Azerbaijan to Open Embassy in Israel, Marking First Shia Muslim Country To Do So

Azerbaijan to Open Embassy in Israel, Marking First Shia Muslim Country To Do So

Date:

Following Parliamentary approval, Azerbaijan is set to become the first Shia-majority country to open an embassy in Israel following years of increased cooperation. 

According to the Jerusalem Post, the embassy will be opened in Tel Aviv, which Prime Minister Yair Lapid said “reflects the depth of the relations between the countries” and “is the fruit of efforts by the Israeli government to build strong diplomatic bridges with the Muslim world.”

Over the past decade, Israel has planted itself as a key partner with Azerbaijan. Israel imports 40 percent of its oil from Azerbaijan, while Israel is a major weapons supplier to the Azerbaijani military. According to the  Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Azerbaijan imported over 69 percent of its major weapons from Israel between 2016 and 2020, which included systems such as loitering munitions and missiles, as well as reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Weapons provided to Azerbaijan by Israel were used extensively during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war with Armenia. Since the conflict, the two countries have moved to strengthen defense ties, with Azerbaijan eyeing multi-billion dollar weapons’s deals with Israel to increase unmanned weapon capacities.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in the sight of an Iranian sniper when he visited to the border city of Jabrayil during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Increased diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan is also strategically important for Israel due to Azerbaijan’s long border with Iran. The past several years have seen an increase in tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran, which have ramped up in recent years due to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Tensions initially flared when Azerbaijan recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The two countries also regularly accused each other of financing and organizing terrorism in the region. Following the outbreak of the war, Azerbaijan accused Iran of covertly backing Armenia by supplying fuel. After the conflict, the two countries would regularly stage military exercises at their borders.