Diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan, Israel
    Three questions

    REGION  07 June 2023 - 21:00

    Anadolu has published an article where the author argues that potential threats from Iran are common ground that unites both sides alongside collaboration in various fields. Caliber.az reprints the article.

    What are the roots of Azerbaijan and Israel's relationship?

    Israeli President Isaac Herzog visited Azerbaijan to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev on May 30, 2023.

    This visit can be considered the pinnacle of the intensified relations between the two countries following the 2nd Karabakh War in Nov. 2020.

    The potential threats from Iran are a common ground that unites both sides alongside the collaboration in various fields such as military, health, education, trade, technology, tourism, transportation, communication, agriculture, and livestock between Azerbaijan and Israel.

    Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan, which declared its independence in 1991.

    Diplomatic relations between the two countries started in 1992, while Israel opened its embassy in Baku in 1993.

    But, Azerbaijan did not open an embassy in Israel and preferred to maintain its relationship via alternative ways due to its balanced policy in its relations with member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Iran.

    However, this situation did not prevent the development of relations but rather strengthened them further due to the benefits both sides derived from each other.

    Economic and social factors and mutual strategic interests became the most important factors that brought the parties closer.

    The procurement of advanced military technologies to fight against Armenia during the war and leveraging the influence of the powerful Jewish lobby in the West to balance Russia's hegemony in the region made Israel an important actor for Azerbaijan.

    On the other hand, Azerbaijan's rich energy resources and geopolitical position as a neighbour of Iran made it an indispensable country for Israel.

    Israel's support for Azerbaijan in the 2nd Karabakh War and Iran's support for Armenia during and after the war, along with its aggressive policy against Azerbaijan, led to a rapprochement between Israel and Azerbaijan.

    Aliyev, skillfully balancing the dynamics in foreign policy, took into account that Israel's relations with Türkiye were not very good. He attempted to restore relations between Türkiye and Israel.

    Following the beginning of the normalization process between Türkiye and Israel, the relationship between Azerbaijan's relations with Israel gained momentum.

    Azerbaijan opened a trade office in Tel Aviv in July 2021 and a tourism office in March 2022.

    Unsettled by Azerbaijan's close relations with Türkiye and Israel, Iran opened a consulate general in Armenia's Kapan.

    Azerbaijan decided to open an embassy in Israel in October 2022 and appointed the first-ever ambassador to Israel in March 2023.

    What are the purposes of the visits between Azerbaijan and Israel?

    There has been an intensification of visits between the two countries in 2023; Israel's Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel visited Baku before Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov paid a visit to Israel for the embassy's opening ceremony in March.

    Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen also visited Azerbaijan in April in addition to some high-level meetings.

    Herzog's visit further enhanced and diversified cooperation and relations between the two countries and strengthened strategic ties.

    State officials and students from a Jewish school in Baku welcomed Herzog.

    Aliyev and Herzog had a one-on-one meeting first, followed by the participation of delegations from both sides.

    A memorandum of understanding was signed on cooperation in health and medical education between the two sides, with a focus on development between 2023 and 2028.

    Herzog returned to Israel on May 31 after attending Israel's 75th Independence Day celebrations.

    He made a reference to Azerbaijan being a Shia-majority country in a social media post before his Azerbaijan trip.

    Similarly, upon arrival in Baku, he emphasized Azerbaijan's importance for the region in a statement, highlighting that beyond all historical and social ties, Azerbaijan is a neighbour of Iran, which conducts activities that disrupt peace and stability.

    He also stated that during his meeting with Aliyev, they would exchange ideas on ensuring peace and security in the region.

    These remarks suggest that Iran is placed on the main agenda of the bilateral meeting.

    What would be the impacts of the visits on Azerbaijan-Iran relations?

    Aliyev takes sensitive regional balances into account and prioritizes the short-term and long-term interests of his country.

    The allegations by the Iranian press for years that Azerbaijan has provided various opportunities to Israel for anti-Iran activities have always been firmly denied by Azerbaijan.

    It was emphasized that there is no slightest evidence in this regard, and the allegations are baseless.

    Similar claims were brought up in some Israeli media in 2023 as well.

    They claim that Azerbaijan was preparing to open an airport for Israel to use in military operations and granted permission to Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, to establish an advanced branch to monitor Iran.

    The Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Israel categorically denied these allegations and clearly stated that Azerbaijan would not permit Israel to use its territory to attack Iran.

    Prior to and after these claims, the Azerbaijani government repeatedly emphasized that it would not take sides in disputes with other countries and would never allow its territory to be used in possible attacks.

    It can be said that Azerbaijan, which evaluates the region's geopolitics and context well, is principled in its approach, handles issues from a comprehensive perspective, acts cautiously, and is a reliable partner for foreign policy.

    Eldar Hasanoglu, the author, is a faculty member at Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University.


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