Today's Zaman, Turkey
May 30 2013

Azerbaijan, a country in Turkey's neighborhood where different cultures
and religions merge, is in a position to serve as a role model for
war-torn Syria as it is a state that is welcoming of "the other"
even though it is coping with a territorial conflict.

It has already been more than two decades since Azerbaijan cut
diplomatic relations with Armenia as the latter has continued its
aggression toward the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent
territories that are recognized as an integral part of Azerbaijan by
the international community.

"There are a lot of wars, hatred, religious extremism -- and what is
happening in our dear and beloved country of Syria is threatening all
of us," Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, director-general of the Islamic
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), said in
a press conference held late on Wednesday in Baku, where the second
World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue is being held.

The forum, which has a theme of "Peaceful Coexistence in a
Multicultural World," kicked off in Baku on May 28 and will continue
until June 1. The heads of international organizations, current and
former presidents of several nations and the ministers of more than
100 countries are attending the forum.

Altwaijri called Azerbaijan a real model of coexistence and peaceful
interaction in accepting "the other" and said that since 2005 he has
been traveling to the country and seeing changes in the mentality of
its people. "They want to be an example both in the nation's region
as well as in other troublesome regions. They want to show that their
way is a path to progress and development -- not dictatorship, and
not neglecting and isolating important components of the community,"
he said.

In his speech, Altwaijri wished for a very quick recovery for the
Syrian people and dignity and independence for Syria. He underlined
that ISESCO does not want anyone from the outside to intervene
in Syria.

"We want Syrians to solve their problems and to find what is best
for them," he stated.

Speaking with regards to dialogue and tolerance, Altwaijri said that
unfortunately, nothing is encouraging these notions in the Middle
East. "The sectarian feelings that are mounting are threatening
the fabric of our society and the interests of its people, as well
as the safety of states' independence. Wise people on all fronts
must work together to tear down these factors that break ties and
bonds that normally bring people together," he said. He also urged
the international community not to introduce religion as a tool for
political and regional struggles. "Religion is sacred," he stated,
"and when religion is used as an instrument to create hatred and
division, there is no more purity in our belief -- because religion
is mercy, whether it is for Islam or other religions."

The ISESCO director-general said that people in the world need
to get to know one another better and to better respect each
other to coexist as humans and to build a better future for coming
generations. He expressed his gratitude to the Azerbaijani government
for exemplifying this and hosting the forum, as well as for bringing
people from different backgrounds together to talk and work toward
saving humanity from all types of religious and racial phobias.

Katherine Stenou, a representative from the UN Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said in a speech at the forum that
the organization is trying to create synergy for global cooperation and
that Azerbaijan could be an asset to peaceful coexistence in the world.

"We are trying to create a new hub here, and we are more than happy ...

that Baku could be the hub of this new way of thinking," she said.

Commenting on Stenou's wish to see Baku as a center for intercultural
dialogue, Azerbaijani Minister of Culture and Tourism Ebulfes Garayev
said that citizens and the state of Azerbaijan support Stenou's
thoughts and views.

According to a decree issued by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
after the first World Forum, it will continue to be he held in
Azerbaijan every second year.