Israel wants to remain completely out of the Azerbaijan- Armenia dispute over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory that flared anew over the weekend, even though a senior Azerbaijani official told The Jerusalem Post on Monday his country wants Israel to raise its voice on the matter.
“What we expect from Israel, which we respect a great deal, is to relate to what is happening here because Israel can request Armenia to stop the fire and enter negotiations,” Ali Hasanov, senior adviser to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, said in a telephone interview from Baku, the capital.
“We view Israel as a strategic partner, and expect it to comment,” he said. “Azerbaijan asks its strategic partner – the State of Israel – to express its attitude toward the latest developments related to the military provocation committed by Armenia in the border of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.”
The fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh that flared up on Friday night continued for a third day on Monday, with at least 13 people killed.
Nogorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave inside Azerbaijan – occupying nearly 20% of Azerbaijan territory – that was overtaken by Armenia during a six-year war that ended in 1994, and during which more than 30,000 people were killed. Since Friday night some 46 people have died in the fighting.
Reminded that Israel has very little leverage over Armenia, with which it has diplomatic ties but not a very strong relationship, Hasanov – speaking through a translator – said Israel has good relations with the US, Russia and France, and can urge them to bring the Armenians to negotiations over the disputed territory.
He pointed out that the south Caucasus, where the fighting is taking place, is very close to the Middle East and could influence developments there.
“We respect Israel as a strategic partner, and as an important country that needs to relate to this issue and pressure the international community regarding ending the conflict,” he said.
Israel, however, is in no hurry to get involved in a fight pitting Azerbaijan against Armenia.
Azerbaijan is an important strategic country for Jerusalem on the border of Iran, which provides Israel with some 40 percent of its oil, while Armenia is heavily backed by Russia, another country of immense strategic importance to Israel.
Turkey is completely supporting the Azeris on this matter, leading to some speculation that the flare up occurred now as part of the ongoing tension between Russia and Turkey.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said the Foreign Ministry “is following the developments in Nagorno Karabakh and in the Azeri-Armenian relations with great interest,” but that, “for the moment,” it was not commenting on the issue.
The explosive situation in Nagorno Karabakh is believed to have been discussed when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Aliyev in January on the sidelines of the Davos Economic Forum.
Aliyev, who was in Washington last week attending the Nuclear Security Conference, met there with a delegation of US Jewish leaders from AIPAC, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and discussed Azerbaijan’s ties with both the US and with Israel.