Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Baku, and revealed that “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.”
All this has been achieved in the 20 years since Netanyahu’s last visit to Azerbaijan, President Aliyev noted.
At the meeting, according to an Israeli press release, agreements were signed (Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin signed for Israel) 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.
President Aliyev reminded his Israeli guests that “for centuries Jews and Azerbaijanis lived in peace and friendship,” including “the times of Tsarist Russia, when Azerbaijan was a part of the Russian Empire,” as well as “during the time of the Soviet Union.”
“For your information,” Aliyev continued, “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.”
In his response, Netanyahu told his host, “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.”
“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,” Netanyahu continued. “I gave an example of dairy-farming and I boast once again that we have the most productive cows 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 nations.”
But regardless of the burgeoning economic ties between the two countries, Netanyahu told his host the unique aspect of their relationship is the fact that “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.”
Netanyahu called on the world’s nations to “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 nations, I think it’s good for the region and good for the world.”