An Unusual Partnership between Muslims and Jews; Azerbaijan's Long History of Tolerance Is a Model for Modern Times
Byline: Nasimi Aghayev, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
With Syria mired in open revolt, several other Middle Eastern and North African countries still reeling from the Arab Spring, and Iran at loggerheads with the United States over its nuclear program, it was astounding to hear Israel's president refer to a Muslim country this week not as a problem but as part of the solution.
Yet there was Shimon Perez in Jerusalem on Monday praising Azerbaijan for taking a clear stand against war and terrorism and for making the world a bit more safe and predictable.
The occasion was a visit to Israel by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, accompanied by a large delegation of Azerbaijani Jews, including a Jewish member of the parliament. While Mr. Mammadyarov's trip this week was historic - it marked the first visit to Israel by an Azerbaijani foreign minister - the rhetoric was not. Azerbaijan's long-standing friendship with Israel - and its support for the two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - have been policy for years. Israel has even asked Azerbaijan to help broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Unbeknownst to many, Azerbaijan, a secular country with a predominantly Muslim population that sits on the United Nations Security Council, has had a close relationship with Israel since the beginning of its independence from the Soviet Union a generation ago. Indeed, it might surprise many to know that Azerbaijan, with a Shiite-majority population and a shared border with Iran, supplies some 40 percent of Israel's oil. A subsidiary of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic is aiding Israel's quest for energy security by drilling off the Israeli coast in the Mediterranean. The countries also have a close partnership in the defense sector.
During a period when old grudges and prejudices color nearly every global event, Mr. …