FILE – Re-elected Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev (R). (Photo credit: Getty Images)
The Azerbaijani Parliament on 18 November approved the opening of an embassy in Israel, making it the first embassy in Israel from a Shia Muslim majority country, according to the Times of Israel.
The new embassy will be based in Tel Aviv, where Baku already has a Tourism Office and a Trade Representative Office. Israel and Azerbaijan have had relations for 30 years, and there has been an Israeli embassy in Baku since 1993.
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid praised the decision, calling Azerbaijan “an important partner of Israel and home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world,” according to the Times of Israel.
“The decision to open an embassy reflects the depth of relations between the countries,” Lapid added.
Azerbaijan’s move comes during a time of heightened tensions with Iran, including military exercises on both sides of the border area.
Iran and Azerbaijan share a 420-mile border, and there has long been speculation that Israel has launched covert operations in Iran from its northern neighbor. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian accused Israel of having “established its presence in several regions of Azerbaijan,” which Baku denied, according to Mehr News Agency.
Israel and Azerbaijan have a close defense relationship. Jerusalem has supplied military drones to Baku, which were used in its war against Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that 69 percent of Azerbaijan’s arms imports in 2016-2020 came from Israel, accounting for 17 percent of Israel’s arms exports in that period. About 40 percent of oil imported to Israel comes from Azerbaijan, according to Fars News Agency.
On 11 November, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the ambassador of Azerbaijan to Tehran to protest the propaganda campaign waged by the country’s officials and media against Iran, according to Armenpress news.
As Iranian authorities currently grapple with months-long protests and nationwide demonstrations, the Iranian government views with concern the growing influence of Israel in Azerbaijan.
On 3 October, Azerbaijan welcomed outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to discuss a series of defense-related issues and cooperation between the two countries.
Gantz held a series of meetings with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, to bolster cooperation in defense and discuss security and policy issues.
The visit of Israel’s war chief came after renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
While Azerbaijan accused Armenia of cross-border provocations, Armenia claims that Azerbaijan’s attacks were unprovoked, targeting areas deep inside Armenian territory.