Cooperation is possible after completion of TANAP project
Baku. 14 December. REPORT.AZ/ Report News Agency presents an Interview with Israeli Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Dan Stav.
- Tell us a little about yourself? What impressions did you have upon arrival to Azerbaijan?
- I am a career diplomat. I have joined diplomacy as a cadet 31 years ago. I worked as a diplomat in the Netherlands, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway and now Azerbaijan. It is fascinating career.
Speaking about Azerbaijan, in the area of social media and internet, I think that there is no part of the world that you cannot have prior information in order to feed your prejudices about country even before you step on the countries’ soil. So, I knew a bit about Azerbaijan and I had a long discussions with my predecessors so I got good understanding of bilateral relations. It is said that Baku is a mix of Paris and Doha. I think that this is exactly so. The magic to me in Baku was that it has its own unique character, because of the way the West and East are melting together. It is something that was done artificially. this is not only architecture but also the spirit of the city. When you go to see the Maiden Tower and when you read the love story of Ali and Nino you get image about the life of people living here long ago. And walking around the boulevard and smelling it, you see that this is not the same as Mediterranean. You feel the air and you know how oil is important.
- How do you assess the economic relations? How many Israeli companies are working in Azerbaijan?
- There are 4-6 Israeli companies that have permanent representative here. Some companies were active before, some are active now, some are trying to enter the market. Before I came here, my deputy met several representatives of companies who want to be active in Azerbaijan in diversified fields. First we started with several of them, and now the number is forty.
- Israel announced the discovery of "Leviathan" large gas field. Does Israel plan to use the experience of Azerbaijan in the development of the field?
- Energy sector is one of the sectors where we can cooperate. The discovery of gas in Leviathan was a real blessing for Israel. Certainly, we lack expertise. All the developments are given to private sector so it is not the government who is actively developing it. There are a lot of knowledge that was accumulated here in SOCAR and other Azeri companies that we absolutely can learn, and also wise use of assets that accumulating from the income, and we can learn much from it. It is also possible to cooperate when TANAP is completed.
- Your predecessors, as well as Israeli citizens visiting our country say that they feel safe in our country, but from year to year, Israel issues travel warnings on Azerbaijan. What is the reason for that?
- There are two bodies in Israel that issue travel advisories. One is Counter-terrorism head office under the prime minister of Israel and travel advisory of MFA. And you refer to the one that was issued by Counter-terrorism head office. They try to estimate the level of threats based on the experience of the past. Azerbaijan was mentioned not because they think that Azeris are hostile towards us, but because of sour fruits of globalization. There is a number of third countries that I don’t want to mention and organizations like Islamic State and Al Qaeda that will do everything to hit Jewish targets. Azerbaijan rightly achieved the image of country not only tolerant but fully accept other and this is part of its culture. There are groups that would like to hit targets elsewhere and even in Azerbaijan. So it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel safe here but because there are certain groups that are not enlighted with developing of relations with Azerbaijan and try to put obstacles.
Azerbaijan is known for its traditions of multiculturalism. What can you say about it?
- It is not about only tolerance. In several countries you say that you are tolerate but you hate him. Here it comes out of deep acceptance, recognizing difference cultures and religions by which you enrich your own society. These are not just sweet words of diplomat. In some parts of the world Jews use their own rights but they face harassments in society but this is not the case here. You can really practice whatever you want, it is your own business. Once I was in a shop and one lady identified the language I was speaking and she showed me the pendant with the Star of David. I don’t think it will be possible to do the same in Europe without being harassed.
- What should be done for the development of tourist relations?
- Everything can be done, including visa facilitation. But I don’t think that the visa is a problem. Everyone who wants to come and visit Israel can get visa very easily here and in case of Israel, as we don’t have you embassy there, the visa is given upon arrival at the airport. When I came here I tried to find a guide book over Internet , but I could find only one book together with Armenia and Georgia. It seems that information here disseminating not properly. It is a pity, you know that the world of tourism is a vast market. Israel is being visited by more than 20 mln. of tourist. This is remarkable. And do you think that you have less? You have a lot to offer here. When I was in the north of the country I saw Albanian churches and Georgian churches and beautiful mosques, and people and national minorities like in Lahij, or Nij, I am not speaking about Baku. Immediately after serving in the army our people are keen to travel and explore countries and Azerbaijan has a lot to offer. It need to be aggressively promoted.
- What is the position of Israel on the Syrian conflict?
I think that the rise of radical Islam and people, that claim that they are representing Islam indicate the existence of profound challenges in the Muslim world. The regimes in Iraq and Syria share responsibility for the rise of this phenomena. We reject the ideology and brutality of Islamic State. They try to turn over non-religious regimes and establish their own caliphate and then finish off all other infidels like Christians and Jews. But saying that Islamic State is bad phenomena, it doesn't give legitimization to the brutal regime of Assad, collaborating with third countries, that actively propaganding radicalism. In this regard, PM Netanyahu said that for Israel considering ISIS as a bad phenomena doesn't make Assad and Hezbollah supporters as bad and ISIS as a good phenomena. They are equally bad from our point of view. However , we are not intervening in Syria except several options. First, we provided humanitarian treatment to all, who knocked our door. Secondly, if one of the involved parts in Syria during the clashes attacks territories under control of Israel, our country has the right to defend its territory and we did it, but we don't have any intention to go beyond it. Another issue that our prime minister indicated is that if third country through the Syrian regime involved in supplying weaponry dangerous to Israel, we will do everything possible to prevent it.
- Many countries have recognized the right of Palestine to establish a state. In addition, many international organizations have recognized Palestine as a member. Does Israel think that establishment of independent Palestinian state will stop conflict between Arab and Jewish communities?
- Our prime minister like his predecessors fully endorsed the two states solution. This is not just a slogan, this is a compass with important aspects in it. First, the solution is political. One state is existing, the other should come into being. Secondly, each state represent the realization the right for national determination for each people. Israel recognize the rights of Palestinians to establish a state which is a state of Palestinian people. Sadly, Palestinians including the leadership are reluctant that there is end result of negotiation which will culminate in comprehensive peace agreement between two sides. They are reluctant in accepting Israel as a Jewish state showing many excuses. There are issues that make negotiations very difficult but still we believe, that the only way to solve the problem is direct negotiations. We believe that international community should play role in it, helping creating productive environment. I don’t know the other way to resolve the problem. our prime minister said that bearing in mind the security situation in the Middle East we need to solve two issues one is the recognition of Jewish state and second is the demilitarization of Palestine. Not as a precondition to the negotiation but the end results of the negotiations.
- Periodically we hear appeals in the Knesset of Israel to recognize the "Armenian genocide", referring to the fact that the tragedy similar to the Holocaust. How this issue can affect relations with Azerbaijan?
- There are indeed discussions in Israeli parliament. As you know, parliamentarians have the right to raise the issues they think are important. To some extent I can understand the interest in discussing large scale tragedies. The reason is that we suffered Holocaust and we need to be sensitive to the plights of others. But the government’s position is that the tragedy of Armenians is the matter of debate between historians. It shouldn’t become a political issue.