The Republic of Azerbaijan on Thursday announced the appointment of its first-ever ambassador to Israel, less than two months after approving the opening of an embassy in Tel Aviv.
The role will be filled by Azerbaijan’s Deputy Education Minister Mukhtar Mammadov, according to local and Hebrew media reports. As deputy minister, Mammadov had been responsible for cooperative projects with Israel in the fields of science and education.
The appointment was made a day after Azerbaijan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Azerbaijan Fariz Rzayev landed in Israel for an official visit. In remarks upon landing, Rzayev said that following his country’s decision to open an embassy in Israel, “the sky is the limit” for the two countries’ bilateral ties.
The November vote by the Azerbaijani parliament to open an embassy in Israel made it the first Shi’ite Muslim country to do so.
“The decision to open an embassy reflects the depth of the relationship between our countries. This move is the result of the Israeli government’s efforts to build strong diplomatic bridges with the Muslim world,” then-prime minister Yair Lapid said at the time.
Israel has had an embassy in Baku since 1992.
Over the past several decades, Azerbaijan and Israel have built a close security relationship, which has intensified as of late as Baku’s ties with Iran have strained.
Earlier last month, Azerbaijan said it arrested five of its nationals for spying for Iran after a rise in tensions between the neighbors. The arrests came a week after Baku and Tehran accused each other of hostile rhetoric.
Iran, home to millions of ethnic Azeris, has long accused its smaller northern neighbor of fueling separatist sentiment on its territory.
Last month, then-defense minister Benny Gantz held an official visit to Azerbaijan, where he met with his Azeri counterpart, Zakir Hasanov, and the country’s President Ilham Aliyev.
Israel has major weapons deals with Azerbaijan, though it does not disclose details of the agreements.
In 2016, Aliyev said his country had bought $4.85 billion in defense equipment from the Jewish state, but Israel has never confirmed that figure.
Gantz’s visit followed a recent flare-up in the fighting between Azerbaijan and its neighbor Armenia, over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In 2020, the neighboring countries fought a six-week-long war that claimed the lives of more than 6,000 soldiers and resulted in Azerbaijan conquering some of the disputed territories, prior to a Russian-brokered ceasefire.
AFP contributed to this report.