Vol. 6, No. 9-10 (May 15, 2013)

Azerbaijan expands strategic partnership with Israel and Palestine

Gulnara Inanc
Director, Ethnoglobus
An International Online Information and Analysis Center

The first ever visit by an Azerbaijani foreign minister to Israel and Palestine, a visit all sides called historic, underscored the growing strategic partnership between Baku and its two partners in the Middle East.  The first person Elmar Mammadyarov met in Israel was the chairman of the Knesset Commission on Foreign Affairs and Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, who had long lobbied for close cooperation and a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan.  In large measure as a result of his efforts, earlier attempts by the Armenian lobby to raise the so-called “Armenian genocide” in the Knesset were blocked.  Last year, in response to the latest such attempt, Israeli President Shimon Peres and A. Lieberman, who was then Israeli foreign minister, openly declared that because of the country’s strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, the issue of the “Armenian genocide” would not be discussed in the Knesset.

Mammadyarov arrived in Tel Aviv on March 24th, the very day Armenians have declared a memorial day for the “genocide.”  Armenian media on that occasion put out information about a Knesset discussion of the “genocide,” but that did not happen.  Undoubtedly, it was very important for Azerbaijan to receive reassurance that the recognition of the so-called “Armenian genocide” would not be considered in the Knesset. 

Among the notable outcomes of the Azerbaijani foreign minister’s visit to Israel was Baku’s declaration on his return that Azerbaijan is ready to sign a broad agreement concerning the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. [1] Israel beyond any doubt is not in a position to promise something regarding that conflict or to resolve it in some way.  But Tel Aviv is in a position to seek the broader support of Jewish groups around the world regarding the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict.  And consequently, the growing ties between Azerbaijan and Israel open the way for progress in the talks just as was the case some five years ago.

Earlier this year, the Jewish community of the United States held a conference on “Israeli Relations with the States of the South Caucasus.”  Avigdor Lieberman, with whom Foreign Minister Mammadyarov met in Israel, and President Shimon Peres have been devoting particular attention to the development of relations with the South Caucasus countries in general and Azerbaijan in particular. [2] Following his meeting with Lieberman, Mammadyarov went to Ramallah where the Palestinian authority declared its support for Baku’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and on the issue of the so-called “Armenian genocide.”  

Azerbaijan supports the independence of Palestine and the division of Jerusalem, and in response to this support, it is seeking Palestinian backing on the two issues of greatest importance to itself.  A conference in Baku scheduled to be held later this summer can be considered part of the result of the Ramallah talks. 

Palestine enjoys authority and is at the center of attention of the Islamic world.  Azerbaijan, in turn, has grown into an economically and politically powerful country not only in the South Caucasus, but more broadly as well.  Rid al Maliki, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Autonomy, stressed this in his meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan enjoys authority in the leading international organizations. [3] Therefore, the support of Ramallah is significant, because it brings with it the attention of the Islamic and international community.  Thus, Azerbaijan was able to achieve its goal of gaining Palestine’s support for its positions.  In view of this, it is worth recalling the declaration made by Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Haled ben Saud ben Haled, that the international community must mount pressure on Armenia to secure a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict [4] and a second declaration by Iranian leader Ali Khamenei that “Karabakh is a Muslim land … something that is supported at the highest levels.”

Both of these declarations can be seen as the result of Baku’s careful and balanced foreign policy.  Of course, one should focus attention on the fact that this historic visit to Israel took place after the Turkish-Israel rapprochement.  Interestingly, one of the clearest opponents of that rapprochement, A. Lieberman, nonetheless agreed with it.  The Israeli media suggested that he had not been informed about the plans for this new coming together.  Lieberman thus had to “close his eyes” and put out the red carpet for Mammadyarov.  Having lost its Arab partners after the Arab spring, Israel had no choice but to return to strategic relations with Turkey.  That, in turn, has increased the importance of the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Israel triangle both in Tel Aviv and in the Muslim Middle East.

Azerbaijan’s geographic location next to Iran also increases its strategic significance, something that Israeli President Peres went out of his way to stress.  This does not mean that Baku offered or is planning to offer its territory as a place des armes for a military operation against Iran.  Baku has repeatedly indicated that cooperation with Israel does not include that and is generally not aimed against Iran, even though many observers tend to see Baku’s cooperation with Israel as the former’s way of restraining Iran. 


[1] See http://m.amerikaninsesi.org/a/1649480.html (accessed 28 April 2013).

[2] See http://izrus.co.il/dvuhstoronka/article/2012-02-28/17144.html#ixzz2QngVkiJZ (accessed 28 April 2013).

[3] See http://www.vesti.az (accessed 28 April 2013).

[4] See http://www.rosbalt.ru/exussr/2012/06/15/993121.html (accessed 28 April 2013).