Photo: Flash90

Azeri parliament approves Israel Embassy

The development marks the first such declaration by a Shi’ite Muslim-majority nation.

By Erin Viner

The historic decision followed a vote by the National Assembly of Azerbaijan on 18 November.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the move “reflects the depth of the relationship between our countries,” as a “result of the Israeli government’s efforts to build strong diplomatic bridges with the Muslim world.”

The outgoing Israeli leader thanked Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and congratulated the Azeri people, who he underscored “will now be represented for the first time in the State of Israel.”

“Azerbaijan is an important partner of Israel and home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world,” Prime Minister Lapid pointed out.

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.

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

The announcement 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 two nations’ three decades of ties.

It also 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 Aliyev and was greeted with an honor guard ceremony at the Ministry of Defense by his Azeri counterpart Colonel General Hasanov Zakir Asgar Oglu .

In a telephone conversation between the two defense leaders yesterday, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Gantz said that he thanked his “friend” for “the important decision taken by the Azeri parliament,” as well as “his partnership and commitment to fostering defense relations between Israel and Azerbaijan over the years.”

Minister Gantz went on to praise the action as demonstrative of “the deep friendship between our countries, ” expressing his certainty that the bilateral relationship “will develop further and make a positive impact on the region.”

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.

The Embassy of Azerbaijan will be opened in Tel Aviv, where 86 of the 90 world nations which currently have embassies in Israel are located.

Only the United StatesGuatemalaHonduras 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.