Azerbaijan became the first Shia Muslim country to open an embassy in Israel on Wednesday, as the Jewish state looks to tighten military ties between the two countries against Iran.
“Israel and Azerbaijan share the same perception of the Iranian threats,” Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov when they met in his Jerusalem office, hours before the embassy’s opening reception.
“Israel and Azerbaijan share the same perception of the Iranian threats,” Cohen said, adding that the Islamic Republic “threatens both our regions and destabilizes the entire Middle East.”
Azerbaijan, which borders both Russia and Iran, choose to increase its public alliance with Israel precisely at a time when its two neighbors, Moscow and Tehran, are strengthening their military ties.
Azerbaijan and Israel have a strong history of military cooperation, the country is considered a possible landing site for IDF aircraft in any potential military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Azerbaijan’s first-ever ambassador to Israel Mukhtar Mammadov, has already clarified to The Jerusalem Post that the IDF can not use his country to refuel its planes in any military attack against Iran’s nuclear faculties.
Cohen underlines importance of military alliance
Cohen, however, underscored the importance of a military alliance between the two countries, when he met with Bayramov.
“We must act together to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear capabilities,” Cohen said. “The way to do it is by using political and economic tools while at the same time formulating a reliable and decisive military threat.”
Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991. It formed diplomatic ties with it in 1992 and opened an embassy there a year later.
Cohen spoke about the importance of strengthening the relationship, particularly their financial ties, as he explained that he planned to lead an economic delegation to Baku next month.
“The opening of the Azeri embassy in Israel is further evidence of the strengthening of relations between our countries. Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, and its strategic location makes the relationship between us of great importance and great potential,” Cohen said.
Bayramov did not mention Iran, during his joint press conference with Cohen.
Bayramov said that with the opening of the embassy, the two countries had entered a new improved phase in their relationship, particularly with respect to increased economic ties. He noted that 114 Israeli companies operated in his country, which provides Israel with 30% of its oil.
“There is a huge potential for Israel to bring its advanced technology to Azerbaijan” which is “keen to attract innovation and artificial intelligence-based investments,” Bayramov said. He added that Azerbaijan was particularly interested in Israeli agriculture and water technology.