‘Azerbaijan is not only a strategic partner of Israel but also an inter-religious and inter-ethnic example of tolerance in the present, much as it was in the past for both the Muslim states and also for the West,’ said Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
In an exclusive interview with Azerbaijan State News Agency Lieberman also emphasised that there has never been anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan. ‘For over a thousand years, Jews have lived in this country, and they have always felt safe, in a friendly and secure environment.’
‘Over one hundred thousand Jews found their refuge in Azerbaijan during the Second World War and thus avoided physical destruction, and Azerbaijan became their second home. It’s not a secret that the Holocaust is an extremely sensitive issue for us, and in this regard we are very grateful to the Azerbaijani people for the hospitality that was shown to the Jews during the darkest and most difficult period of our history,’ said the Israeli minister of defence.
He also explained that relations between Israel and Azerbaijan are flourishing and are growing increasingly closer, to the benefit of both states. ‘Cooperation between our countries is based on mutual interests, and I hope that our relations will continue to develop in a positive manner. Israel and Azerbaijan have lots of points of contact. Cooperation between our countries is carried out in the fields of high-tech, agriculture, energy, security and many more, and I sincerely hope that the bilateral relations will continue to strengthen,’ Lieberman pointed out.
Avigdor Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beiteinu, as he explained, has long emphasised ties with Baku as an important component of Israel’s foreign policy, primarily due to historical circumstances and a deep appreciation of Azerbaijan’s longstanding friendship towards its Jewish community. ‘Furthermore, several people of Azerbaijani origin have been holding key positions in this party. A few years ago, Yosef Shagal, a former Azerbaijani and a well-known journalist and former Israeli ambassador to Belarus, was a Knesset member for the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Roman Peres, also Azerbaijani born, and a member of Yisrael Beiteinu, serves as the current first vice-mayor of the northern city Yokne’am Illit. Adam Amilov from Yisrael Beiteinu is of Azerbaijani origin, who formerly lived in Guba (the Red Settlement): he is the vice-mayor of another northern city, Kiryat Yam. There are many people of Azerbaijani origin among our voters, and I hope that in future elections they will support us once again,’ said the defence minister.
Lieberman said that he had a number of meetings with senior ministers and high-level officials of Azerbaijan over the last year. He noted that they discussed various issues, including regional security, military and military-technologies cooperation, as well as other important matters.
He has also commented on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. ‘My opinion, and I repeatedly expressed it, is that we respect the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and stress that Azerbaijan behaves in this conflict very responsibly and within the generally accepted norms of international law. We support the people of Azerbaijan and believe that the essential factor in resolving this issue can only be a clear position of the international community and the readiness of both sides to conduct direct negotiations without prejudiced opinion. All attempts to get away from real facts and from an objective position won’t solve the problem, but only exacerbate it,’ he added.