Deputy Foreign Ministry Ze’ev Elkin held a classified briefing Thursday with Israeli ambassadors in countries bordering Iran and the surrounding region.
According to a report in Walla News Friday, the meeting was held in Tbilisi, Georgia, and was aimed at discussing efforts to strengthen ties with these countries. The Israeli ambassadors to Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan — three countries that share a direct border with the Islamic Republic — as well as those from Kazakhstan and Georgia, were reportedly in attendance.
The attendees discussed these countries’ reactions to the outcome of the recent presidential elections in Iran, which saw Hassan Rouhani elected, and their responses to the recently renewed talks between world powers and Iran over its controversial nuclear program, according to the report.
The diplomats also addressed ways to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties with the countries, to which Israel assigns special importance.
In September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the foreign minister of Turkmenistan, Rashid Meredov, in Washington. Israel’s diplomatic relations with Turkmenistan, a mostly Muslim country that borders Iran, date back to 1992, yet Shemi Tzur became Israel’s first resident ambassador in the Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabat, less than half-a-year ago.
The ambassadors’ meeting in Georgia came ahead of the second round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers — the five permanent members of the Security Council, and Germany — over Tehran’s nuclear program, in Geneva on November 7-8. Ties between Iran and Western powers, most notably the United States, have warmed recently as the Islamic Republic has been perceived as being more amenable to negotiate over its controversial program, which it insists is for peaceful purposes.
The West, and especially Israel, remain skeptical.
Last year, reports surfaced that Israel and Azerbaijan were quietly looking at ways to use Azeri bases to facilitate an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program, a charge denied by Azerbaijan.
An Israeli strike on Iran faces the difficult challenge of overcoming long flight distances and refueling. Azerbaijan’s location on the Caspian Sea near Iran’s northern border makes it an ideal launching platform for airstrikes, refueling, and missions to recover downed pilots.