On the first leg of his visit to two Muslim countries, Netanyahu visited Azerbaijan, where he was warmly received and succeeded in his mission to enhance cooperation in several areas, including defense.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, who warmly welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Baku on Tuesday, enthused about enhancing cooperation between his country and Israel, noting that Azerbaijan had already purchased close to $5 billion worth of defense equipment from the Jewish state.
“We discussed today a very broad range of issues concerning our bilateral relations, regional development, and discussions were very open, friendly and will help us to strengthen our bilateral ties,” Aliyev said at a joint press conference with Netanyahu.
It was the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority country.
“We have very good prospects in cooperation in agriculture,” Aliyev said. “Israel has very modern technologies – some of them we are using and some of them probably will come later to Azerbaijan. Good prospects for cooperation in that area.”
He also invited cooperation in the areas of tourism and education, even suggesting direct flights between Israel and Azerbaijan.
“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 are close to five 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,” Aliyev affirmed.
The two countries signed agreements on standardization, double taxation, agricultural cooperation and the establishment of a mixed commission on advancing bilateral cooperation on economic matters, science, technology, health, agriculture and trade. Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin signed for Israel.
Aliyev also discussed the Jewish community in Azerbaijan, saying there are seven synagogues in the country – five in the capital – and that the Jews living there are comfortable. “ I always say that respect to your own religion and traditions starts with respect to the traditions and religions of your neighbor,” he stated.
Muslims and Jews Work Together for a Better Future
The Israeli leader also elaborated on mutual cooperation, “but there’s something else and unique about this relationship,” he declared. “Israel is the Jewish state, it’s a Jewish state. Azerbaijan is a Muslim state, predominantly Muslim population. 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.”
“There is a change that we see in many parts of the Muslim world and specifically the Arab world,” he stated in Baku. “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.”
Netanyahu spent six hours in Azerbaijan before flying to Kazakhstan, another Muslim country, to enhance bilateral cooperation.
By: Atara Beck, World Israel News