Gantz visits Azerbaijan to discuss 'security and policy issues'

Gantz's visit comes days after video footage surfaced of Azeri troops executing Armenian POWs.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz being welcomed in Azerbaijan, October 3, 2022. (photo credit: NICOLE LASKVI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz being welcomed in Azerbaijan, October 3, 2022.
(photo credit: NICOLE LASKVI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has returned from an official visit to Azerbaijan where he met with President Ilham Aliyev to foster defense cooperation between the two countries.

According to a statement released by the minister’s office, the visit was “dedicated to security and policy issues.”

Gantz also met with Minister of Defense Col.-Gen. Hasanov Zakir Asgar Oglu as well as the Chief of the State Border Service Col.-Gen. Elchin Guliyev and visited a State Border Service headquarters.

He was joined by the Defense Ministry’s Director-General Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel, Director of the Policy and POL-MIL Bureau Dror Shalom and Military Secretary Brig.-Gen. Yaki Dolf.

While meeting with the Azeri officials, Gantz “emphasized the importance of maintaining strategic relations between the State of Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan and continuing to work towards regional and global peace and stability,” the statement continued.

 Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, during Gantz's visit to Azerbeijan, October 3, 2022. (credit: NICOLE LASKVI/DEFENSE MINISTRY) Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, during Gantz's visit to Azerbeijan, October 3, 2022. (credit: NICOLE LASKVI/DEFENSE MINISTRY)

The officials also discussed the changes in the Middle East following the signing of the Abraham Accords and Israel’s developing ties with Turkey and other countries in the region and the world in general.

Why do Israel and Azerbaijan cooperate?

The Muslim-majority Central Asian country borders Iran, which according to foreign reports, allows Israel to conduct espionage operations and more against its main foe.

Baku has also been the main supplier of crude oil to Israel and has become a significant recipient of Israeli military hardware in recent years. A 2020 report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that Baku was the second largest customer of Israeli weapons systems after India.

Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia have had a long-standing dispute over the contested Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Violence has spiraled into an all-out war twice in 2020 and in the 1990s over the area.

The six-week war in 2020 claimed more than 6,500 lives and saw the use of Israeli weapons systems including drones that tilted the war’s balance on the side of Baku, allowing it to regain control over territory it lost to Armenia during the 1990s.

Last month at least 286 people were killed on both sides before a truce was brokered by the United States.

Gantz’s visit came days after graphic video footage surfaced of Azeri soldiers executing six Armenian prisoners of war captured during the last round of fighting in September.

Armenian Ministry of Defense spokesman Aram Torosyan said there was “no doubt” about the authenticity of the footage, adding “it is typical of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces. That style is known to us and the international community from the irrefutable evidence of previous similar incidents.”

The video came weeks after other reports of the rape and mutilation of a female Armenian soldier by Azeri troops during the same round of fighting.

Azerbaijani authorities have said that investigations have been launched into both incidents.

The video came weeks after other reports of the rape and mutilation of a female Armenian soldier by Azeri troops during the same round of fighting.

Azerbaijani authorities have said that investigations have been launched into both incidents.