Azerbaijani Politics 13 march — 09:17

Ambassador Elin Suleymanov on opening of Azerbaijani Embassy in Jerusalem

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Azerbaijani Ambassador to the United States Elin Suleymanov gave an interview to The JNS Daily Syndicate, in which he spoke about the relationship between Tel Aviv and Baku, the prospects for the opening of the Azerbaijani Embassy in Jerusalem and the problems of the region.

According to the Azerbaijani diplomat, the relationship between Azerbaijan and Israel is strong and expanding: 'I would like to see it expand further. It would be good for Azerbaijan, for Israel and for the entire region. Areas like defense, energy and security have always been strong. But we have seen expansion in areas like agriculture and high-tech. Azerbaijan has parts that are very dry and Israeli technology like drip irrigation helps. Advanced technology and agriculture is very important to us, and we are very grateful for our Israeli partners on this.

The other [main area] is, of course, high technology. We know that Israel is a startup nation. We are trying to develop our own startup culture. I think the experience in Israel is more relevant than any other because of the size, location and culture of the country,' said the ambassador.

Continuing on the topic, Elin Suleymanov added: 'In some sense, Azerbaijan’s relationship is different than Israel’s relationships with the rest of the Muslim world. Azerbaijan has a 1,500-year-old Jewish community. Jewish life is an integral part of Azerbaijan society. Azerbaijan is well known to be a tolerant place for religions.

Azerbaijan is a place where you can come and speak no matter your faith—where the perception of Islamic solidarity involves others. It’s not exclusive; it is inclusive.

The connections that are now being built between Israel and the rest of the Muslim world were wishful thinking not too long ago. Now we see much greater connection. Azerbaijan has pioneered that. We were on the forefront. In some ways, Azerbaijan opened the doors to this. It’s still not as widespread and well-connected as it should be, but Azerbaijan can do more, and we are happy to be an example of Israel cooperation with Muslim states.'

Referring to the nuclear deal with Iran, which the US and Israeli leaders, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu call to repeal, Elin Suleymanov noted: 'Azerbaijan is the only country that borders both Russia and Iran. We have always tried to build good relations with our neighbors, including [them]. We were very pleased to see there was effort to get a nuclear deal. I think it was a good effort. By now, the deal exists; it is a done deal. It was signed and endorsed by the major participants in the international community.

However, when the deal was being developed, I think there could have been more input from U.S. allies and nations in the region. That’s why I think if the Obama administration had included more partners and allies in the discussions, there may be less criticism today.

Maybe we just need to find a way how to build a consensus moving forward on this. Nuclear proliferation is a very dangerous thing, and we are very happy there is an effort to curb [it]. If that deal can prevent nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, then that is a good thing. that Azerbaijan has always tried to build good relations with its neighbors.'

Answering the question about the possibility of opening the embassy of Azerbaijan in Jerusalem, Elin Suleymanov said: 'For a long time now, we have been discussing this with our Israeli partners. [It’s] not exactly my purview, but I am hopeful to see an embassy in Israel, of course.

On Jerusalem, there is a view in the international community, and [Azerbaijan], like the majority of the international community, support the two-state solution. The two-state solution does imply that the status for both capitals—the capitals for the state of Israel and the Palestinian [state]—will be determined by them as part of the negotiations. However, that creates a certain degree of uncertainty in the international relations.

Of course, everybody knows that the Jewish people have a very strong connection to Israel and Jerusalem. This city has always been a symbol of the Jewish people, and I think that needs to be respected. I think we need to look at using this as an opportunity to respect the sensitivities on all sides.

At the same time, this is an issue of political negotiations with the Palestinian side, which, of course, also must include their wishes and desires as part of the conversation.

I am not 100 percent sure on how to move forward with this issue. But I hope that the U.S. decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem will also coincide with efforts to promote discussions between the Israelis and Palestinians. Two sides of the same coin; you can’t do one without the other.'

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