(Photo Credit aza.az)
Contrary to previous reports, the Israeli military will not be allowed to use Azerbaijan as a refueling base during a future attack against Iran, the country’s new ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, told The Jerusalem Post on 10 March.
In his first interview after arriving in Tel Aviv as Azerbaijan’s new ambassador to Israel last week, Mammadov denied a report by Haaretz from earlier this month that the country had prepared an airfield meant to assist Israel if it attacks Iran’s nuclear sites and allowed the Mossad to set up a branch in Azerbaijan to assist with intelligence gathering and monitoring of Iran.
Azerbaijan appointed Mammadov as its first-ever ambassador to Israel in January.
“Azerbaijan, from the start, has declared that it will not interfere in the internal matters of other countries and will not allow its territory to be used against other countries,” the ambassador said. “This is because we expect other countries not to interfere in our internal matters.”
Azeri Ambassador to the US Khazar Ibrahim previously informed Israeli media on 16 December that Baku would not allow Tel Aviv to attack Iran from its soil following months of speculation that Israel would use Baku to launch coordinated attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities.
This speculation came as relations between the two countries have grown. Azerbaijan has become Israel’s largest oil supplier, while the latter has become the former’s largest arms supplier in recent years.
A Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report found that between 2016 and 2020, Israel accounted for 69% of Azerbaijan’s significant arms imports.
Ambassador Mammadov explained his country’s reliance on Israeli arms imports, stating that “Every country is responsible for the protection and defense of their territorial integrity and the sovereignty of their citizens. Azerbaijan is no exception.”
Israel’s relationship with Azerbaijan comes within the context of a decades-long territorial dispute between Baku and neighboring Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the home of a majority of ethnic Armenians.
In 1988, the parliament in Nagorno-Karabakh called a referendum to be incorporated into Armenia, resulting in the start of a bloody war between the two countries. By 1992, Nagorno-Karabakh had declared itself an independent republic.
In 1994, three years after both countries declared independence from the Soviet Union, a Russian-brokered ceasefire ended the fighting. However, the two sides have yet to come to a lasting agreement, and Nagorno-Karabakh has become a heavily militarized region where Azerbaijani and Armenian troops are divided by a contact line.
With the Armenian side receiving political support from the Islamic Republic and with Iran’s close proximity to Azerbaijan, the country is expected to be a suitable partner for Israel.