BAKU: Azeri Daily Urges Closer Ties With Israel


Zerkalo, Baku
17 Apr 04

Azerbaijani daily Zerkalo has praised several deputies for their calls
for closer cooperation with Israel at a recent parliament
session. Zerkalo said the government should not be afraid of
establishing closer ties with Israel for fear of Iran’s “wrath”
because the benefits would be much higher. The following is an excerpt
from Emin Mahmudov report by Azerbaijani newspaper Zerkalo on 17 April
headlined “I love you, even if you do not love me”; subheadings have
been inserted editorially:

It is good when our MPs remember political issues of state importance
not only when the presidential administration or the ruling party
gives a hint or “concessions” have to be made for the Council of
Europe or the shapeless mass, usually described as the Azerbaijani
opposition, has to be “lynched”. It appears that people in our
parliament can sometimes “raise their nose” above the papers which
come “from above” and which have to be endorsed even without

Several quite balanced statements were made in parliament yesterday
(16 April). The Milli Maclis (parliament) decided to open Azerbaijani
embassies in Canada, Hungary, Greece, Latvia, India, Belarus, Bulgaria
and Indonesia and a permanent representative office at the UNESCO in

During the debates, MPs from the People’s Front Party Asim Mollazada
and Alimammad Nuriyev, the head of the Compatriot Party, Mais Safarli,
and the head of the United People’s Front Party, Qudrat Hasanquliyev,
said that it was necessary to open an Azerbaijani embassy in
Israel. They explained their proposal by the fact that Azerbaijan is
in the “same coalition” as this country in the antiterrorist fight. In
addition, Israel supports Azerbaijan’s positions on the international
arena. It was also noted that Israel was one of the first countries to
recognize Azerbaijan’s independence.

The opinion that the opening of the embassy could cause Iran’s
negative reaction was dismissed as “groundless”. The MPs recalled that
Iran was strengthening diplomatic relations with Armenia by the day.

(Passage omitted: former President Heydar Aliyev never paid visit to

Islamic factor

But it is clear that the authorities, to put it mildly, are afraid of
the “Islamic wrath”. To put it even simpler, of the Iranian
government. Tehran has always been sensitive on the issue of
Azerbaijani-Israeli relations. It is no secret that Tehran does not
like the people of lands of promise. Anti-Semitism is the cornerstone
of the Iranian policy. What does Azerbaijan have to do with this?

While speaking loud about eternal friendship between the peoples of
Iran and Azerbaijan, the mullahs are still pursuing an openly
anti-Azerbaijan policy. The country, where 60 per cent of the
population are ethnic Azerbaijanis, has always been putting a spoke in
its northern neighbour’s wheel. It is no secret that Armenia would
have long “kicked the bucket” if not for Iran’s considerable
assistance and support. The Tehran government’s attitude to its own
citizens, ethnic Azerbaijanis, is also well-known. Reports are coming
in almost every day about Azerbaijanis in Iran being subjected to
total pressure. Moreover, everyone might still remember that Tehran
twice “attempted to facilitate the settlement” of the Karabakh
conflict as a mediator. During the first attempt the Xocali massacre
was committed, during the second we lost Susa.

Iran’s pressure

We are well aware of the kind of pressure Tehran puts on Azerbaijan
during the signing of oil contracts. There was a wide “range” of them
– from not recognizing contracts to not recognizing Azerbaijan’s right
to the fields and to the sector of Caspian which Tehran had made no
attempts to claim in Soviet times. This almost grew into an armed
conflict, when an Iranian boat almost grappled with an Azerbaijani
research vessel. Not to mention Iranian Air Force planes boldly flying
over Azerbaijani territory after that.

Things got more complicated as it went on. The construction of a major
gas pipeline from Iran to Armenia, the allocation of significant
Iranian grants for Yerevan and so on are on the agenda. The list is

We wonder how sincere Islamists are when they speak about Muslim
solidarity and friendship against the background of supporting the
occupying regime of a country which invaded the territory of their
alleged ally.

Naturally, Azerbaijan does not have friendship with someone for
“nothing”. Iran is our access to Naxcivan and a route for exporting
and importing of some goods today. We also receive humanitarian aid on
a regular basis. That is it. Of course taking into account the fact
that Naxcivan is under blockade, this is quite a lot. But Baku has
always offered its “thanks”. Not verbal, but concrete “financial

What is Israel for Azerbaijan?

Naturally, as a small country Azerbaijan has to take into account
Iran’s opinion, as well as the opinion of Russia, the USA, Britain and
so on. A paradoxical situation arises. For some reason, the
Azerbaijani government can afford to ignore the opinion of its western
“beacons”, not to mention Russia. But the authorities “surrender” to
Iran whenever it comes to deepening cooperation with Israel. We can
add here that no-one blames Tehran (at least at the government level)
for rendering its comprehensive support of Yerevan. An independent
country has the right to determine its policies independently, but
Azerbaijan is not independent enough to boost ties with Tel Aviv (or
if you wish, Jerusalem which Israel believes is its capital).

If we compare the benefit that Azerbaijan gets from “surrendering” to
Iran with the benefit it gets from cooperating with Israel, we will be
“overwhelmed” by the difference. The author says the basis for that
was not what he heard, but what he saw in Israel.

What is Israel for Azerbaijan? First, it is the “headquarters” of the
most powerful lobby in the USA, which, incidentally, has always
supported Azerbaijan and promoted the abolishment of Section 907 (of
the Freedom Support Act banning direct US assistance to the Baku
government) by the Congress.

In addition, Israel is a country of high technologies, developed
medicine, electronics, advanced agriculture technologies, defence, so
on and so forth. This country is genuinely strives for friendship and
cooperation and is ready for that, which has more than once been
declared by its envoys in Baku. We think we should pay attention to
these benefits.