Gallant discusses expanding ties with Azerbaijan’s president in visit to Baku

Defense minister set to meet Azerbaijani counterpart, other senior officials during two-day trip marking rapidly growing links between Baku and Jerusalem

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) talks with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) talks with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Thursday, as he begins a two-day visit signifying the rapidly burgeoning relationship between the two countries.

Gallant and Aliyev discussed recent regional and global events, as well as ways to boost strategic ties and cooperation against shared challenges, the defense minister’s office said in a statement.

“In this regard, they also touched on areas of security and industrial cooperation,” the readout stated. “Minister Gallant expressed his appreciation to the President for his leadership and personal commitment to deepening the bond between their countries, starting with the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel.”

“The discussion built on the previous meeting held between the leaders this year, within the framework of the Munich Security Conference,” the statement added.

Gallant is also slated to meet Azerbaijan’s Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, State Border Service chief Elchin Guliyev and other senior defense officials.

He was accompanied by his chief of staff, Shachar Katz; Military Secretary Guy Markizeno; and the director of the ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, Dror Shalom.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (left) and an Israeli delegation holds a meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev (right) and his staff in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

According to a Defense Ministry statement on Wednesday, the visit will focus on bolstering strategic ties in “diplomacy, security, and technology.”

Gallant’s arrival came two days after Baku announced it had arrested a 23-year-old Afghan national on suspicion of planning an attack on Israel’s embassy.

Israel is in the midst of a very public expansion of bilateral ties with Azerbaijan, a Shiite-majority country closely allied with Turkey that has seen its partnership with the Jewish state flourish.

In March, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov opened Baku’s first-ever embassy in Israel.

President Isaac Herzog visited Azerbaijan in May, when he discussed the Iran threat and bilateral ties.

Israel is one of Azerbaijan’s leading arms suppliers. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Israel provided 69 percent of Baku’s major arms imports in 2016-2020, accounting for 17% of Jerusalem’s arms exports over that period.

Israel stepped up its weapons shipments to Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan emerged victorious in that six-week war with Armenia, which claimed the lives of more than 6,000 soldiers and resulted in Baku regaining control over disputed territories.

It is an open secret that two of the pillars of the relationship are Azerbaijan’s location on Iran’s northern border and the fact that Israel buys over 30 percent of its oil from Baku.

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