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Israeli President's Azerbaijan Trip Breaks New Ground

Shimon Peres will be the first Israeli head of state to visit Azerbaijan
Shimon Peres will be the first Israeli head of state to visit Azerbaijan
By Breffni O'Rourke
As part of a strategy by Israel to improve relations with moderate, secular countries of the Islamic world, President Shimon Peres is visiting Azerbaijan on June 28.

In the first trip by an Israeli head of state to Azerbaijan, Peres will hold talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and other officials.

Azerbaijan is of key importance to Israel, in that the Jewish state gets 20 percent of its oil from the former Soviet republic. And possibilities are being investigated for Israel to also buy big quantities of Azerbaijani natural gas.

Oil And Gas

It's not surprising, therefore, that Azerbaijan's $3.5-billion energy trade is likely to feature largely in Peres's talks in Baku.

For the Azerbaijanis, interest centers on the possibility of cooperation in medical research and various high-tech fields, and of importing Israeli agricultural products.

Baku may also be interested in buying more Israeli arms, after its initial purchase of hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of ammunition, mortars, and radio equipment.
Iran doesn't like anything Israel does. Their president has called for the destruction of my country


Azerbaijan, which remains locked in a dispute with neighboring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, has dramatically stepped up its military spending in the past five years; this year's budget alone is $2.5 billion.

Israel's ambassador to Baku, Arthur Lenk, told RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service that the two countries have good relations.

"We are two small countries living -- I'm not sure how a diplomat would say it -- living in 'complicated' regions, and we have a lot in common," Lenk said.

"We are looking to build up our countries to be more safe, we are trying to live reasonably with our neighbors, we are trying to find ways to develop our countries, we are trying to find ways to live in a complicated area in peace and security."

But beyond the economic value of the visit there is the symbolic value of Israel being able to add another name to its roster of Muslim-majority nations with whom it has "warm and friendly" relations.

Envoy Lenk points out that Turkey, Egypt, and Kazakhstan also fall into this category. But he sees a special human bond between his country and Azerbaijan because of the long-standing Jewish community in Azerbaijan, and conversely the presence of many Azerbaijan-born people in Israel.

Wary Of Iran

The two countries have another common bond -- namely, their wariness toward regional giant Iran.

Israel gets 20 percent of its oil from Azerbaijan
In May, Azerbaijani media carried comments by Iranian military chief of staff Hasan Firudabadi warning Baku that a visit by the Israeli head of state would be an "incorrect step." Firudabadi was also quoted as saying that the visit seems not to be a friendly gesture toward Tehran.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov subsequently criticized the Iranian reaction, saying Baku would not accept any interference in its affairs.

In a June 1 editorial, the leading Israeli daily "Jerusalem Post" said that Baku's invitation to Peres at this time "reaffirms the strategic relationship between the two countries," and that it is a political gesture demonstrating Azerbaijan's "commitment to its Western orientation and independence from Moscow and Tehran."

Ambassador Lenk said that while the Peres visit is not Iran's business, it is not in any way directed against Iran.

"Iran doesn't like anything Israel does. Their president has called for the destruction of my country. Where does such a thing happen? No other leader calls for the destruction of another member of the United Nations, " Lenk said.

In an interview carried on June 25 by Azerbaijan's Trend news agency, Peres is quoted as saying that Israel stands for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. This appears to be a clear reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, in which ethnic Armenians continue to occupy territory within Azerbaijani borders.

Not everything in the Azeri-Israeli connection is plain sailing, however. Four Azeribaijanis and two Lebanese are currently on trial in Azerbaijan, facing charges that they were plotting to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Baku.

And the pro-Iranian Azerbaijani Islamic Party staged a protest rally in the village of Nardaran outside Baku ahead of Peres's arrival. 

RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service contributed to this report
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by: Zoltan from: Hungary
June 27, 2009 17:43
Israel has nothing in common with Azerbaijan.<br /><br />The &quot;natural&quot; ally of Jews are Armenians with whom they really have lots in common. <br />Genocide against the two nations, living in diaspora, being well educated. Jews and Armenians have extremly similar history. <br />Both have independent state only in recent times. Both are struggling for their existence to live in their own state. Both are struggling for peace while their enemies are trying to destroy them.<br /><br />Israeli arm shipments are a shame on the Jewish state. It is a crime against their Armenian brothers. <br />It is such a move if Armenia would supply Syria or Iran with high quality arms. Those arms sold for the Azeris are planned to be used against peaceful Armenians who only like to live in peace.<br /><br />Anyway I understand the move of Israel: the need for oil. But that dirty oil should not override our moral duty to be solid with fellow Armenians.

by: Azeri from: USA
June 27, 2009 19:25
One thing Azeris have in common with Israel is the existence of a large Azeri born Jewish diaspora in Israel. And a significant Jewish population in Azerbaijan. In Armenia, &quot;peaceful&quot; Armenians don't let any other nationality to live in their country. So, claiming &quot;Armenian-Israeli brotherhood&quot; sounds like a bad attempt of manipulation. Especially, if to take into account the relations, Armenians enjoy with the enemies of Israel in Syria, or even in Palestinian part of Israel.

by: Professor. Khamatli from: Iran
June 28, 2009 01:59
After collapse of Soviet Union Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh Republics were one of the first to recognise NEW (Yeni) Republic Of Azerbaijan. but Baku leaders chose total war on Armenians from Baku to Stepanakert on emotional and internal political reasons. If Azerbaijan wants to buy massive arsonal it is because it wants to show it has expansionist plans in the region and nothing to do with Armenians or to target Armenians I am 100% sure of that because majority of so called Azeris live in Russia, Georgia and Iran and never in Nagorno Karabakh Republic. The world hopes that Baku Leaders understand that they are under close watch, they can run but they can not hide.

