Following a 15-day delay, Mukhtar Mammadov, the first-ever ambassador of Azerbaijan to Israel, on Sunday evening presented his credentials to President Isaac Herzog.
Mammadov, along with the ambassadors of Guatemala, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Suriname and Malawi, had originally been scheduled to present his credentials on March 9, which was a Thursday, and a day of national paralysis, causing the presentation ceremony to be postponed.
Two of the aforementioned ambassadors are non-residents. They, together with the three resident ambassadors are expected to present their credentials in May unless a suitable date is found in April.
Historic move for Azerbaijan-Israel relations
Azerbaijan was singled out due to its historic impact.
Although Israel and Azerbaijan have had diplomatic relations for 30 years, and there has been an Israeli Embassy in Baku for much of that time, prior to January of this year, there had never been an Azerbaijani ambassador to Israel – not even a non-resident ambassador.
But in November of 2022, a historic decision was made by the Azerbaijani parliament to open an embassy in Tel Aviv.
In January of this year, Mammadov was appointed by President Ilham Aliyev.
Not only is he his country’s first ambassador to Israel, but also the first ambassador of a Muslim country with a Shi’ite majority and a Shi’ite government.
A veteran diplomat, who has also been deeply involved with education, Mammadov’s immediate past position was that of deputy education minister.
But his real specialty is international relations, in which he holds degrees from Baku State University and Khazar University. He also holds a Master's degree in European Studies from the College of Europe.
In addition to his native language, he also speaks English and French.
It is perhaps a lucky sign that the new date for his presentation of credentials happens to coincide with Ramadan.
In welcoming Mammadov, Herzog called him a pioneer and told him that he was a freak of Azerbaijan’s rich and fascinating history, and planned to visit sometime this year.
The two also discussed Azer literature – with which Herzog appeared to be familiar; trade relations, which are excellent, Azerbaijan’s economy, which the ambassador said was in good shape, especially since 2020; ongoing aggression by Armenia, which is disrupting the peace process; resort areas on the Caspian Sea; the Azerbaijan diaspora, which is scattered in surrounding countries, but mostly in Iran; and the Jewish community of Azerbaijan.
Of the latter, Mammadov said that Jews have been living in Azerbaijan for centuries. “They are citizens and part of our country. They have fought for our country and they are our brothers and sisters.”
The Azerbaijan Embassy is currently in temporary quarters in Tel Aviv, and the ambassador is also looking for a permanent residence. Meanwhile, there is a busy Azerbaijan Trade Office in Tel Aviv.
Mammadov said that it was good that he was coming to a strong foundation of relations with Israel.
His key concerns are improving trade which is already good, and initiating educational and cultural exchanges.
On the diplomatic front, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jayhun Bayramov is expected to visit Israel this week and is scheduled to meet with Herzog on Thursday.