U.S.-Azerbaijan Relations

News.Az
News.Az interviews David Harris
November 17, 2012

By the decree of President of Azerbaijan of November 14, 2012, AJC Executive Director David Harris was awarded with the order Dostlug for his contribution to the development of friendly ties between the peoples of Azerbaijan and America.

AZ: First of all, my congratulations on your receipt of the Dostlug (Friendship) Order by decree of President Aliyev. What does this award mean to you?

DH: I was honored to learn about the award. The announcement came as a total surprise to me.

AZ: How would you evaluate the relationships between Azerbaijan and the U.S. and, in particular, Azerbaijan and the American Jewish community?

DH: The cooperation between Azerbaijan and the United States is good in many spheres, but, of course, there is room for growth. With all the challenges currently surfacing around the world, it can be difficult at times to concentrate attention on one country or one relationship, but we believe that America’s interests are best served, precisely at this time, by deepening ties with Azerbaijan. Within the American Jewish community, there appears to be growing understanding and appreciation of Azerbaijan’s importance to the United States and Israel, and of the longstanding Jewish presence in Azerbaijan.

AZ:Azerbaijan’s foes want to represent Azerbaijan as a country where national minorities live under fear and oppression. How do you view the state of the Jewish minority in Azerbaijan?

DH: From several visits and many conversations, our impression is that Jews live in Azerbaijan without any sense of fear or discrimination. Indeed, I’ve been struck by the deep connection Jews from Azerbaijan feel for their country, whether they continue to live there or have moved to the United States or Israel.

AZ: The Iranian leadership is unhappy with what they see as the close cooperation among Azerbaijan, Israel and the U.S. How real is the Iranian threat to a secular Azerbaijan?

DH: The Iranian threat is real. We have seen repeated examples of Iran’s efforts to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring Azerbaijan, including attempted terrorist attacks. Iran is not happy that a prospering and secular Azerbaijan is just next door, and offers an alternative model of development in the region. With the Iranian people suffering from high unemployment, the diminishing value of their currency, international sanctions, and stifling religious decrees, of course, Iran’s leaders worry that Azerbaijan looks far more attractive and alluring. And Azerbaijan’s leaders cannot sleep easily knowing that this Iranian regime seeks to acquire nuclear-weapons capability, which, if successful, could dramatically change for the worse the nature of relations between Iran and its immediate neighbors. Iran would then become the regional hegemon, exerting still greater influence than it does today.Date: 11/19/2012 12:00:00 AM