Israeli Ambassador: “I haven’t seen such a tolerance like that in Azerbaijan” - INTERVIEW

Israeli Ambassador: “I haven’t seen such a tolerance like that in Azerbaijan” - <span style="color: red;">INTERVIEW
# 24 December 2013 08:14 (UTC +04:00)

Baku. Anakhanum Hidayatova - APA. APA’s interview with Rafael Harpaz, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to Azerbaijan

- Mr. Ambassador, how do you assess the current relations between Azerbaijan and Israel? What activities were carried out in 2013?

-Relations are very good, very special relations at the highest level possible. When I look back at the 2013 we did a lot almost at all spheres. Presidents met in Davos, we had Ehud Barak, former Israeli PM visiting Baku, Azerbaijani FM Elmar Mammadyarov visited Israel. We signed few agreements, touching different areas. Cooperation is very good at all areas. We signed a very important agreement on visa elimination – because we are not doing it with every country. It shows special relations that we have.

– What is the level of economic partnership?

– There are few areas that Israel has very good experience. Azerbaijan is a best example to share this experience. Azerbaijan enjoys very good reputation in Israel as a country to do Business with. I see so many serious Israeli companies arriving to Azerbaijan to do business. The areas are diverse. In the past it was mainly agriculture, now it is telecommunication which is a huge area and cyber protection, water technologies, medical technologies, tourism. I will try to do the utmost I do to bring more Israeli tourists here but what we see more is a number of Azerbaijani tourists going to Israel. I want to congratulate Azerbaijan for achievement of the final investment decision on Shakh Deniz, this is a historic agreement. First we want to learn Azerbaijani experience. Israel found significant amount of natural gas we want to export it. We don’t have much experience in dealing with energy. We are in the process of legislation of creating our oil fund. I see more and more Azerbaijani businessmen going to do business in Israeli joint ventures in all the areas. We have a big Azerbaijani community in Israel and I see many of them coming back here to do business. One major achievement we had last year is creation of the new Chamber of Commerce, which is already very active. Chamber started working very positively. We are expecting here the visit in February of the head of Israeli Export Institute equivalent to AZPROMO.
Azal opened cargo flight. The first flight was two weeks ago, bilateral relationships are strong. We are also expecting high level delegations from both directions on the agriculture level. Economic relations are deepening, widening in the parallel way beside the very good political relations.

– Is there any chance for Azerbaijani Embassy to be opened in Israel?

– This is a decision for Azerbaijani government. We are welcoming this decision. I will quote president Shimon Peres he says that: “We think after 22 years the time is ready for opening Azerbaijani embassy in Israel, we hope it will happen.”

– What is the official position of Israel on Nagorno Karabakh conflict?

–I visited 2 camps, it is something that touches me much. The Azerbaijanis are strong people, brave people. When you see this, see people suffering you really hope there will be a solution to these issues. There will be peaceful solution which is very important based on our experience, on our vision. We hope it would be. We support the efforts of Minsk Group, as the Israeli FM Liberman stated we recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Let’s hope that 2014 will bring good news when it comes to peaceful solution of Karabakh conflict.

– How Israel is succeeding to be a stable country, when surrounded by instability in the Middle East region?

– First we are really an island of stability when you look around us. First we have to be strong and Israel is a strong country. We have to be democratic country and we are, that is different from our neighbors. We have diplomatic relations with too many Arabian countries, including Jordan, Egypt. We talk to Palestinians. On the other hand we see the threat emanating from Iran. Iran is a very negative player in the region. They have negative influence on all Arab world. You should see Hezbollah, Hamas. We are small nation, international community should take actions on this issues. Israel will do all necessary to defend itself.

– Despite all sanctions Iran is continuing to develop its nuclear program?

- PM Netanyahu was very clear on the b5 + 1 agreement. It is better not to reach an agreement then reaching a bad agreement. Iranians will be examined only by one thing by dates. Strong sanctions are very important in these issues. The only thing to cause Iran to come to table of negotiations is strong sanctions.

- What can Israel take from Azerbaijan?

–There is a very important community of Jews here, I have been all over as a diplomat and I haven’t seen such a tolerance. There are many things we can take from Azerbaijan – tolerance, respect. We both are in very challenging environment. Azerbaijani people are like Israeli – warm and nice…