prime Minister is a good indicator of that.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu responded, focusing his address on the agreements signed Tuesday, mainly in the fields of energy. He stated “We have so many areas where we are cooperating and can cooperate to benefit our peoples. We obviously have a robust relationship in energy. Now we’re talking about not just the sale of oil from Azerbaijan to Israel which is a very important part of our oil imports, we’re talking about using common facilities for export of gas and the linking of Israel’s gas exports potentially to a great pipeline that is being built as we speak right now from Azerbaijan into Turkey. This is obviously something that can strengthen both our economies and I think provide a larger service.”

He spoke of agreements and cooperation in agriculture, in education, IT, education and science. Netanyahu then took the opportunity to speak of Israel’s strong ties to Azerbaijan, a “Muslim state, predominantly Muslim population” stating “Here you have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to secure a better future for both of us. And it’s an example that shines against the background of intolerance and lack of acceptance and mutual respect.”

He ended his speech by stating “I said this privately but I’m telling you that there is a change that we see in many parts of the Muslim world and specifically the Arab world. But I think if they want to see what the future could be, come to Azerbaijan and see the friendship and the partnership between Israel and Azerbaijan. It’s not only good for both our countries and both our peoples, I think it’s good for the region and good for the world.”