Defense minister makes unannounced visit to Azerbaijan
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Defense minister makes unannounced visit to Azerbaijan

Moshe Ya’alon to meet with top officials, inaugurate Israeli pavilion at international defense industry exhibition

File: Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan, on September 10, 2014. (photo credit: Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)
File: Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan, on September 10, 2014. (photo credit: Ariel Harmoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon made an unannounced visit to Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday, the first-ever visit by an Israeli defense minister to the central Asian nation.

Ya’alon, in the country for two days, is to meet with top Azeri officials, including Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, for discussions on strengthening Israel-Azeri bilateral relations and strategies for regional issues, the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a Wednesday statement.

The trip was only announced after Ya’alon had arrived.

Israel and Azerbaijan have long maintained cordial ties, which are sometimes a source of tension between Azerbaijan and its neighbor Iran.

The country is seen by some analysts as a linchpin in any possible Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear program, though Baku has denied it allows Israel to use its bases.

While in Baku, Ya’alon is to attend and inaugurate the Israeli pavilion at the “Adex” international defense industry exhibition. The Defense Ministry is to be represented at the pavilion, along with 15 Israeli defense companies.

“I am happy to be hosted here in the historical first visit of an Israeli defense minister to Azerbaijan,” Ya’alon said upon arrival. “Bilateral relations between us are fruitful, and there is a strategic relationship between the countries and joint endeavors in various fields.”

The arms exhibition represented “another opportunity to show the world the strength and capabilities of Israel’s defense industry and its contribution to security and economy,” he added.

The defense minister is also slated to meet with representatives of Azerbaijan’s small but ancient Jewish community, which Ya’alon said has a “glorious history who has enjoyed wonderful treatment, allowing it to exist in honor.”

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