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U.S. Congressman Hails Azerbaijan’s Growing Importance to U.S. & Ties To Israel

By Mushvig Mehdiyev June 7, 2019

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U.S. Congressman, co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, Steve Cohen / Alex Wong / Getty Images

United States Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), who co-chairs the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, recently praised Azerbaijan’s relationship with the United States and its relations with Israel, during a speech made on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the creation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.

“As an active member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, Azerbaijan cooperates with the United States in countering terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and narcotics trafficking,” he said on June 6, according to Trend.

Cohen reportedly also commented on Azerbaijan-Israel relations, praising the growing relations of the Caspian country with the Jewish state, noting that Israel is one of the major destinations to where Azerbaijani oil is exported. Azerbaijan, which ranks 18th in the world in terms of proved crude oil reserves, provides roughly 40 percent of Israel’s demand for oil.

As part of his speech marking the 101st anniversary of the creation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918, Cohen commended Azerbaijan for providing around 40 percent of Israel's oil consumption. This is possible thanks to the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline that traverses Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, before the oil is loaded into tankers that travel south in the Mediterranean Sea.

Cohen also noted that Azerbaijan has been recognized by the European Parliament for its exemplary religious tolerance, which allows for peaceful coexistence between the country’s Muslim majority and the more than 12,000 Jews and Christians living in the country.

Azerbaijan’s relationship with Israel is mostly governed by economics. As of January 2019, the total value of trade between Azerbaijan and Israel was $1.3 billion, up from $672 million in 2017. The former supplies Israel with oil, and the latter supplies Azerbaijan with arms.

The Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) ranked Azerbaijan as the third-largest weapons customer of Israeli arms, after India and Vietnam. The total value of arms purchases from Israel stood at $137 million in 2017. Israel comprises 43 percent of Azerbaijani purchases, taking a back seat to Russia, which supplies 51 percent. Israeli Harop kamikaze drones are said to be in Azerbaijan’s arsenal, and Baku has an interest in buying the cutting-edge Iron Dome missile interceptor system.

But economics is not the only factor guiding the peculiar relationship between the world’s only Jewish state and one of the world’s Muslim-majority countries.

“Israel and Azerbaijan have a similar outlook on the regional geostrategy. They both have similar fears from radical forces active in the region, both have a garrison state feeling, and want to secure a safe development for their countries,” Aynur Bashirova, a researcher on Israel’s bilateral relations with Azerbaijan, said in an interview with South Caucasus Watch

“Israel has a negative reputation in many Muslim majority countries, due to its conflict with the Palestinians,” Bashirova said. “Even if this conflict is ethnic and territorial rather than religious, many people see it as a Jewish-Muslim confrontation. Good relations with Azerbaijan are a way for Israel to show that it is ready to establish relations with Muslim majority countries and Jewish-Muslim coexistence is possible.”