by: Manumentsi from: LA
June 28, 2009 13:45
Jews soled out again? LOL <br /> Armenians nuclear powered for 40 years never helped Iranias, how would Jews like it if Armenians helped Iranians with nuces.<br /> Its called honer, try it sometimes.

by: Atilla
June 28, 2009 14:41
Zoltan, I would request you to keep your wishful thinking for yourself. You Armenians are jealous of everything Azerbaijan and Turkey aciheves. jealasy and hater to others will eat the entire Armenian people up.

by: Ara Gregorian from: Los Angeles
June 28, 2009 15:36
Azerbaijan has a $2.5 billion military budget for 2009 alone. US and Israel have increased their arms sales to Baku. US financial aid to Armenia has been decreasing regularly. Can anyone guess what Aliyev's next move might be? <br /><br />This is a dirty geopolitical game that is being played in this volatile region. And I am very afraid for the future of my little Armenia and its people.<br />

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
June 28, 2009 18:25
Atilla, I am not Armenian I am a Hungarian Jew.<br /><br />And please do not request me to keep silence. In my country and in the free world we can say what we want to say. <br />It is probably surprise you while freedom of speech is not existing in Azerbaijan.<br /><br />So I am jealous of Azerbaijan achievments? What kind of achievment? The constant harassment of dissenters, the elimination of opposition to the Aliyev dynasty?<br /><br />It is a shame on the democratic Israeli leadership that they maintain &quot;friendly&quot; relationship with such authoriter regime.<br /><br />Even Iran has much more free society. <br /><br />This means the so called West is hipocryte again and applies double standards. We have friendly relations with Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan which do not respect human rights. While we accuse countries like Iran or Syria being undemocratic.<br /><br />What is a difference between Syria or Azerbaijan??? <br />Nothing only the name of the dynasty: Aliyev or Asad... Like in North-Korea...

by: secretslave from: usa
June 28, 2009 19:51
salaam,<br />Why does he not know that robbery brings complications upon a garden accountibility?<br />

by: Sinav from: South Azerbaijan
June 28, 2009 19:56
I cannot understand how Zoltan could rig up a brotherhood relationship between Armenians and Jews. <br />Azerbaijan has also been a subject of genocide by Armenians and Russian for her being Muslim and Turk. Most nations also have got their own Independent States, Struggle for existence and live in their own states. So what?!<br /><br />I would like to ask Professor. Khamatli that, how a de facto government that is emerged into existence after dismembering the host state of Azerbaijan, can recognize any country? Remember, the United Nation’s Security Council has issued four declarations condemning the Armenian occupation of Karabakh and has urgently demanded Armenian troops the retrieve from Karabakh.<br /><br />Azerbaijanis have originally inhabited Karabakh until 1991 when Armenia which was being quartered by Iran and Russia made an onslaught on Karabakh, massacred the Azerbaijanis population of Karabakh and dispelled many from their homes. I suggest Professor. Khamatli to study history of the region by variety of authors to diminish the dissemination of biased information. This is a shame that in Khan-Kandi( = Since the occupation, Armenians use their own version i,e, Stepanakert), and in whole Karabakh and Armenia there exists no Azerbaijanis while these two nations used to live side by side in the region for a long time. The reason is that the Armenians eradicated the Azerbaijanis population in order to win the majority in the region to form an Armenian state. A state that is found on bloodshed! Yerevan which used to be a Shiite stronghold in Caucasus has now turned into a the hotbed of instability by staging expansionist rhetoric such as Javakhetia region of Georgia for Armenia, Kharabakh for Armenia, Eastern Turkey for Armenia, South Azerbaijanis region( Provinces in Northern Iran) for Armenia and so on.<br />I would like to tell Ara Gregorian that I wish Azerbaijan was also a recipient of U.S. financial aids and no matter how much less.<br /><br />I see a bleak future for Armenia. Armenia has isolated itself in the region as a result of its territorial claims against its neighbors. Armenia has got an stagnant economy, high exodus rate, its key infrastructures in the Russian stranglehold and heavily reliant on foreign aids from Armenian Diaspora, U.S., Russia and Iran which try to push the Armenian republic into existence for geo-political advantages of themselves. One must ask why in a world of give-and-take some states are receiving support and money with no real rebate!<br />I believe that there are no pragmatist politicians in Armenia because no one in Armenia thinks of how prosperous and truly independent Armenia could be if it could mend ways with its neighbors and distance herself from the Russian and Iranian sphere of influence. <br /><br /><br />Resources:<br />1- http://en.iepf-ngo.org/?p=156 - For Zoltan<br />2- http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/ga10693.doc.htm<br />3- http://www.un.org/Docs/scres/1993/scres93.htm<br />4- - Resolution 822: Armenia-Azerbaijan (30 Apr)<br />5- - Resolution 853: Armenia-Azerbaijan (29 July)<br />6- - Resolution 874: Armenia-Azerbaijan (14 Oct)<br />7- - Resolution 884: Armenia-Azerbaijan (12 Nov)<br />

by: J from: US
June 29, 2009 00:16
Azerbaijan's per capita GFP is around $2,900. That's below Cuba's! They don't have much to hope for as long as I pay $2.40 for a gallon of gasoline. [That's 63 cents per liter}. Makes more sense to peddle vodka ($8/liter) than crude oil!
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