News.Az interviews David Harris
November 17, 2012
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.
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?
I was honored to learn about the award. The announcement came as a total
surprise to me.
How would you evaluate the relationships between Azerbaijan and the U.S. and,
in particular, Azerbaijan and the American Jewish community?
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?
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
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
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