Israeli President Isaac Herzog landed in Baku on Tuesday morning at the start of an official one-day visit to the Muslim country.
Herzog was received at the airport by the Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan and proceeded to the hospitality palace of President Ilham Aliyev. The two are expected to hold a work meeting, followed by lunch together. Herzog is also scheduled to attend a reception attended by hundreds of senior figures in Azeri politics and economy to mark Israel's 75th Independence Day, and tomorrow he will meet with the heads of the country's Jewish community before returning to Israel.
Herzog and his wife landed in Baku, Photo: Haim Tzach / GPO
This is a visit by the Israeli president to Azerbaijan, after Shimon Peres visited it in 2009. Israel and Azerbaijan have warm relations, most of which have existed under the radar. Israel recognized Azerbaijan immediately upon its separation from the Soviet Union in the early 90s, and sees it as a strategic partner given Azerbaijan's location and ethnic character: its proximity to the Iranian border, and the fact that most of its population is Shiite.
Azerbaijan is Israel's main oil supplier, and in return, Israel supplies Azerbaijan with weapons and advanced technologies of various kinds. In 2020, Israel publicly supported and even assisted Azerbaijan in its war against Armenia, and as a result, relations between the two countries were greatly upgraded. Aliyev has steadfastly refused to condemn Israel for its operations in Gaza, and recently even approved the opening of an Azeri embassy in Israel.
Herzog in Azerbaijan, Photo: Haim Tzach / GPO
Before taking off from Israel, Herzog said that the Iranian issue would occupy a central place during his visit to Baku. "Iran is an unstable element in the region that is constantly striving for actions against the State of Israel and against the developing alliance of peace and security in the region," he added. "We will try to advance relations between Israel and Azerbaijan as much as possible."
Herzog's visit to Azerbaijan is taking place under exceptional security, due to the fear of attempted attacks by the Iranians. In recent months, Tehran has stepped up its efforts to strike Israeli and Israeli targets around the world, with nearby countries being particularly attractive ground for activity due to its physical accessibility and the presence of large Muslim populations there.
Thus, last summer an Iranian plan to attack Israelis in Istanbul was thwarted, as well as an attempt to assassinate an Israeli businessman in Tbilisi (Georgia). In the past, Azerbaijan also had Iranian intentions to carry out terrorist attacks, which were thwarted with cooperation between Israeli and Azeri security elements. Azerbaijan has fraught relations with Tehran and sees it as a real threat to its national security, and Israel is exploiting this to strengthen relations and security cooperation with it.
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