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American Jewish Community Highlight Importance of Strengthening Ties With Azerbaijan

The Jews living in the U.S. have voiced the importance of strengthening relations with Azerbaijan.

Such a note was expressed in a letter by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his colleagues sent to Paul Ryan, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. The letter was published by Jewish Journal on March 30.

“I am deeply concerned about upcoming legislation that would harm our friend and ally Azerbaijan,” Bookstein wrote.

“In May 2015, I traveled to Azerbaijan to speak at an international conference on multiculturalism and tolerance. For three days we met with people from all faiths and nationalities, in a kind of conference that I have never seen.”

Azerbaijan, where the vast majority – 95 percent of population is Muslims, is also home to Jews, Christians and all, not depending on their religion and ethnicity, are living in this country in peace and enjoy tolerance, he reminded.

“We all hope that as Azerbaijan grows, prospers and develops, they will enjoy the same kind of democracy that we have in America — but that isn’t going to happen in a few short years,” he wrote.

The letter stated that it would also be completely hypocritical and harmful to America, Israel and the Jewish community, if the U.S. was to implement sanctions against its allies in Azerbaijan.

He wrote that for example: in Saudi Arabia, a strong American ally, Jews are not permitted to be citizens — but in Baku the government builds Jewish schools and synagogues.

The letter said that in Kuwait, Israelis can’t even fly on the state airline — but there are direct flights between Baku and Tel Aviv.

“No one is rushing to sanction these countries that don’t even have chance of a secular democracy,” the letter said.

The Azerbaijani and Jewish peoples have a long tradition of tolerance and interaction. Estimated 9,000 Jews in the country are “fully part” of Azerbaijani society.

Several synagogues are operating in the capital of Azerbaijan, as well as in Guba and Oguz regions. Synagogue, opened in Baku in 2003 is one of the largest in Europe. In September 2003, the first Jewish school was opened in Baku.

“Friendship is an important Judeo-Christian value,” the letter said. “We believe that the U.S. policy towards the Republic of Azerbaijan should be one based on friendship, of engagement and support, not one of suspicion and withdrawal.”

Azerbaijan, as a huge supporter of the U.S.-led efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and as a time-tested staunch ally in Eurasia, has shown itself to be a strong partner and friend to the U.S., “fighting side by side with our troops in war-torn countries, and providing logistical support for U.S. military operations.”

In December 2015, an anti-Azerbaijan legislation was submitted to the U.S. Congress. The bill, which was sent to the U.S. Congress by the Helsinki Commission, acting under Chris Smith’s chairmanship on December 16, caused the outrage of the Azerbaijani officials.

The anti-Azerbaijan legislation of Smith would deny U.S. visas to senior Azerbaijani officials in case of approval.


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