American Jewish Community highly assessed atmosphere of historical tolerance in Azerbaijan, as its delegation, led by President John Shapiro and Chief Executive Officer David Harris, has paid a two-day visit to Azerbaijan’s capital.
Overall, AJC maintains close contact with Azerbaijan through its offices across the U.S., Europe, and other locations. The global Jewish advocacy organization visits Baku annually, and meets with senior Azerbaijani officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly every fall.
The principal topics discussed during the talks in Baku were the U.S.-Azerbaijani bilateral relations, ties between Azerbaijan and Israel, regional security and energy developments, as well as instability in the Middle East.
The delegation was first received by President Ilham Aliyev on January 29, where the sides exchanged views on the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan in a number of fields, including the economy, saying these reforms are closely followed.
Hailing Azerbaijani president’s fruitful meetings in Davos, the AJC delegation described these meetings as the indicator of world’s interest in cooperation with Azerbaijan and expressed their confidence that cooperation between Azerbaijan and the AJC will continue to develop even further.
They pointed to the bilateral Azerbaijan-U.S. relations, praising the development of these ties in a variety of fields. They expressed their confidence that Azerbaijan-U.S. relations will be further continued.
The sides further underlined Azerbaijan-Israel relations, hailing the development of bilateral ties between the two countries in a variety of fields. The importance of the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Azerbaijan in terms of enhancing these relations was emphasized.
The delegation also met Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, who noted that different religious confessions historically lived in peace in Azerbaijan and stressed the existence of Jewish community in the country for centuries.
Saying that the multiculturalism is a life style of Azerbaijani people, the FM underlined the country’s contributions to the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue at the international level. In this context, he brought into the attention the events such as the 7th Baku Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the International Humanitarian Forum.
Harris, for his part, expressed his high appreciation for the historical atmosphere of tolerance existing in Azerbaijan, the support and care devoted to the Jewish community of Azerbaijan.
Chairman of the State Committee of Azerbaijan on Work with Diaspora Nazim Ibrahimov also received the Jewish delegation.
Highlighting the importance of Azerbaijan-AJC cooperation, established a few years ago, Ibrahimov said this cooperation will further develop.
“Azerbaijan attaches great importance to the establishment of a close relationship with all Jewish communities around the world. From this perspective, the AJC has a special role,” the chairman added.
In turn, Harris said it is his first visit to Azerbaijan following the presidential election in the U.S, stressing that the AJC favors the development of Azerbaijan-U.S. ties.
John Shapiro, in an exclusive interview with Trend, said that constructive partnership between Azerbaijan, the U.S. and Israel has a big significance.
“The conversation has been very open, and we believe we have a very good and positive understanding of the challenges faced by Azerbaijan and importance for the country to have a constructive relationship both with U.S. and Israel,” he said.
Shapiro noted it is very important that Azerbaijan as a Muslim state is secular and can be friends with Israel. “It is an example of how Jewish state and a country of Islamic culture can work together and have a constructive partnership,” he noted.
He added that the delegation met with the Jewish community in Azerbaijan and saw they are very happy and feel very comfortable living in the country, adding that “from our perspective, it is very positive.”
Being a Muslim majority country, Azerbaijan is a home to a big Jewish community, who is as many other religious centers, including Catholics, Protestants and members of the Russian Orthodox Church, live in safety here. The country’s north region of Guba is home to Azerbaijan’s largest community of Mountain Jews, who live in Krasnaya Sloboda (Red Town).
The group also visited a synagogue in Baku, where they met with 25 leaders of the age-old and venerable Jewish community in Azerbaijan.
Moreover, Harris addressed more than 40 students studying international relations at the prestigious ADA University. His remarks focused on U.S. foreign policy and lessons of leadership. It was Harris’s third visit to the academic institution.
“Azerbaijan continues to be a very significant partner for both the U.S. and Israel. Baku’s contributions in many spheres are increasingly vital in today’s turbulent world,” said Harris, AJC website reported. “And, not surprisingly, we encountered a great deal of interest in the new Trump administration and the approach it will take to the bilateral relationship. From our perspective, we count on the new team in Washington grasping Azerbaijan’s importance to core American interests, including regional security, counter-terrorism, and energy policy.”