Five Foreign Diplomats to Address AIPAC Conference This Weekend

Lineup includes the ambassadors to the U.S. from Azerbaijan and Singapore, both of which Netanyahu recently visited.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan. Haim Zach/GPO

Five high-ranking foreign diplomats will speak at the annual conference of AIPAC in Washington this weekend. This year's gathering of the influential pro-Israeli lobby comes as the new administration of President Donald Trump is making efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

Four ambassadors will address the conference: Elin Suleymanov from Azerbaijan, Navtej Sarna from India, Cristian Maior from Romania and Ashok Kumar Mirpui from Singapore. The political director of Serbia's Foreign Ministry, Zoran Vujic, will also speak.

Azerbaijan and Singapore recently hosted official visits from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who for the second year in a row will address the conference from his office in Jerusalem via satellite rather than attending in person.

Reuven Rivlin recently went to India, in the first visit by an Israeli president to that country in two decades. 

Suleymanov, the Azerbaijani ambassador, has addressed AIPAC's annual conference at least twice before, in 2010 and in 2013. An American-Armenian organization sent a letter of protest to AIPAC after Suleymanov's appearance there in 2013. The organization claimed the ambassador made "anti-Armenian remarks" while speaking about the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, a source for tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia for more than two decades. 

Three months ago, a different controversy involving Azerbaijan and a Jewish-American organization broke out, after the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations arranged to hold its annual Hanukkah party at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The Azerbaijan Embassy was named a co-host of the event. 

A number of influential members of the Conference of Presidents, including the Union for Reform Judaism announced that they would skip the party. To critics, the choice of venue seemed like an attempt to curry favor with the then-president elect by enriching Trump's family, which remains in control of the hotel and other Trump-branded businesses. 

Azerbaijan also made headlines recently as part of a controversy involving the U.S. president himself. An article in the March 13 issue of The New Yorker magazine called "Donald Trump's Worst Deal" detailed how "the President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard." The article focused on Trump's partnership in a real-estate project in the country's capital, Baku, with an influential Azeri family that reportedly had extensive ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.