In Baku, Azerbaijan’s president thanks Herzog for Israeli arms supply

Israel’s head of state received by honor guard before meeting with Ilham Aliyev, as ties grow between Jerusalem and Iran’s neighbor

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President Isaac Herzog (L) reviews an honor guard in Baku alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, May 30, 2023 (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (L) reviews an honor guard in Baku alongside Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, May 30, 2023 (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog stressed on Tuesday the threat that Iran poses to regional stability in his meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, in Baku. In his public remarks after the meeting, Herzog said the two spoke in depth about “the entire global and regional security structure that is endangered and threatened by Iran.”

“Visiting Azerbaijan is a dream come true for me and for my nation,” said Herzog, speaking in English.

Aliyev, seated next to Herzog, said that the March opening of Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tel Aviv created “more opportunities to have a closer interaction.”

Aliyev lauded the defense cooperation between the countries, saying that Baku “has access to modern Israeli equipment in this area for many years, which helps us to modernize our defense capability, and to be able to protect our statehood, our values, our national interest, and our territorial integrity.”

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.

Herzog’s visit is the latest step in an ongoing and very public expansion of bilateral ties with Azerbaijan, a Shiite-majority country closely allied with Turkey that has seen its partnership with Israel flourish in the wake of Israeli support during its 2020 conflict.

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.

President Isaac Herzog (left) and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at a press conference in Baku, May 30, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Aliyev expressed interest in seeing more diverse trade between the two countries, moving beyond oil. He pointed at cybersecurity as a field in which bilateral cooperation is growing.

They two leaders discussed the potential for energy cooperation in other countries, said the Azerbaijani president.

Herzog invited Aliyev to visit Israel.

The president and his wife, Michal, were received by an honor guard at the Zugulba presidential palace, with the playing of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva.”

The two presidents held a state lunch along with the first ladies after their meeting.

Herzog is also scheduled to participate in a ceremony along with the local Jewish community celebrating Israel’s 75th birthday before heading home on Wednesday.

Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel from the Shas party accompanied Herzog on the visit, and met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Teymur Musayev.

Arbel and Musayev discussed cooperation on training doctors, digital health, and emergency preparedness, according to Herzog’s office. They also signed an agreement on healthcare cooperation.

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