Baku, September 16, AZERTAC
A delegation led by president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Ronald Lauder completed their visit to Azerbaijan on September 15. The delegation included Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice-President of the Congress Robert Singer, WJC Vice-President God Nisanov, President of the Euro Asian Jewish Congress Julius Meinl, President of the Russian Jewish Congress Yuri Kanner, Vice President of the Russian Jewish Congress German Zakharyaev, and Deputy CEO for Diplomacy of the World Jewish Congress Maram Stern.
Israeli international relations expert Arye Gut interviewed President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder especially for AZERTAC.
In the interview, Ronald Lauder said the meeting with the Azerbaijani President was held in a very friendly and warm atmosphere. "Ilham Aliyev is a real, great leader of his country, who has a good understanding of what is happening in the world. President Aliyev’s successes in recent years are associated with both the objective factors and his personal qualities as a leader, statesman and diplomat. President Aliyev spends a lot of time to address the problems of the Jewish community of Azerbaijan, and he puts much zeal in this," said Ronald Lauder.
On the Israel-Azerbaijan cooperation prospects, Ronald Lauder said that, without a doubt, relations between Israel and Azerbaijan reached the level of strategic partnership. "Relations between the two countries and peoples are great and excellent, given the fact that Azerbaijan is a country where the majority of population are Shia Muslims. This factor is very important. In recent years, the two countries deepened their cooperation and became even closer to each other, which is a new stage in bilateral relations. And I believe that both countries will only benefit from the expansion and deepening of these relations, and it will serve their mutual interests. The forthcoming visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Azerbaijan is strategically important in strengthening cooperation and partnership," said the President of the World Jewish Congress.
Asked about his impressions of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan, Ronald Lauder pointed out that it was very interesting to get acquainted with the Jewish identity and Jewish way of life in Azerbaijan. "I know that during the Holocaust, Azerbaijan became one of the few havens for the European Ashkenazi Jews who saved their lives and the lives of their children from the Nazis. The notion of "Mountain Jews" once seemed very abstract to me. I have heard a lot about them, but I have never seen their settlements. However, in Azerbaijan’s Guba district, I saw a warm and friendly attitude of the Azerbaijani people and leadership towards the Mountain Jews.
I want to mention a special role and historic mission of the incumbent Azerbaijani President's father, Heydar Aliyev, who ensured peace and stability, as well as stable relations between different faiths in his country. I visited a beautiful synagogue in Krasnaya Sloboda and was very inspired to see a large number of people who met our delegation and me.
Honestly, I did not expect to see a powerful Jewish community in a Muslim country with a Shiite majority. There are no such precedents in the world. I think that the Krasnaya Sloboda is a great role model for other countries. Azerbaijan can be proud of its achievements in the area of multiculturalism. As a President of the World Jewish Congress, I highly appreciate the respectful and warm attitude of the Azerbaijani people and the Azerbaijani leadership towards the Jewish community and I want to express my sincere gratitude to the President of Azerbaijan," Ronald Lauder told AZERTAC.
Concerning the format of further cooperation between the World Jewish Congress and Azerbaijan, Ronald Lauder said that this format has a good, serious basis – excellent strategic relations between Azerbaijan and Israel. "We need to work to strengthen relations between Azerbaijan and the United States. Azerbaijan has its own special path of successful cooperation, and the recent years of success have proved the right course of the Azerbaijani leadership. Azerbaijan should continue to carry out democratic reforms and improve situation with human rights. On the other hand, there is no need to condemn an eastern, secular country, which is successfully developing, has its own values and vision for the modern world," he said.
The President of the World Jewish Congress said that he visited a Memorial Complex in Guba. "I’ve had mixed feelings about this because we had a very little knowledge about this tragedy. Unfortunately, I did not know anything about it until now. However, the purpose of my visit was to understand Azerbaijan and see the real life of the Jewish community in this country. And I made sure that the attitude towards the Jewish community here is great," Ronald Lauder concluded.