"For Israel, the relationship with fast moving Azerbaijan is especially precious"

"For Israel, the relationship with fast moving Azerbaijan is especially precious"

Azeri.Today’s exclusive interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

- Mr.Barak, first of all, we want to thank you for having agreed to give an interview to our agency. Today, April 7, marks the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Israel. I want to congratulate you on this remarkable day. 25 years is a long period of time. How do you assess the current relations between the two countries? In which spheres did our countries manage to advance most?

- I think that both Azerbaijan and Israel can look proudly backwards on the mileage that had been made in the first 25 years of our diplomatic relationship.
We are both young modern states with millennia long history and great traditions of looking for peace and stability. I am looking forward very optimistically towards the next 25 years of developing relationships of both our countries and peoples.

For Israel which is practically the only non-Muslim country in the wider Middle East, the relationship with the fast forward moving Republic of Azerbaijan, and advanced, open, Muslim country is especially precious.

We developed a lot of interaction and cooperation in the areas of defense and security, in a way that benefits both parties. And we made first important steps in many other arenas as well.

We specially appreciate the frank dialogue, which we had with the Azeri leadership led by the founding father of the Republic, President Gaidar Aliyev, and I am proud of having the opportunity to know him personally and work closely with him on international issues, when I was Prime Minister of Israel. And of course we are blessed to work later with President Ilham Aliyev, highly respected present leader of the Republic.

- And in which other sphere is there a potential? What else should be done to bring the relations between our countries to a more qualitative level?

- We already cooperated on many spheres and I believe that the most promising of them could be agriculture, where Israel happens to develop extremely advanced and effective agricultural systems.

Another area of cooperation might be energy, where Azerbaijan had a lot of experience for decades in oil, gas and pipelines. Israel is very new to the whole arena and can learn a lot from Azerbaijan.

Israel can contribute to the development of the relationship through its high-tech and innovation industry. And all of us can elevate the qualitative side of the relationship through extended tourism and cultural exchanges. Not just between the governments but people to people.

In Israel we have proud Azeri Jewish community, which is connected from the bottom of their heart to their country of origin. The long history of Jewish life in great tolerance among the Azeri people is a true example to the world. The now Israelis from Azeri origin are playing a growing role in the Israeli society in all aspects of life and provide a living bridge between our two peoples.

- There are a lot of initiatives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is considered one of the most complex conflicts in history, but none of them brought peace and stability in your region. What model of peace settlement would you offer for the resolution of the conflict situation?

- Israel turns seventy, next year, and celebrates this year the 50th anniversary of the “Six days war”. We manage to have a lot of achievements, including peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan but only preliminary steps with the Palestinians.

The most promising course of action for the future seems to be to try to move forward with the Palestinians within the context of regional agreement on security and cooperation.

In recent years a common set of interests has been developed between Israel and the Sunnite Muslim moderate countries of the region. Namely: the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, probably even Turkey. Those interests include collaboration in fighting radical Muslim terror, cornering the hegemonic and nuclear intentions of Iran and joining hands in wide scale regional energy, water, and transportation and infrastructure projects.

This kind of regional security and development agreements cannot fly without a sincere effort on all sides including Israel and the Palestinian authority, to move forward with the Palestinians towards reconciliation and agreements. It might need patience and gradual implementation – but that is what the region needs.

- Unfortunately, international terror is widely spreading on the planetary scale. It shows itself in the regions of traditional international conflicts (for example, the Middle East and South Asia) while the most developed and stable countries (particularly, the United States and Western Europe) were also not secured from this dangerous phenomenon. Which steps should the world community take to terminate that evil? And in general is there a ‘vaccine’ against it?

- Fighting terror is not a simple endeavor. It needs a global cooperation and intelligence, diplomacy, surveillance and operational steps. This cooperation will need determined and persistent political will. The terrorists are spread and loosely connected and our very modern infra structure and systems including communication and freedom of transportation empowers small groups of terrorists and makes the modern society more vulnerable. However if we show the will and have the tenacity, we have to win, And we will win. Terror will be with us in the coming generation, there is no easy vaccine against it. We should never yield to terror but at the same time try to tackle not just the symptoms of terror but also the root causes of it which have to do with frustration, deprivation and tough life circumstances.

- Israel is mainly surrounded by unfriendly states, but your country is attributed to the most developed countries of the world. How do Israelis manage to resist external threats, while developing military technologies?

- A person cannot choose his parents and a nation cannot choose its neighbors. They are whoever they are. With Egypt and Jordan, which are our most important neighbors we already have peace. In Lebanon, in Gaza, in Syria, we still see animosity. We are facing Palestinian terror and the rockets and missiles of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Hamas in Gaza are threats to the normalcy of life. But we have no choice. We are there. We fight terror. We will never ever yield to it.
“Necessity is the mother of innovation”, they say. Thus, we developed the most advanced missile defense systems and we are ready to fight if we are compelled to. But in the meantime, we keep developing our advanced military technology and moving forward with high-tech and star -ups defending our title of “start-up nation”.

Seymur Mammadov
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