Photo Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2018.

Ilham Heydar Oglu Aliyev, the fourth President of Azerbaijan, Chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party and of the Non-Aligned Movement, and the head of Azerbaijan’s National Olympic Committee, on Wednesday, send a special holiday message to the Jewish community of Azerbaijan.

Dear fellow countrymen,

I cordially congratulate you on the New Year Holiday of the Jewish people – Rosh Hashanah – and extend my best regards and sincerest wishes to each of you.

Jews, along with representatives of various ethnic and religious groups, have for centuries lived in Azerbaijan, a country with rich historical and cultural heritage and centuries-old traditions of tolerance, in peace, tranquility, mutual respect and trust. Azerbaijan is one of the few places where ethnic and religious intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism do not exist.

The state of Azerbaijan, which attaches great importance to coexistence based on democratic and constitutional principles, promotion of high tolerance and multicultural values, pays a great deal of attention and care to the preservation of cultural and spiritual values, development of language and culture of all ethnic minorities, including the Jewish community.

It is commendable that our compatriots of Jewish origin, who are actively involved in the socio-political, socio-cultural life of our country, always demonstrate their love and loyalty to Azerbaijan, making significant contributions to communicating the truth about Azerbaijan to the world community, regardless of where they live.

Dear friends,

On the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, which epitomizes kindness, spiritual revival and renewal, I once again extend my sincere congratulations to all of you and wish prosperity to your families and abundance to your homes.

Happy holiday!

Ilham Aliyev

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Baku, 16 September 2020

In 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Azerbaijan and military relations between the two countries were boosted. In 2010, after President Aliyev banned issuing visas in the country’s international airports, he exempted only two countries: Turkey and Israel. In 2016, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman supported the Azerbaijani side in the Armenian–Azerbaijani clashes. Liberman held Armenia responsible for provoking the conflict in April 2016.

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A delegation of the World Jewish Congress visited Azerbaijan in September 2016 and heard President Aliyev describe his “excellent relations with the Jewish community and Israel.” In December 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid an official visit to Baku, and while he was there checked on the Ohr Avner Chabad Day School, met with the local Jewish community, and gave a speech before the Jewish students.

In December 2016, the Azerbaijan-Israel intergovernmental agreement on air communication was signed.

During his speech at the 72nd sessions of the UN General Assembly on September 19, 2017, Netanyahu mentioned the expansion of cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan.

Elbit Systems SkyStriker
Elbit Systems SkyStriker / Courtesy of Elbit Systems

In January 2019, the State Border Service of Azerbaijan purchased Skystriker “loitering munition” from Elbit Systems, the first foreign buyer of Skystriker. SkyStriker is a fully autonomous UAS that can locate, acquire, and strike operator-designated targets with a 5kg warhead installed inside the fuselage, enabling high-precision performance.

Watch out, Armenians…

And now, for our readers who have grown to expect us to add some shady stuff to mess with the glow of these announcements, here’s some dirt: in 2010, the Washington Post reported that Azerbaijanis with the same names as Ilham Aliyev’s three children own real estate in Dubai worth about $75 million.

In 2012, Journalist Khadija Ismayilova of the US-funded Radio Free Europe claimed that Aliyev and his family controlled companies and assets worth $3 billion.

In 2015, Swedish television showed that offshore companies controlled by Aliyev received from the Swedish telecommunications company TeliaSonera a bribe in the form of shares of the Azercell cellular provider worth $600-700 million (in 2005 value), which was purchased for only $6.5 million. That’s some return on investment.

Aliyev’s critic Khadija Ismayilova was detained in December 2014 and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on trumped-up charges. She was released conditionally in May 2016, but remains subject to a travel ban and cannot leave the country.

On July 15, 2020, during Armenian–Azerbaijani clashes, President Aliyev targeted his country’s largest opposition party, the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, declaring that “we need to finish with the fifth column,” and that the Popular Front is “worse than the Armenians.”

Words hurt, man.

According to sources inside Azerbaijan, some 120 citizens are held in jail, including some deputy leaders of the Popular Front Party and journalists. On July 20, the State Department urged Azerbaijan to avoid using the pandemic to silence “civil society advocacy, opposition voices, or public discussion.”

Happy new year.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.