Zeev Elkin: "Mutual trade cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan is more than between Israel and Russia"
Interview by Maria Sidelnikova exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza
The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Zeev Elkin, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the upcoming presidential election in Iran and its impact on relations between the two countries, as well as on the foreign policy of Israel in the South Caucasus.
- Will the upcoming elections in Iran affect Iranian-Israeli relations?
- I'm afraid not. Because, first, it is difficult to talk about democratic elections in Iran when the list of candidates is determined in advance, and any candidates who even slightly deviate from the general line are just not allowed to dun for election. We've all seen how this process is going on. Moreover, on a key issue not only between Israel and Iran, but in general in Iran's relations with the world community, namely the Iranian military nuclear project, on this issue there is no difference between all Iranian candidates. They are all clearly in favor of its continuation. So I am afraid that this is a good theatrical performance. But no serious effect on the further development of relations between Iran and the Western world, the international community or Israel will take place in this election.
- How do you assess the level of Israel's relations with the countries of the South Caucasus and to what projects do you attribute the highest priority?
- Israel has, in my view, a productive dialogue with all three countries in the South Caucasus – Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. In recent months, there were very intense, successful visits to Israel from the Georgian side. We received the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister and the Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia. Now we are waiting for the Georgian president. We received also the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, it was also a historic visit of its kind. We discussed many topics of bilateral cooperation, especially in the economic field, but not only. Prospects are numerous, relationships are very good. Despite all the internal problems from time to time in the South Caucasus, we are pursuing a policy of good-neighborly relations and good communication and strengthening those ties with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. And this is going to develop in the future. For us it is an important priority. More visits are planned in the near future. I look with great optimism to the development of relations between us and the three Caucasus countries.
- Which fields of interaction exist? Can you tell us more about the projects?
- In each country this is done separately. And we do not talk about everything openly. In Azerbaijan we have a very large amount of economic cooperation. It's about mutual cooperation and trade. This is nearly $4 billion a year. It is more than cooperation between Israel and Russia even, strangely enough. This has to do with energy and with a range of other topics of economic cooperation. There are many things to do there. Israel has experience in areas where it can be very useful. For example, in the field of agricultural technology Israel is one of the leading countries today. There is great interest in the use of Israeli technology from Georgia and from Azerbaijan. Israel has very interesting experience in water systems, which is heavily used by Azerbaijan. There are related projects already, and there is interest on the part of Georgia. Of course, in all that relates to high-tech, Israel is one of the leading countries in the world today in this field. Therefore, here too, there is a lot of interest, and we discuss many common projects. We also have medical tourism, of course. That is, there are a lot of different areas. We talk about facilitating the visa regime with these countries in order to intensify communication and consultation in regard to the fight against terror and subtle issues related to security. Relationships are very good.