I was not part of this noteworthy recent visit to Azerbaijan by Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Defense Minister, but since I have visited the Republic of Azerbaijan and will be there soon again, I would like to put my two cents of thoughts into this historical visit.
Reasons for my visits to this majority Muslim population country: the Azerbaijanis are very special people and the country, independent since 1991, reminds me of where Israel was not too long ago.
Born in Israel and today a USA citizen I see the Republic of Azerbaijan a country to pay attention to this upcoming influential regional democracy.
On September 13, 2018, Colonel General Zakir Hasanov, the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Azerbaijan, greeted Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel Defense Minister and his large delegation who arrived in Azerbaijan to discuss the prospects of Azerbaijan-Israel economic, military, cultural, and tourism cooperation.
Official Welcoming Ceremony
In the official welcoming ceremony that was held in the Ministry of Defense, the national anthems of the two countries were performed and Mr. Lieberman passed along the guard of honor and signed the “Book of Honor.”
As the custom of respect goes, the Israeli minister and his delegation visited the ‘Alley of Honor’ and paid tribute and laid a wreath at the tomb of Heydar Aliyev, the country’s recognized national leader and the third President of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1993-2003). Additionally, the delegation visited the ‘Alley of Martyrs’ to commemorate Azerbaijani heroes who sacrificed their lives for the country’s independence and territorial integrity. One of the heroes Mr. Lieberman honored is Albert Agarunov, Azerbaijan’s National Hero of Jewish origin, who was killed in battle in 1992 while defending Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity against Armenian invasion and occupation.
Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, under whose leadership the country’s friendship and partnership with Israel has strengthened and expanded in many different areas, has also received the Israeli delegation for a very comprehensive meeting.
Although he had visited the country as the Foreign Minister several times before, this was Mr. Lieberman’s first visit to Azerbaijan in his capacity as the Defense Minister, hence his words that each time he is in Azerbaijan he feels at home.
How I See the Azerbaijan-Israel Relationship
This partnership is vital to the development of the two states and helps ensuring security in the entire region.
With Armenia that has invaded and ethnically cleansed 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, supporting terrorism at the state level, creating the main threat to regional stability and interested in escalation of the situation on the line of contact with Azerbaijan, it is important that Israel continues assisting Azerbaijan to maintain military superiority.
Azerbaijan can benefit greatly from Israel being a start-up nation with highly advanced technology, science and medicine.
At 1,425 miles driving distance and 2 hours, 32 minutes flight time, a vacation in either country could be easily and often achieved and the tourism industry should flourish.
As a majority-Muslim country and deeply respected by all Arab and Muslim nations, Azerbaijan could be instrumental in achieving regional peace between the Arab-Muslim countries and Israel.
The modern Israel-Azerbaijan growing bond began with Israel’s recognition of the Republic of Azerbaijan after, in 1991, the latter declared its independence from the Soviet Union. Some 25 years later, friendships, substantive cultural, educational, agricultural, security and tourism exchanges, and extended business ties belie the expectations of how a Muslim-majority country can interact with the Jewish state, Israel. A surprising number of Azerbaijani young people have traveled to and studied in Israel.
This friendship is also greatly influenced by the fact that Jews have been living in Azerbaijan for at least 2000 years, and continue to do so today, without facing any anti-Semitism or discrimination.
The objective of Lieberman’s visit to Azerbaijan was to expand the relations between the two countries in the aspects of regional security; the attendees touched on the prospects of widening and developing the already existing cooperation in the military, military-technical spheres and other issues of growing mutual interests.
The vision is that with Israel Defense Minister Lieberman’s visit to Azerbaijan the bilateral cooperation between the two countries would greatly expand.
The Israel-Azerbaijan partnership is a dynamic fueled in part by mystery. And yet breaking free of conventional norms and stereotypes, one can understand that these two countries see something in each other that surpasses proverbial logic.