Liberman may visit Azerbaijan amid Iran tensions

FM's expected visit comes as bilateral ties with strategically important country on Iran's northern border are blooming.

government building in baku, azerbaijan_370 (photo credit: Reuters)
government building in baku, azerbaijan_370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is expected to visit Azerbaijan by the end of the month, in a trip indicating the flourishing of ties with the strategically important country on Iran’s northern border.
According to the Vestnik Kavkaza website, which covers the Caucasus region, Liberman is expected to visit Baku on April 23 to discuss all aspects of bilateral relations.
The schedule for the visit “remains secret,” the website said.
A spokesman for Liberman would neither confirm nor deny the visit.
The swiftly developing ties between the two countries was thrust into the headlines late last month when Foreign Policy magazine ran an article claiming that Israel had gained access to an Azerbaijan airfield to facilitate a possible attack on Iran.
“The Israelis have bought an airfield, and the airfield is called Azerbaijan,” the report quoted an unnamed US official as saying.
Azerbaijani and Israeli officials denied the report. Israeli officials suggested it was intended to derail any possible attack on Iran.
In any case, ties between the two countries are booming.
Azerbaijan supplies a large percentage of Israel’s oil needs, and Israel – according to foreign reports – recently inked a $1.6 billion arms deal with Baku.
In March, Azerbaijani officials announced the arrest of 22 people on suspicion of spying for Iran. The 22, according to the Azerbaijani national security minister, were said to have received orders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to “commit terrorist acts against the US, Israeli and other Western state’s embassies and the embassies’ employees.”
Iran has accused Azerbaijan of helping Israel assassinate nuclear scientists inside the Islamic Republic.
This week, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked visited Azerbaijan.
In November, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau visited the country, as did Communications and Welfare and Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Liberman last visited Azerbaijan, which now is a member of the UN Security Council, in February 2010.
The Azerbaijani website News.AZ carried an interview earlier this month with Yevda Abramov, an MP for the ruling New Azerbaijan Party and chairman of the Azerbaijan- Israel interparliamentary working group, who said the relationship between the countries has reached the level of a “strategic partnership.”
Abramov said that Israel has provided support to Azerbaijan in “creating a military and industrial complex,” and that Israel “sells modern military equipment to Azerbaijan.”
“Today, there are 100,000 former Azerbaijani citizens in Israel. This is a large diaspora,” Abramov said. “Therefore, Azerbaijan lays big hopes on its diaspora in Israel. This diaspora plays a very big role in bringing Azerbaijan’s position to the international community.
Azerbaijan will continue developing close ties with Israel.”
Asked about how Tehran viewed his country’s relationship with Israel, Abramov said that while “Azerbaijan does not depend on Iran,” the fact that there is a massive Azerbaijani population in Iran obligates Baku to “use diplomatic ways to explain to the Iranian side that the Israeli arms purchased by Azerbaijan do not target them.”
At the same time, he said, “Tehran should realize that Azerbaijan is disappointed with Iran’s close ties with Armenia.”
“Iran provides vital assistance to Armenia,” he said.
“Had it not been for the Iranian assistance, the Karabakh conflict would have found its solution in a very short period.
In other words, Iran feeds vitamins to the exhausted organism of Armenia. Azerbaijan has more grounds for complaint than the Iranian side.”