Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visits North Azerbaijan on 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is on an official visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, to mark the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Azerbaijan, which is Turkey’s strategic ally in the region and also a neighbor to Iran as well.

According to the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan, Lieberman’s agenda on this visit will include discussion about economic and cultural relations between the two states. Lieberman met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov on Monday, according to Azerbaijani media reports. During the meeting both sides discussed bilateral relations. Both sides pointed out that relations are improving between the two states because of a strong partnership. During the meeting with his counterpart, Lieberman praised Israeli-Azerbaijani relations and underlined the importance of further growth of bilateral relations based on legal agreements.

Lieberman, who arrived Sunday evening in Azerbaijan, which is Turkey’s strategic ally in the region and also a neighbor to Iran as well, is scheduled to meet with the country’s President İlham Aliyev and other senior officials, according to Israeli reports.

Lieberman’s visit comes one month after the American magazine Foreign Policy reported that Azerbaijan has given Israel access to Azerbaijani airbases, which is considered an important step towards a possible attack on Iran. The Azerbaijani government rejected the allegations, calling them untrue. In an interview with AFP, Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense spokesman Teymur Abdullayev said the claims seek to “damage relations between Azerbaijan and Iran,” adding that “there will be no actions against Iran … from the territory of Azerbaijan.”

Lieberman’s schedule also reportedly includes the opening of the Israeli Cultural Center in the Baku-located Azerbaijani University of Languages. The Israeli Foreign Minister’s agenda also includes a meeting with Jewish community members living in Azerbaijan. The majority of people living in the “Red Town” area located in the northern Azerbaijani city of Guba, are Jewish.

Baku is developing its relations with Israel on a military level with the signing of a deal in February with the state-run Israel Aerospace Industries which supplies $1.6 billion in arms, including anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is at war with its neighbor Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent territories that were occupied by Armenia in 1992-1994, when Armenia and Azerbaijan were engaged in a full-fledged armed conflict. Turkey came to Azerbaijan’s defense by closing its border with Armenia in a symbolic show of support.sundayzaman