February 26, 2018 — Baku, Azerbaijan
An AJC leadership delegation just concluded a two-day visit to Azerbaijan's capital. The mission was highlighted by a 75-minute private meeting with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, at his presidential dacha. There was also a dinner with Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, who addressed the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., in 2013.
In addition, the seven-member group, led by AJC President John Shapiro and CEO David Harris, met with Vice President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) Elshad Nassirov; U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Cekuta; and Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan Dan Stav.
Among the principal topics discussed were: (i) U.S.-Azerbaijani bilateral relations; (ii) ties between Azerbaijan and Israel; (iii) regional security and energy developments; and (iv) the role of the Jewish community in the country’s life.
"Azerbaijan continues to be a very significant partner for both the U.S. and Israel. Baku's contributions in many spheres are increasingly vital in today's turbulent world, although, frankly speaking, not as well-known and recognized as they should be," said Harris, who received the “Dostlug” Order of Friendship, Azerbaijan's highest honor for foreigners, in 2012. "In a key region of the world, where the United States has few reliable friends, Azerbaijan, a secular, Shiite-majority country, stands out. And for Israel, believe me, the bilateral relationship is no less important. Moreover, it is inspiring to see the record of respect for the Jewish community – and the striking absence of anti-Semitism – in a land Jews have called home for over 2,000 years.”
During their stay, the AJC delegation also visited a synagogue and met with two dozen local Jewish community leaders. AJC has a longstanding partnership with the Jewish community of Azerbaijan.
AJC maintains close contact with Azerbaijan through its offices across the U.S., Europe, and other locations, and meets with senior Azerbaijani officials on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly every fall. AJC also visits Baku annually, and has done so for the past eleven years consecutively.
In addition to Shapiro and Harris, the delegation included Gail Binderman, a member of AJC's Board of Governors; Nancy Petschek-Kohn of Westchester County, New York: Shonni Silverberg of New York; Yakov Abramov, a former Azerbaijan resident living in New York; Sam Kliger, AJC's Director of Russian Affairs; and Charlotte Bilski, Deputy Chief of Staff to the AJC CEO.