The Statesmen’s Forum
AJC Global Forum 2013
June 2, 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a privilege to address the American Jewish Committee’s annual Global
Forum that has become an important platform to discuss topical issues that go
beyond the national borders and affect all of us around the globe.
This year’s Global Forum provides a very good opportunity to adress the
world’s pressing issues ranging from developments in the Middle East to the
questions of identity and the relations between the religion and State. All of
these are topical for my country as well. But, before sharing with the distinguished
audience my views on some of the issues we will be addressing over the next few
days, first İ üould like to say a couple of words about Azerbaijan’s relations
with the State of Israel as well as our cooperation with the American Jewish
Committee and the vibrant Jewish community here in the United States.
Azerbaijan and Israel close, friendly relations go well beyond formal
diplomatic ties. Our friendship runs through all segments of our respective
Governments and societies and is reinforced by the strong bonds between our
peoples. Relations with Israel are based on five cornerstone pillars: (1) strong
people-to-people links, (2) geographic proximity, (3) trade and commercial ties,
(4) mutual understanding of regional security environment and global affairs and,
last but not least (5) quest for peace.
Strong people-to-peole links. For many
of you Azerbaijan is known as a country rich in energy resources. Indeed,
duly considered the birthplace of petroleum industry. By the late 19th
century Azerbaijan provided for approximately half of global oil output. In
1847, more than a decade before oil was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1859,
Azerbaijan drilled its first oil well in Bibi-Heybat.
Azerbaijan is increasingly known first and foremost for its tradition of
tolerance that we developed throughout centuries and that is unfortunately in
short supply in today’s world. True, Azerbaijan was able to consolidate its
sovereignty and political independence to a large extent due to its energy
independence and sound energy diplomacy. But in a longer-term perspective what
really guarantees our security and domestic tranquility is our culture of
tolerance and peace within.
is a unique place in the world: we are secular yet predominantly Muslim society
that enjoys a centuries-long tradition of peaceful co-existence between Muslim,
Christian and Jewish communities. Around 35,000-strong ancient Jewish community
has been living in Azerbaijan for over 2,500 years without any persecution in
full dignity and respect. This is among the few places on Earth where people if
asked may not know the meaning of the notion of anti-Semitism, simply because
we don’t have such a feeling in our historical and cultural narrative.
outside Azerbaijan know about the remarkable role that the Jewish community has
historically played in my country. Imagine, when we first gained our
independence in 1918, our young Government entrusted the most sacred thing that
any society has – health of its citizens – to Dr. Yevsey Gindes, an Ashkenazi
Jew, who served as Minister of Health in Azerbaijan Democratic Republic’s Cabinet
under the first prime minister, Fatali Khan Khoyski. One of the first things that
Government did was to establish Jewish Popular University in 1919. Members of
Jewish community were represented in our parliament back then and as they are now.
that Azerbaijan is increasingly recognized as a role model for peaceful
coexistence. Being a member of both European multilateral institutions, such as
the Council of Europe and OSCE, closely partnering with NATO and as a member of
the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), uniting 56 Muslim countries
around the world, Azerbaijan is positioning itself and largely viewed as a natural
bridge that connects various civilizations and cultures. Azerbaijan is serving
as a critical link for the outreach to the Muslim world to our partners like
the United States and Israel.
We are at
a forefront of global efforts to foster intercultural dialogue. Azerbaijan was
among the first countries to join UN-led Alliance of Civilizations initiative that
seeks to champion international efforts against extremism through forging
intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. Over the past couple of years Baku
hosted several high-profile events to promote the concept of multiculturalism,
tolerance and inter-religious dialogue. Among them are the international forum
on inter-religious dialogue and the Baku Humanitarian Forum that unites
representatives of political scientific and cultural elite of the world to
discuss pressing issues of our time.
Geographic proximity is another factor that determines
our close ties. We do not share borders but we share the region. Our landmark
Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline ships around one million barrels of oil daily to
the Eastern Mediterranean. Israel benefits from our energy infrastructure as some
40% of Israel’s oil consumption comes from Azerbaijan via that pipeline.
know, over the past decade Azerbaijan has transformed from gas consuming into a
gas producing country. Azerbaijan contributes to the European energy security. The
Shah Deniz Stage 2 project will bring gas from Azerbaijan and the wider Caspian
Sea region to markets in Europe, opening up the “Southern Gas Corridor”, which
will further enhance diversification of energy supplies to our European allies.
month the Shah Deniz consortium will announce its final decision on a pipeline
that will be a continuation of the dedicated Trans-Anatolian Pipeline that will
carry gas from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan to the European consumers.
