Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Meets with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Tuesday, 13 December 2016), at the Zagulba Palace in Baku, met with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev. At the meeting, agreements were signed 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 Zeev Elkin signed for Israel.
Azerbaijan President Aliyev:
"Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once again, Mr. Prime Minister, I welcome you to Azerbaijan. I'm very glad to host you in our country.
You visited Azerbaijan almost 20 years ago and now it's a second visit of yours. Though it's a short visit, but very productive. Definitely the visit will strengthen bilateral ties between our countries. We cooperate in many areas and documents signed today clearly show that we have a very big potential for cooperation.
All the documents are very important; among them I would like to underline the importance of the document which will allow us to create a joint economic commission, which is a very efficient mechanism of bilateral cooperation. I'm sure it will help to increase trade turnover and to diversify it. Though trade turnover is at a good level, but mainly because of the oil supplies from Azerbaijan to Israel. We need to work in order to diversify it and to increase it.
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.
We have very good prospects in cooperation in agriculture and we discussed it with Mr. Prime Minister. 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.
Tourism is one of the areas of potential development. I am sure that the direct flight between Israel and Azerbaijan will help us to see a growing number of tourists in both directions.
Cooperation in the area of education has a very great potential.
Also we actively cooperate in the area of defense industries and this cooperation lasts already for many years. 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 is close to 5 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.
We talked about people to people contacts and this is the important part of our bilateral cooperation, because Jews in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani diaspora in Israel, which consists mainly of Jews from Azerbaijan, is an important factor of bilateral relations.
For centuries Jews and Azerbaijanis lived in peace, friendship and continue to live here in Azerbaijan, and the Jewish community of Azerbaijan is a very active part of our society. They contribute a lot to the development of modern Azerbaijan and these close relations between our people is a very important factor in our bilateral relations.
For your information, I'd like to say that there are seven synagogues in Azerbaijan, five of them in Baku; Jewish schools, you will visit one of them, Chabad Or Avner, the Jewish education center which was inaugurated in 2010. I remember that day because I was there at the inauguration ceremony and the late President made a video address to us. I am glad that Mr. Prime Minister has timed his tight schedule to visit that education center and also meet the representatives of the Jewish community.
Relations between Jews and Azerbaijanis were always very good. During all the times of our history, and Jews live in Azerbaijan for centuries, it's their home, they feel themselves at home, and they do a lot in order to strengthen our country.
This was during the times of Tsarist Russia, when Azerbaijan was a part of the Russian Empire, that was during Soviet Union time and now, 25 years of independence, relations between all the people who live in Azerbaijan is a good example of multiculturalism, mutual respect and respect to each other's traditions and religion.
I always say that respect to your own religion and traditions starts with respect to the traditions and religions of your neighbor.
By the way, I would like to say that this year in Azerbaijan was declared a year of multiculturalism, and Azerbaijan is recognized in the world as one of the international centers of multiculturalism.
I'm glad that our citizens, our former citizens, Jews who live now in Israel, they keep their close ties with Azerbaijan. They help us, they promote us. We have diaspora organizations in many countries, but only in Israel our diaspora consists of people of Jewish origin and this also shows that the unity between Jews and Azerbaijanis.
Our relations are very broad, diversified. They cove many areas. I mentioned some of them and I am sure that the visit of Mr. Prime Minister will allow us to discover new areas of cooperation.
We have established very close friendly relations and the visit of Prime Minister is a good indicator of that.
Once again, Mr. Prime Minister, I like to welcome you, and wish you a pleasant stay in Azerbaijan, and I hope that your next visit will be earlier than in 20 years."
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"Thank you, President Aliyev. You’re right, we should make it more often than once in 20 years, 19 to be precise. And as I told you, I remember vividly my first visit here: It was in the middle of the night and your late father came and greeted us and it was a show of great friendship which persists to this day and develops even further.
I have to say that as we landed today in daylight, I could see from the air the tremendous changes, the tremendous development that has taken place in Azerbaijan in these intertwining two decades. And of course when we landed in the airport, went in the vehicles, you could see the city, the outskirts of Baku. It's so clear that there has been an immense leap forward here and I want to commend you for your leadership and the fact that you see the partnership between Israel and Azerbaijan as being part of that leap into the future.
And you said today and as we signed today, we have so many areas where we are cooperating and can cooperate to benefit our peoples. We obviously have a robust relationship in energy. Now we're talking about not just the sale of oil from Azerbaijan to Israel which is a very important part of our oil imports, we're talking about using common facilities for export of gas and the linking of Israel's gas exports potentially to a great pipeline that is being built as we speak right now from Azerbaijan into Turkey. This is obviously something that can strengthen both our economies and I think provide a larger service.
So energy is one field where we're cooperating intensely. All the other areas that you mentioned, Mr. President, are there. We can do, we think, wonders together in agriculture, in education, in IT, any area. And we welcome such cooperation because we think that ultimately the greatest resource that we have is this, it's the resource of conceptual products, the ability to take all the industries, make them more efficient. I gave an example of dairy farming and I boast once again that we have the most productive cow in the world, more than the French cows or Dutch cows or even American cows. And this is something that replicates itself along many, many fields. So we welcome this cooperation to secure and better the future of both our peoples.
But I think there's something else and unique about this relationship: 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.
In fact, the mutual respect that you show here, the attitude that you've shown to Jewish people in Azerbaijan over the years, one that has fostered this very strong bond of sympathy and admiration for Azerbaijan, first of all with the 70 thousand Jews who live in Israel, who are from Azerbaijan, it's a human bridge, but also something that we can show the world, you know, the world sees so much intolerance, so much darkness, and here is an example of what relations can be and should be between Muslims and Jews everywhere.
I have to tell you, Mr. President, I said this privately but I'm telling you that there is a change that we see in many parts of the Muslim world and specifically the Arab world. 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. So I want to thank you again for welcoming us in the middle of the day. We come day and night. And you are of course invited to come to Israel. I hope to receive you there at the appropriate time when it's convenient for you. And I want to say again how much we appreciate the friendship and hospitality that you've shown us. Thank you."