Israeli President Isaac Herzog will travel to Azerbaijan on Tuesday, on a visit meant to strengthen the strategic ties between Israel and the Shia Muslim country bordering on Iran.
During the two-day visit, Herzog plans to meet with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev and to take part in a special event marking the 75th anniversary of Israeli independence.
Aliyev will welcome Herzog and his wife, Michal, at his palace, with an honor guard, and the presidents plan to hold a diplomatic meeting, followed by a lunch for the two couples.
Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel will accompany Herzog to Azerbaijan, where he plans to meet with his counterparts in Baku to discuss greater cooperation in training doctors, emergency preparedness and digital health.
Israel and Azerbaijan are expected to sign an agreement on health cooperation during the visit.
The Herzogs will also meet with members of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan. They are expected to be met at the airport by 30 children who attend the Chabad school in Baku, waving the flags of Israel and Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Israel for the first time in March of this year, though Israel has had an embassy in Baku since 1993.
Baku had been hesitant to open an embassy in Israel in the past for fear of alienating other Muslim-majority states or provoking Iran but saw the Abraham Accords and Israel's rapprochement with Turkey, in which Aliyev played a part, as turning points.
Israel and Azerbaijan have a close defense relationship. Jerusalem supplied drones to Baku that were used in its 2020 war with Armenia, according to foreign reports.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that 69% of Azerbaijan’s arms imports in 2016-2020 came from Israel, which represents 17% of Israel’s arms exports in that period.
About 40% of the petroleum imported to Israel comes from Azerbaijan.
Azeri politicians tied the move to open an embassy in Israel to Iran opening an additional consulate and declaring close ties with Armenia, with which Azerbaijan fought a war in 2020.
Iran and Azerbaijan share a 670-kilometer border, and there has long been speculation that Israel has launched covert operations in Iran from its northern neighbor.
Last year, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian accused Israel of having “established its presence in several regions of Azerbaijan,” which Baku denied.
Soon after, Iran staged a military drill along the border. Aliyev responded by having himself photographed with Israeli Harop kamikaze drones, which are produced in his country.
“The diplomatic visit to Central Europe strengthens our strategic coordination with our allies and creates opportunities for Israel to promote its diplomatic and economic interests on the continent.”Eli Cohen
Israel's Eli Cohen to make a diplomatic trip to Central Europe
Also this week, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will be making a diplomatic trip to Central Europe to meet with senior government figures in Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria. He plans to visit four countries and meet with five foreign ministers in four days.
“The diplomatic visit to Central Europe strengthens our strategic coordination with our allies and creates opportunities for Israel to promote its diplomatic and economic interests on the continent,” Cohen said. “Israel’s allies in the EU play an important role…from economic, cultural and technological cooperation, to our joint fight against terror and a nuclear Iran.”