Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Thursday inaugurated a new embassy in Turkmenistan, some 10 miles (17 kilometers) from the border with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran.
“We look forward to a new era of our close relations,” Cohen said during the ceremony. “No doubt both countries will benefit from greater cooperation.”
Cohen was joined at the event in Ashgabat by his Turkmen counterpart Raşit Meredow, with the two cutting the ribbon together.
“We have a very good relationship with the State of Israel… We will do everything toward expanding and strengthening our relationship in different fields,” Meredow told reporters.
“It is a very shining example of our friendship,” he added regarding the embassy opening.
Cohen arrived in the oil-rich dictatorship late Wednesday, making him the second Israeli foreign minister to visit since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1993, two years after Turkmenistan declared independence as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Earlier Thursday, Cohen met with Turkmen leader Serdar Berdimuhamedov, who said his country is considering opening an embassy in Israel.
He was also due to meet with members of Turkmenistan’s tiny Jewish community before returning to Israel on Friday.
Turkmenistan’s border with Iran stretches for 713 miles (1,148 kilometers), offering Israel an enticing possible means of entry into the Islamic Republic as it tries to stop Tehran’s nuclear program.
But the country also has close diplomatic and trade ties with Iran, and has expressed a desire to upgrade that relationship further.
Israel has had an ambassador in Ashgabat for a decade, but he has worked out of hotels and a temporary office. The new embassy will be Israel’s closest official mission to its enemy’s territory.
Cohen traveled to Israel from Azerbaijan, another Central Asian nation that strategically borders Iran and which Israel has focused more intense efforts on shoring up ties with ahead of a possible showdown with Iran.