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Israel has strong ties to Jewish-friendly Azerbaijan; Canada urged to continue to support end to Armenian occupation

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An image grab taken from a video on the official web site of the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, allegedly shows Azeri artillery strike towards the positions of Armenian separatists in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. (Voice of America)

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An uneasy cease-fire between the Republic of Artsahk and Azerbaijan was shattered on Saturday when a full-scale military offensive was launched by Armenia, putting the South Caucasus on the brink of full-fledged war. 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia posted a statement on Facebook stating, “Get ready to defend our sacred homeland,” adding “the government has decided to declare martial law and a total mobilization” in an apparent expansion of territorial claims. Meanwhile in a televised address, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev vowed to his countrymen, “Our cause is just and we will win.”

Focused on the Nagorno-Karabakh region, conflict originally broke out after the USSR dissolved 30 years ago and control of the region and seven adjoining districts was wrested from Azerbaijan by the ethnic Armenian population. In the course of the militants occupying and creating the self-declared Republic of Artsakh in 1991 with Armenian backing, an estimated 30,000 Muslim Azerbaijanis (Azeris) were killed and nearly a million persons displaced in a violent campaign. Now, villages across the “Line of Contact” are being shelled while women, the elderly, and children, are all fleeing in terror.

Early in the battle, Azerbaijani forces captured the strategic 3,000-metre-high Murovdag peak in Karabakh. A defence ministry spokesman told the AFP news agency that they had “liberated six villages – five in Fizuli district and one in Jebrail district.”

As long as there was relative peace a tense stalemate was the status quo, as no international government recognized Armenian jurisdiction in the area. Although asserting historic rights to the territory, in fact Armenians emigrated to the area around 1822 from Iran.

There is a complex web of broader geopolitical implication extending to Israel, and to Canada, as well as NATO and the superpowers. Armenia holds Russia as their ally among the superpowers. When asked at the end of his press conference on Sunday for his first reaction to the military actions, United States President Donald Trump said “We’re looking at it very strongly. We have a lot of good relationships in that area, we’ll see if we can stop it.” The State Department issued a release urging an end to the escalating violence.

However, Russia faces opposition from Turkey, as Azeris are a Turkic-speaking people. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared “I condemn Armenia once again for attacking Azerbaijani lands. It is about time to end the crisis that started with the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.” Calling for an uprising against the Armenian leadership, he urged “the entire world to stand with Azerbaijan in their battle against invasion and cruelty.” 

This, in turn, fuels the fire on the ground, as Christian Armenia has a genocide claim against the Ottoman Empire for the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I that Erdogan has dismissed.  Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan told Al Jazeera that the “aggression is pre-planned, not just by Azerbaijan but by the massive support of Turkey, which has its military presence,” and denied Armenia was the first to attack. “We totally reject this absolute misinformation … we have no intention of doing anything which would bring to an escalation.”

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Turkey and Russia are already on opposing sides in disputes involving Cyprus, Libya and Syria, although in this theatre, after high-level discussions Russia held with the combatants, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, “The need for an early cease-fire and stabilisation of the situation … was stressed.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned over the fresh resumption of hostilities” between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and “condemns the use of force and regrets the loss of life and the toll on the civilian population.” The United Nations Security Council passed Resolutions 822, 853, 874, and 884 in 1993, calling for the withdrawal of the armed forces of Armenia from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

For Israel an interesting dynamic is added, as the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia was just opened in Tel Aviv on the eve of Rosh Hashana. While they seek to initiate “sustainable, irreversible, productive and multilateral cooperation”, Israel has cultivated a warm relationship for decades with Azerbaijan. It is no secret in Baku that the shared border with Iran is viewed by Jerusalem as a key intelligence gathering advantage. Israel opened an embassy in Baku in 1993, and Benjamin Netanyahu, in his first term as prime minister, was the first senior Israeli official to visit Azerbaijan in 1997 and met with then-President Heydar Aliyev.

Azerbaijan has racked up over $6B in state-of-the-art weapons purchases from Israel since 2012, and reportedly supplies up to 65 percent of the oil used in Israel. Another significant tie is the planned export of Israeli natural gas using the Azerbaijani-led Trans-Adriatic Pipeline through Italy to European markets.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev chat before a press conference on December 13, 2016 announcing agreements in taxation, agriculture and energy. (Photo: Azerbaijani Presidential Press Service)

During an official visit in 2016, Netanyahu spoke in glowing terms of the partnership.

“Israel is the Jewish state, it’s a Jewish state. Azerbaijan is a Muslim state, predominantly Muslim population. Here you have an example of Muslims and Jews working together to secure a better future for both of us. And it’s an example that shines against the background of intolerance and lack of acceptance and mutual respect.”

As reported in TheJ.ca this summer, although nearly 90% of the population is Shia Muslim and the official religion is Islam, the 2600-year-old Jewish community in the country have never faced persecution and the government is politically secularist.  While most of the 30,000 Azerbaijani Jews live in the capital of Baku, the heartland of Azerbaijan’s Mountain Jewish community is a quaint town in the picturesque region of Quba, called Qirmizi Qesebe.

An estimated 14,000 Azerbaijanis live in Canada, representing a 1000% increase since 2001, with the population doubling since the 2016 Census.  In May, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne clarified the Liberal government position on Artsakh in a letter to the Armenian National Committee, which “remains based on our strong and consistent support for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group’s work toward a negotiated solution, and our position does not prejudge the outcome of this process.”  

This week, the Network of Azerbaijani Canadians wrote to Champagne about “the egregious provocation of Armenia” in violating the cease-fire which has resulted in “casualties among the civilian and military personnel as well as extensive damage inflicted on many homes and civilian infrastructure”.  Ismayli Alakbarov, Coordinator of the organization, told Champagne, “Canada has been supportive of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and we’re calling on you to continue engaging with the parties to the conflict in the coming days.”

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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