Azerbaijani Deputy FM: Iran not giving up nuclear ambitions

In Israel for a visit, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov warned of Iran’s nefarious activities related to its dangerous nuclear program. Both Israel and Azerbaijan see Iran as an existential threat.

By: JNI.Media

Member of Knesset (MK) Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, met with Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov at the Knesset last week to discuss ways to strengthen economic cooperation between Jerusalem and Baku.

Azerbaijan is one of the few majority Muslim countries besides Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and the former Soviet republics to develop bilateral strategic and economic relations with Israel. Azerbaijan and Israel have engaged in intense cooperation since 1992.

During the meeting, Azimov suggested that Iran has not given up its nuclear ambitions, but said Tehran had suspended some aspects of its nuclear program.

The two agreed that the extensive cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan should be intensified through inter-parliamentary work and high-level meetings.

Both Israel and Azerbaijan see Iran as an existential threat. Azerbaijan fears Iranian Islamist influence, and Iran fears the influence of Azerbaijan on the 13 million Iranians who are ethnic Azeris. In February 2012, Iran chastised Azerbaijan for aiding the anti-Iranian clandestine activities of the Mossad, and a few weeks later Azerbaijan arrested 22 people in a suspected Iranian plot against Israeli and US targets in Azerbaijan.

The relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan is largely discreet. According to a 2009 US diplomatic memo made public via Wikileaks, Azeri president Ilham Aliyev once compared his country’s relationship with Israel to an iceberg: Nine-tenths of it is below the surface. In 2008, a plot was foiled to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Baku, located in a high-rise building along with the Thai and Japanese embassies. Two Hezbollah terrorists were tried for the attempt in 2009.

In 2012, Azerbaijan signed a deal to buy $1.6 billion in drones and anti-aircraft and missile defense systems from Israel Aerospace Industries.

In March 2012, Foreign Policy reported that the Israel Air Force (IAF) was preparing to use the Sitalchay Military Airbase, located 340 miles from the Iranian border, for air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The visiting Deputy FM Azimov lauded the achievements of the Israel-Azerbaijan Parliamentary Friendship Group, which is headed by Israel’s next Defense Minister, MK Avigdor Liberman.

Hanegbi briefed Azimov on the recent developments in the Israeli political arena and inquired about Azerbaijan’s geopolitical situation and its relations with its neighbors.