Jerusalem hails ties as Azerbaijan opens first embassy in Israel

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (R) at a press conference with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in Jerusalem on March 29, 2023 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (R) at a press conference with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in Jerusalem on March 29, 2023 (Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)

Azerbaijan, a key Israeli ally on Iran’s northern border, is set to open its first-ever embassy in Israel tonight.

Ahead of the opening, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov meets with his counterpart Eli Cohen at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Israel,” says Cohen, noting the close cooperation on “issues of regional security.”

Not surprisingly, Cohen speaks about the Iranian threat — which Azerbaijan would rather downplay publicly — while Bayramov brings up Baku’s war against Armenia.

Israel stepped up its weapons shipments to Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but Jerusalem prefers to avoid the topic.

“Israel and Azerbaijan share the same perception of the Iranian threats,” says Cohen. “The Iranian ayatollah regime threatens both our regions, finances terrorism, and destabilizes the entire Middle East.”

After stressing Azerbaijan’s support for “peace and dialogue in the Middle East, ” Bayramov says that his country is “grateful to Israel for the support for Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity during almost thirty years of illegitimate occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories by Armenia.”

“We appreciate the support extended to Azerbaijan both before and during the patriotic war in 2020,” he continues.

Cohen will visit Baku next month.

Israel was one of the first countries to recognize Azeri independence in 1991.

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 from 2016-2020, accounting for 17% of Jerusalem’s arms exports over that period.

The Shi’ite-majority country has, in turn, supplied Israel with significant amounts of oil in addition to reported cooperation against Iran.

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