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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Iran blows a gasket over Peres trip to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan

Israel's octogenarian President, Shimon Peres, is in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan this week, and the Iranian government has blown a gasket over the fact that two Muslim countries are hosting Peres.

On Tuesday, Iran recalled its ambassador to Azerbaijan over Peres' visit. And on Wednesday, with Peres invited to take part in an interfaith conference in Kazakhstan that happened to be taking place while he was there, Iran's delegation stormed out of the room when Peres got up to speak.

Both countries share borders with Iran, and there was a rumor here last week that Peres may in fact be arranging overflight rights for a future Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program (I have not been able to confirm that).

Peres is appreciative of the countries' willingness to host him despite the pressure from Iran.
At the conclusion of his state visit to Azerbaijan on Monday, Peres expressed appreciation not only for the warm hospitality that had been given to him, his entourage of ministers and staff and the 60-member business delegation that accompanied him, but also for the true friendship demonstrated by Azerbaijan in its steadfast refusal to capitulate to Iranian threats.

Peres was well aware of the pressure which Iran had exerted on neighboring Azerbaijan in an attempt to sabotage the visit.

Instead of yielding to this pressure, Azerbaijan had decided to enhance its relations with Israel, he noted.

As part of this enhancement, Peres, together with all the Israelis in his party, participated in an Azerbaijan-Israel business forum at which Azeri President Ilham Aliyev called on Israeli business people to invest in his country. "We are greatly in need of Israel's advanced technology," he said.

Before leaving Azerbaijan, Peres spoke to hundreds of Muslim students at the University of Baku where he emphasized Israel's desire for peace and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's willingness to immediately resume negotiations with the Palestinians. In a reference to Iran, Peres said that what is happening there now reveals the true face of Iran.

Peres was pleasantly surprised when students at the university's School for Languages and Middle East Studies posed questions in fluent Hebrew.

His last stop before flying to Kazakhstan was the Baku synagogue, where he addressed a huge crowd of Azeri Jews, to whom he explained the significance of relations between Azerbaijan and Israel.
Haaretz reports on Iran's recalling its ambassador.
According to the Iranian news agency INSA, the envoy was recalled due to both Peres' visit and unspecified "threats" it said Israel's ambassador in Baku had voiced against Iran. The semi-official Fars News Agency carried a similar report.

Two weeks ago, the Iranian chief of staff visited Azerbaijan in an effort to forestall the visit, informing Baku in no uncertain terms that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted it called off. Iran also pressured Azerbaijan to cancel the visit via other diplomatic channels.

However, the Azeris flatly refused. Baku never tried to interfere with Tehran's ties to Armenia, despite the ongoing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Azeris said, so they expected Tehran to similarly refrain from interfering with their ties with Israel.
On Wednesday, Iran's representatives walked out of Peres' keynote address to the Congress of World and Traditional Religions in Astana, Kazakhstan on Wednesday morning, refusing to return as long as Peres spoke.
"We have come to listen to religious leaders," Iranian delegation member Mehdi Mostafavi told The Jerusalem Post," and Peres is not a religious leader."

Peres was not originally scheduled to attend the conference, but since he was in Kazakhstan anyway as a guest of honor, he received a late invitation.

When asked if he would speak to the attending Israeli chief rabbis or any of the American rabbis present, Mostafavi, an adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said: "We'll see." [Well, Ashkenazi chief rabbi Yonah Metzger spoke at the same conference. Were the Iranians there? No one tells us. CiJ]
Then Peres became detached from reality:
During his keynote address, Peres called on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who instigated the Arab peace initiative, to meet in Jerusalem or in Riyadh, or to travel to Kazakhstan, where, together with other Arab leaders, he could advance the Israeli-Arab peace process.

"Together with all the Arab leaders, we can realize your vision, our vision and the vision of all the leaders and all believers in our shared god of peace and justice.

"We are aware of the big change which has occurred in the positions of a majority of Arab countries toward peace with Israel, a transition from the 'Three Nos of Khartoum - no negotiation, no recognition, no peace - to the three 'yeses of the Saudi initiative," Peres said.

"The king of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Abdullah II, defined the Saudi initiative as a readiness for peace between the state of Israel and 57 Arab and Muslim states," the president continued.
Except that the Saudi initiative calls for Israel to go back to the indefensible pre-1967 borders and for what's left of it to be flooded with 'Palestinian refugees.' That's not a change in goals - it's a change in tactics.

Still, it's good to hear that there are moderate Muslims in the world in countries like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. When there are also large numbers of moderate Muslims in Arab Muslim countries, maybe there will be a chance for peace. But don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.


At 2:30 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Azerbaijan and Kazahkstan are a part of what is Turkic Central Asia. That makes them different from the rest of the Middle East. Its believed to be the ancestral homelands of the Turks before they came into Anatolia in the last centuries of the Roman Empire.


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