Baku, Azerbaijan, June 1
By Elmira Tariverdiyeva – Trend:
The only nation in the world to border Russia and Iran, Azerbaijan is the only predominantly Muslim republic in the European part of the former Soviet Union, wrote Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, a former breaking news editor for the Jerusalem Post and a former editor-in-chief of the Baltimore Jewish Times, in her article published by the Jewish Press (jewishpress.com).
Azerbaijan is a meeting point of Christian and Muslim worlds, says the article, to complete the diversity picture, the nation also boasts its own ancient and indigenous 35,000 member Jewish population.
“Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan Rafi Harpaz has been quoted multiple times as saying that there is no anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan,” noted the author.
“For the re-emerging Silk Road, Azerbaijan is the only route between Central and South Asia that avoids Russia and Iran. It is both a source and, potentially, a transit for alternative energy supplies vital for Europe’s supply diversification,” says the article.
Overwhelmingly Muslim, yet staunchly secular and tolerant, Azerbaijan serves as an example much needed in the world today, wrote Jaffe-Hoffman.
“Since the ethnic Azerbaijani population of Iran is estimated to be from 25 to 30 million people strong, Azerbaijan is a unique gateway into Iran. Despite that, Azerbaijan is the only predominantly Shia society that is not under Iran’s influence and has strong ties to Israel,” added the author.
On his visit to Baku in December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the nearly $5 billion military cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan as a positive example of Muslim-Jewish coexistence, according to the article.
“Israel is the Jewish state, and Azerbaijan is a Muslim state with a large Muslim majority,” Netanyahu said after meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
“Here we have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to promise a better future for both of us. The world sees so much intolerance and darkness. This is an example of how the Muslim-Jewish relationship can and should be everywhere.”
Israel also has a strong economic relationship with Azerbaijan, noted Jaffe-Hoffman, an agricultural agreement between the two countries was signed during Netanyahu’s recent visit.
“Azerbaijan’s geographic position makes it a key to Georgia’s strategic relevance and Central Asia’s westward connection. Simply put, without Azerbaijan, Georgia becomes a regional impasse, while Central Asian nations get locked out of access to European energy and transport infrastructures,” added the author.
A peaceful resolution of Azerbaijan’s protracted conflict with the Russian regional proxy Armenia would set a precedent for other similar conflicts, according to the article.
“Azerbaijan has capitalized on its location at the heart of regional and global constellations since its independence with a degree of success,” noted the author adding that for the US to build on this and to connect to Azerbaijan would make a smart and cost-effective strategy for building diplomatic and political bridges and peace.