image Photo: Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD)

Azerbaijan to open first embassy in Israel

“This decision has already been made,” revealed a member of Baku’s parliament.

By Erin Viner

During an interview with the Azeri Pravda news agency, MP Arzu Naghiyev said that only a “technical” delay would hinder the opening of his Shi’ite Muslim country’s first diplomatic compound in the Jewish State.

While the two nations have maintained 30 years of close ties, neither side has an embassy on the other’s soil, and the Central Asian country only maintained trade and tourist offices in Israel.

“Israel is a strategic political, military, economic and cultural partner,” said Naghiyev, who is also a member of the Azerbaijan-Israel parliamentary friendship group.

In fact, 69% of all weapons imported by Azerbaijan from 2016 through 2020 were supplied by Israel.

The announcement comes just after last month’s official visit to Azerbaijan by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz for meetings focused on security and policy issues and aimed at fostering defense cooperation between the countries. During the one-day trip to the RepublicJerusalem’s top defense official held talks with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and was greeted with an honor guard ceremony at the Ministry of Defense by his Azeri counterpart Colonel General Hasanov Zakir Asgar Oglu .

It also follows an invitation earlier this year from Israeli President Isaac Herzog for his Azeri counterpart to visit open an embassy while visiting the country.

“As we mark an important step in our relations, I hope to see us take an additional step, with the opening of the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Israel,” Herzog wrote to President Aliyev in a letter marking the three decades of ties the two share.

Israel’s current representative, Jewish Agency envoy Roman Gurevich, welcomed the development, saying “the warm relations between the two nations will only grow stronger if an embassy of Azerbaijan opens in Israel.”

Gurevich, who is originally from Azerbaijan, emphasized that it is a “tolerant” country that “has always respected the Jewish people” where “there has never been anti-Semitism.”

Azerbaijan is bordered to the south by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it is widely believed that until now that Baku has held back from officially opening an embassy in part to avert angering Tehran. Rising tensions with the Islamic Republic, combined with establishment of Israel’s Abraham Accords with other Muslim states and restoration of relations with Turkey are seen as contributing factors in Baku’s decision.

While it is as of yet unknown where Azerbaijan will locate its future embassy, it is likely to evade Israel’s campaign for international recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.

86 of the 90 embassies world nations which are currently located in Israel are in or near Tel Aviv, while only the United States, GuatemalaHonduras and Kosovo took the bold step to relocate to  Jerusalem. Australia is currently considering the move,  while Equatorial Guinea and Malawi have also pledged to do so. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Colombia have also opened diplomatic or trade offices in Jerusalem.