Speaking at the event, Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said the opening of the embassy will give a new impetus to the development of relations between the two countries. He spoke about various directions of Azerbaijani-Israeli cooperation and highlighted promising opportunities. The Azerbaijani Jewish community’s contribution to the development of society in the country was also stressed. The minister expressed confidence that the activity of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Israel will become more active after the embassy is opened.
Describing the ceremony as a historic event, his Israeli colleague Eli Cohen said the opening of the embassy attests to the level of strategic relations between the two countries after 30 years of cooperation. He called Azerbaijan a strategic partner of Israel and said the two states have been closely cooperating in various spheres. Cohen expressed confidence in further deepening these ties.
Interestingly, on the same day, the Azerbaijani defence minister said for the first time that Baku and Tel Aviv were engaged in the joint production of unmanned aerial vehicles.
We recall that by the order of President Ilham Aliyev, signed on January 11, Mukhtar Mammadov was appointed ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Azerbaijan to Israel.
How would you assess the significance of this event – opening of the embassy – for our two countries? And for the entire region in general? What are the future practical benefits here?
Experts versed in the subject answered these questions to Caliber.Az.
According to Roman Gurevich, the honorary ambassador of the “Sokhnut” World Jewish Agency in Azerbaijan, a famous Israeli political scientist, and a native of Baku, “a truly historic event took place”.
“And we were fortunate to be contemporaries and participants in an amazing step in the development of relations between our countries. On March 26, the first Azerbaijani ambassador to Israel Mukhtar Mammadov presented his credentials to Israeli President Isaac Herzog. It was a very important and at the same time touching event. President’s palace, military guard of honour with banners, red carpet. The first Azerbaijani ambassador enters and the national anthem of the AR is played under the vaults of the Palace of the President of Israel. Very strong feelings, I must say. Great joy, excitement, and understanding of the historical importance of what is happening.
I would like to note that President Herzog has very warm feelings towards Azerbaijan. This was manifested more than once, including the organization of the ceremony of the presentation of credentials. Initially, there were plans to hold a ceremony during which the new ambassadors of several countries would present their credentials to the president. But we knew that Minister Bayramov would arrive on 29 March, and we also knew that the embassy would officially open, so the Israeli President wanted the first Azerbaijani ambassador to be fully inaugurated by that time. Therefore, the ceremony of presenting credentials was organized specifically for the Azerbaijani ambassador,” Gurevich said.
He recalled that Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov, along with Deputy Foreign Minister Fariz Rzayev and other dignitaries, arrived in Israel on March 29. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Israel to Azerbaijan George Deek and Rabbi Shneor Segal, chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Azerbaijan, had specially flown in from Baku for the opening of the embassy. A representative reception was held at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv, with speeches by the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and the Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
“Ambassador Mukhtar Mammadov was also one of the centres of attraction at this reception. I must note that it was a very warm reception, with many high-ranking people for whom relations between the two countries are dear and important, politicians and public figures, ambassadors and officials gathered. It was nice to see many friends at the reception, who work for the development of relations between our countries. Wonderful Azerbaijani music was played, and guests were treated to delicious dishes of Azerbaijani cuisine. And the next day, March 30, Minister Bayramov and a representative Azerbaijani delegation came to the residence of the President of Israel. The guests were welcomed with maximum honour. Israeli President Isaac Herzog warmly welcomed the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister and all members of the delegation. An open conversation took place in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Various aspects of the development of relations between Azerbaijan and Israel, which will get a new strong impetus after the opening of the embassy, were discussed. The Israeli President noted Israel’s deep commitment to strengthening and developing relations between the two countries and expressed his gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan personally for his great contribution to bringing our countries closer.
I would say for myself – we know and are confident that the opening of the embassy will contribute to the further strengthening, enhancement, and development of relations. Opening the embassy is an important step, which we have been waiting for, and we are very glad for it. Azerbaijan is a true friend and the most important strategic partner of our country. The Azerbaijani people have always respected and valued the Jewish people, for centuries and many generations. Friendship and respect have always been and remain reciprocal. Today, the centuries-old friendship of our peoples continues naturally in the close relations of our countries. The entire Jewish people and the State of Israel highly value their friendship with Azerbaijan, and now with the opening of the embassy, the already close and trusting relations will become even more fruitful. The opening of the embassy will lead to a flourishing of contacts in all spheres – in economics, education, exchange of technology, culture, and many others.
As they say in Israel, “only the sky is the limit for joint victories and achievements”, Gurevich concluded.
In turn, deputy director of the Kyiv Centre for Middle East Studies Sergei Danilov said that Azerbaijan was the first Muslim Shiite country to open an embassy in Israel.
“In the Israeli interpretation, the main factor in the rapprochement between the two countries is the Iranian threat experienced by both states. ‘Israel and Azerbaijan share the same perception of Iranian threats,’ Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov, adding that the Islamic Republic “threatens our regions and destabilises the entire Middle East.
Undoubtedly, Azerbaijan and Israel have a strong history of military and technical cooperation. Israeli weapons were used by the Azerbaijani army to liberate Karabakh.
Obviously, over the past year, there was ample evidence of Iran’s unfriendly or even hostile behaviour towards its northern neighbour. Threats were constantly heard from Tehran regarding Baku’s policy. The Iranians were conducting military exercises near Azerbaijan’s borders, supported subversive and terrorist groups inside the country, and last but not least, there was a terrorist attack on the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran. The Iranian nuclear program is another item of joint concern between Israel and Azerbaijan, as explicitly pointed out by Azerbaijani military experts. ‘We must act together to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability,’ Cohen said.
During a joint press conference with Cohen, Bayramov diplomatically did not mention Iran. Bayramov noted that with the opening of the embassy, the two countries have entered a new phase of improving their relations, including strengthening economic ties. He said 114 Israeli companies were operating in his country, providing Israel with 30% of its oil. The minister stressed that Azerbaijan was particularly interested in Israeli innovations, agriculture, and water technology,” the expert recalled.
According to Danilov, increased cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel creates a new reality in the South Caucasus and will have far-reaching consequences.
“A situational alliance that has emerged to solve local or medium-term problems is taking institutional shape,” Danilov noted.