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Azerbaijan backs US-led regional summit with Israel: Envoy



Azerbaijan says it fully supports a US-led summit to be held between the Israeli regime and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf as well as leaders from Levant countries, claiming that such a conference would benefit the region and likely accelerate the so-called peace process between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian Authority.

Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the United States Elin Suleymanov made the remark in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Jerusalem Post, published on Saturday, less than a month after he delivered a speech at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.

He, however, acknowledged that Baku did not have much leverage in the so-called Middle East peace process but as a strong ally to Tel Aviv and due to having warm diplomatic ties across the Muslim world, it can see itself as a potential voice of encouragement.

The last round of the so-called peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians collapsed in April 2014. Tel Aviv’s settlement activities were among major reasons behind the failure of the talks. Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law as they are built on occupied territories.

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Suleymanov said such a regional summit hosted by US President Donald Trump would be a “great idea.”

“There seems to be some growing relationship between Israel and the [Persian] Gulf states,” Suleymanov said, adding that “the Trump administration wants to see a more regional approach, and I think that’s right, it’s the way it should be.”

Comparing Trump and former US President Barack Obama, the Azerbaijani envoy said Trump is a more practical figure than Obama, noting that the Obama administration had been somewhat “ideological.”

“When you put your views over the reality, and prefer to believe in something that should be happening whether it’s the reality or not, then strange things happen,” Suleymanov said, describing the US-Azerbaijani relationship as a strategic one focused on counter-terrorism, energy and the alleged challenges posed by countries such as Afghanistan.

This file photo shows Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the United States Elin Suleymanov.

During the past couple of years, Baku and Tel Aviv have developed strong ties, with Israel providing Azerbaijan with part of its information technology capabilities and Baku assisting Tel Aviv in developing its oil and gas industry.

“Practicality is a lot of our relationship with Israel, it’s very tactical, it’s pragmatic and it’s reality-rooted,” Suleymanov said, adding, “Your survival depends on how well you understand your reality.”

In February, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had held a clandestine meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba in February 2016 to hear a regional peace initiative plan regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presented by then US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The report said the three had attended the secret summit to consider Kerry’s plan, which included the recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” and a rekindling of negotiations with Palestinian authorities with the support of Arab countries.

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Since January 20, when Trump, an ardent supporter of Israel, took office, Tel Aviv has launched a major land grab drive in defiance of global calls to stop its settlement activities on occupied Palestinian lands.

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