WASHINGTON, June 4, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, addressing an audience of more than 1,500 at the AJC Global Forum, spoke about his country's close ties to Israel and important strategic relationship with the U.S.
"Azerbaijan is a natural bridge that connects various civilizations and cultures," said Mammadyarov. "Azerbaijan serves as a critical link for outreach to the Muslim world for our partners like the United States and Israel."
Azerbaijan's ability to develop and sustain relations with other countries of varied ethnicities and faiths is based, he said, on its long history of building a peaceful, productive society. Though predominantly Shia Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities have long existed in Azerbaijan.
"What really guarantees our security and domestic tranquility is our culture of tolerance and peace within," said Mammadyarov. "Azerbaijan enjoys a centuries-long tradition of peaceful co-existence among its Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities." The Jewish community of 35,000 has not experienced anti-Semitism in Azerbaijan, he declared.
Reinforcing the unique role Azerbaijan can play in international forums, the foreign minister noted that his county is a member of several important regional organizations, including the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Azerbaijan currently serves as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The foreign minister emphasized that close, friendly relations between Azerbaijan and Israel go "well beyond" diplomatic ties, "reinforced by the strong bonds between our peoples."
Azerbaijan is Israel's biggest trade partner in the South Caucasus. Last year, bilateral trade with Israel reached 4 billion dollars, nearly double U.S.-Azerbaijan bilateral trade, he said. Some 40 percent of Israel's oil imports come from Azerbaijan.
On U.S.-Azerbaijani relations, the foreign minister spoke about the two countries' "strategic partnership." Azerbaijan has played a critical role in supporting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and cooperates on counterterrorism and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
AJC has visited Azerbaijan on several occasions in recent years and maintains an ongoing dialogue with Azerbaijani diplomats and the Diaspora community in the U.S.
SOURCE American Jewish Committee