Realization of the Shah Deniz and TANAP projects will help open up upstream gas
development in the regions beyond Europe's Southeastern frontiers, by providing
readily available modern infrastructure to carry gas to European markets,
including potentially from the Eastern Mediterranean.
Trade and commernceis the third pillar of
our bilateral relations. As I mentioned above, energy development offers ample
opportunities for cooperation. Our national State Oil Company - SOCAR’s
subsidiary, Caspian Drilling Company has a 5% stake in Med Ashdod oil field
off-shore Israel. This project is SOCAR’s first oil-production and drilling
operation outside Azerbaijan.
is Israel’s biggest trade partner in the South Caucasus. And it is not
surprising, since Azerbaijan accounts for 80% of economy of the South Caucasus.
Our GDP tripled between 2004 and 2011, industrial production rose 2.7-fold,
non-oil sector increased 2-fold. Over the last 10 years Azerbaijan’s state
budget increased from $1.5 bln to $25 bln, more than 1 million jobs were
created, poverty level fell from 49% in 2003 to 6% last year. To date,
investments in Azerbaijan’s economy exceed $140 bln.
bilateral trade turnover with Israel reached $ 4 bln, this is in fact more than
US-Azerbaijan bilateral trade, which is $2.3bln. Israeli companies are active
in Azerbaijan in sectors like agriculture, water management and water supply,
health care, and telecommunications. Talks are underway to sign an agreement on
the avoidance of double taxation as well as a visa facilitation agreement for
holders of diplomatic and service passports.
Mutual understanding of
regional security environment and global affairs.Our political engagement
is also on the rise. Few weeks ago I traveled to Israel with the first official
visit and held productive talks with President Shimon Peres, Prime-minister
Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders. We have regular consultations at the
Ministries’ level on the issues of mutual interests.
Azerbaijan’s growing international role expands our bilateral agenda. Over the last two decades
Azerbaijan has developed into a rapidly growing, dynamic country with vibrant
civil society. Our sound domestic and foreign policy transformed Azerbaijan
from security consumer into a security provider and a stalwart security partner in the South Caucasus and the wider
Caspian Sea region and beyond. Mega transportation and energy projects that we
launched almost a decade ago already bear fruits and contribute to the
development of not only Azerbaijan but the regional countries as well.
election of Azerbaijan to the non-permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council
in 2011 is testimony to the recognition by the international community of the
growing role and increased capabilities of Azerbaijan in maintaining
international peace and security. Within its capacity as non-permanent member
of the UNSC Azerbaijan positively contributes to the consideration of the
agenda items of the UN Security Council in regards to international peace and
stability, resolution of conflicts, including in the Middle East, climate
change, poverty reduction within the Millennium Development Goals and promotion
Quest for peace with neighbors is also
one common feature that makes our two countries similar. The conflict between Armenia
and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region remains the main obstacle for
full-scale cooperation in the South Caucasus. The United States, Russia and
France as OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs mediate to find just resolution to this
conflict. Azerbaijan remains committed to finding a soonest political
resolution to the conflict based on the norms and principles of international
law enshrined in the U.N. Charter.
Now, let me say couple of words on where we are in Azerbaijan-US relations.
Both our nations characterise our relations as the one of the strategic
Our bilateral engagement became an important factor in regional and global
affairs. Our two countries cooperate on a broad range of issues vital to our
national interests. The U.S. and Azerbaijan are
cooperating in counterterrorism and nonproliferation of weapons of mass
destruction, a particularly important endeavor in light of Azerbaijan’s unique
geographical location. Azerbaijan provides multi-faceted support for U.S. and
NATO operations in Afghanistan, as it previously did in Iraq. Azerbaijan is a
key nod in the Northern Distribution Network with more than 40% of supplies
bound to Afghanistan crossing Azerbaijan. Strong Azerbaijan-US ties have
positive implications on security of our regional partners as well.
Let me say in conclusion that Azerbaijan’s cooperation with American Jewish
organizations, like AJC, AIPAC and others are playing critical role in
fostering closer ties bilaterally between Azerbaijan and Israel and
trilaterally between Azerbaijan, Israel and the United States. We are looking forward to working with you to
further strengthen our relations and advance our shared interests.