by Seymur Mammadov
- As Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, massive troubles broke out. Collisions between the Palestinians and Israelis are at full swing. How, do you think, the situation in the region will unfold?
- Trump’s declaration did not change anything in the Middle East. Jerusalem has been the capital of Jewish people for 3000 years. President Trump just reiterated a well-known fact. But the timing of this declaration was mistaken. The declaration unified the Arab world against Israel and the United States instead of unifying it against the extremists. This wave of violence will be over. If President Trump announces a new peace initiative in early 2018, based on two states solution, it may create a positive dynamics in the region. It does not mean that the enemies of peace will not try to derail it by violence, but the positive forces can prevail.
- What if Trump administration does not come forward with such initiative and collisions continue? Is it possible that Palestine, or a number of other Arab states such as Syria, Lebanon or Egypt, will declare war on Israel?
- Neither of the countries you mentioned will attack Israel. Most Arab states today share the same concerns and facing the same threats as Israel – Jihadism and Iranian expansionism and subversion. The days when the Israeli-Arab conflict was the rift line that divided the Middle East are long since over. The dominant conflict now is the one between moderate and obscurant fanatics. I hope that one day, not too far, Israel and moderate Arab countries will join forces, and not only in military. But I am fully aware that it will happen only after our conflict with the Palestinians is resolved. There is a danger of war, but not with the countries that you mentioned. No responsible government in Jerusalem can tolerate the results of the US-Russian agreement on Syria. This agreement gives strategic achievements to Iran that put Israel in unacceptable risk. It gives Iran a military hold in Syria that will be used to attack us. It must be prevented.
- The Foreign Minister of Armenia, Edward Nabaldian visited Israel recently and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Why, do you think, Armenia shows such accelerated interest towards Israel?
- Israel is a country with highly advanced industry and agriculture and many countries naturally want to cooperate with us. In this case I think that there is also an attempt to drive a wedge between Israel and Azerbaijan.
- You did not mention Israeli military equipment, which is extremely popular in the global arms market. Could Nabaldian have visited Israel to negotiate purchasing armaments?
- You know, I am not in any governmental position right now. But I strategic interests of my country very well. Israel will never harm the security of Azerbaijan. I had the privilege to establish the foundations of Azerbaijani-Israeli strategic alliance in December 1993 with the late national leader Heydar Aliyev. This alliance is vital to both countries and no one will recklessly put it at risk or doubt.
- Armenia is planning to increase its military budget by 20% in 2018. A number of experts suggest that Armenia is preparing for war. What do you think about it?
- I hope that Russia will prevent such an adventure. But we have to remember that war is sometimes a result of an unsustainable status-quo. What makes the status-quo here so protracted is the hypocritical indifference of the international community, mainly Europe, towards the occupation of a large part of Azerbaijan and to the suffering of million Azerbaijanis who are displaced in their own country. If someone is serious about preventing war, the way to do it is through negotiated agreement, based on the internationally agreed principle of "territories for peace". When Israel signed peace agreement with Egypt in 1979, after five wars in 30 years, we withdrew from the entire Sinai Peninsula that we occupied in 1967.