Baku, June 18 (AZERTAC). In his exclusive interview to AZERTAC`s correspondent, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to Azerbaijan Mr. Rafael Harpaz has spoken of Azerbaijan-Israel relations across the last years, and highlighted prospects for the future cooperation.
- Mr. Ambassador, the Azerbaijani-Israeli relations have been successfully developing in recent years. As an experienced diplomat, how would you assess the current state of the relations between the two countries?
- The relations between Israel and Azerbaijan are at a very high level in all spheres. Both political, economic, trade relations between our countries are good, they are built on confidence. Just look at the last year - President Ilham Aliyev met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos. Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov was in Israel. Israeli FM Avigdor Lieberman recently visited Azerbaijan. We are deepening our trade, energy relations. These are very strategic, very important relations to us.
As for a visa facilitation agreement, it is in the last process of ratification.
What is your opinion about the regional projects carried out with participation of Azerbaijan?
- First of all we congratulate Azerbaijan on the final investment decision regarding TAP. This is a historic agreement. It is very important. We cooperate closely in many areas including in energy. Southern Gas Corridor is a very important project. In addition, a significant amount of oil comes to Israel from Azerbaijan. We have also discovered a lot of natural gas. So we are looking for ways and means to cooperate with Azerbaijan in all those areas. We are keen to learn your experience on energy because we don`t have much experience in this. I think it is very important. And we congratulate Azerbaijan on these major achievements. We see the economy is thriving, we see the non-energy sector is strengthening, which is very important. I think there is a bright future for the economy of Azerbaijan.
- Azerbaijan is a land of tolerance. More than 30,000 Jews live in peace and stability here. What can you say of this?
- I have been all over the world. I have never been to any country which has such tolerance like Azerbaijan. I say it very openly. I think Azerbaijan is a role model to the other countries in terms of its tolerance. And, by the way, not just for Jews, but for any other religious or ethnic groups. Whenever I go I meet the Azerbaijanis who tell me about the Jewish friends, Jewish teachers, doctors. In addition, we have a very significant Azerbaijani community in Israel. And they are a bridge between the two countries. It is a blessing being the ambassador to Azerbaijan, which is really a country of tolerance.
- Azerbaijan is at war with Armenia. The conflict has been going on for over 20 years. What is Israel`s position on the conflict?
- First of all, a few months ago I visited an IDP family which has left a very strong impression on me. Such a strong woman who raised her children by herself. She lost her husband. Israel`s position is very clear. First of all, based on our experience, we hope for peaceful solution. We believe that peaceful solution is a way to solve the conflict. We support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group. And we support the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The basic and fundamental element of the settlement process is the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. It was restated recently by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and before by President Peres. And we really hope for peaceful solution.
- How do you assess Azerbaijan`s role in European energy security?
- Azerbaijan is making a significant contribution to the energy security of Europe. It is also very important to us because we are major consumers of your oil. I think that when you have diversity of markets it is very important. I think you are conducting a very smart and wise energy policy. And you see so many countries coming to Baku to learn your experience. Definitely Azerbaijan is the major player in this sector.
- What are the future prospects of bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the coming year? What are the priority areas of cooperation?
- We see four or five areas that we are cooperating very closely. These are energy, water technologies, agricultural technologies, medical technologies and everything related to the telecommunication, high tech, cyber, and also tourism. We trained more than 100 young Azerbaijanis that came to Israel for a six month period. They worked in hotels in Eilat. And they came back and are now working in hotels and tourism establishments here. I think your country has wonderful potential for development of its tourism and we are here to work with you to increase your capability in this sphere.
When FM Lieberman came to Azerbaijan we took him to see the wonderful Israeli green houses. The same goes to telecommunication, energy, agriculture, water technologies. We are interested in sharing our experience in relevant areas.
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