Gallant takes off for Azerbaijan in shadow of Iran terror, nuke threats

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant with meet Azerbaijani leaders to discuss strengthening relations between Israel and Azerbaijan.

Yoav Gallant. (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Yoav Gallant. (Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant flew off to Azerbaijan on Wednesday night in the shadow of a recent Iran-inspired attempted terror attack on Israel’s embassy there and with the Islamic Republic closer than ever to a nuclear weapon.

Azerbaijan has a uniquely important role regarding Tehran, not only because its media announced on Monday that its security services thwarted an Iranian-inspired terror attack on Israel’s embassy by an Afghan man, but also because the country borders the Islamic Republic.

In the past, numerous global media reports have assessed that Israeli intelligence forces have used the porous Iran-Azerbaijan border for operations against the nuclear program and other targets.

Gallant said Wednesday, “The visit comes at a moment which is saturated with security challenges. I will present in a precise way before the Azeris the danger to the world of an Iranian nuclear weapon. I will enumerate to them the dangerous activities Iran is undertaking on Israel’s borders, is attempting within Israel and is attempting throughout the Middle East.”

“I am going to Azerbaijan…as part of raising our relations to new levels which continue to get closer,” said Gallant.

 Azerbaijani and Israeli flags. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Azerbaijani and Israeli flags. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Azerbaijan's Middle East concerns

The defense minister is set to meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Zakir Hasanov, the head of the country's State Border Service, Elchin Guliyev, and additional officials in Azerbaijan's defense establishment.

The aim of the visit is to strengthen strategic bilateral ties, tighten diplomatic coordination, and expand the defense and technological ties between the two countries.

Azerbaijan's State Security Service announced on Monday that it had arrested Fawzan Mosa Khan, an Afghani citizen, on suspicion of conspiring with additional individuals to conduct a terrorist attack on the embassy of a third country in Baku.

A video released by the State Security Service showed Khan discussing how he would monitor the target of the attack, as well as footage of Khan monitoring the location.

Khan was planning to use explosives and other weapons in an attack on the embassy, according to the State Security Service.

The State Security Service did not initially specify which country's embassy was being targeted, but indicated that the suspect was conducting surveillance around the Hyatt Regency hotel complex, where the Israeli Embassy is located, and later reports confirmed the Israeli target.

Additional later foreign reports suggested that the Mossad was involved in helping Azerbaijan thwart the terror plot, but Israel has been more careful about keeping a low profile regarding its spy agency’s alleged activities in Azerbaijan as opposed to assisting Europe or Turkey, and made no comment.

Azerbaijan and Israel have close ties, including arms sales by Israel to Azerbaijan. Earlier this year, Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Tel Aviv.

The ties between the two countries have drawn the ire of Iran in recent years, with Azerbaijan claiming repeatedly over the past year that it has caught Iran-backed cells planning attacks in the country, including cells planning coups to establish a state under Sharia law in Azerbaijan.

Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.