Azerbaijan made history on Sunday by becoming the first country with a Shi’ite majority to have a cabinet-level minister give a speech at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.

Samir Sharifov, Azerbaijan’s finance minister, told the crowd: “Cooperation with Israel is not limited to oil supply; we are interested in widening cooperation in defense and the transfer of technology.” He added that Israel is one of the few “states that supported in Azerbaijan in need with armaments.”

Sharifov also read remarks from Mehriban Aliyeva, the first vice president of Azerbaijan, who said, “It is gratifying that our former compatriots of Jewish origin, living nowadays in the United States and Israel, have maintained close ties with Azerbaijan and contribute to the strengthening of our relations with these countries. We are much grateful to them.”

Recorded history shows that Jews have lived in Azerbaijan for 2,600 years, with an estimated 30,000 Jews currently living in a country of 10 million, according to Sharifov.

In her remarks, Aliyeva discussed the nation’s Jewish history, noting that, “Azerbaijan had also embraced thousands of Jews who tried to escape Nazi oppression during World War II and became a second home for them.”

She added that “at the time of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic of 1918-1920—the first parliamentary democracy in the Muslim world—the Jewish community actively contributed to the development of the country.”

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