Netanyahu embarks on historic visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan

Netanyahu is on his way to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to deepen Israel’s ties with those significant countries in the Muslim world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara left on Tuesday for a two-day state visit to Muslim-majority Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in order to advance diplomatic relations.

In Azerbaijan, Netanyahu will meet with President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, where agreements will be signed by Israeli Minister Zeev Elkin on standardization, double taxation and agricultural cooperation.

The Israeli leader will lay a wreath at the memorial for fallen soldiers and then, together with Azerbaijan Education Minister Mikhayil Jabbarov, meet with members of the local Jewish community at the Or Avner Jewish education complex.

Israel has developed close ties with Azerbaijan during the two and a half decades since the latter gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

This is Netanyahu’s second visit to the country. In August 1997, serving his first term as prime minister, he briefly visited Baku and met with then-President Heydar Aliyev, who died in 2003. His son is the current president of Azerbaijan.

In May, Member of Knesset Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, met with Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov at the Israeli parliament. Both agreed that the extensive cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan should be intensified through interparliamentary work and high-level meetings.

The relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan has been largely discreet up until this point. According to a 2009 US diplomatic memo made public via Wikileaks, Aliyev once compared his country’s relationship with Israel to an iceberg: Nine-tenths of it is below the surface.

Another Country Opening Up to Israel

On Wednesday, Netanyahu will visit Kazakhstan, the first-ever visit to that country by an Israeli prime minister.

He will meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev in Astana, following which an agricultural cooperation agreement will be signed between the two countries, as will a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on visas cooperation.

Alongside the diplomatic gatherings, Netanyahu will chair a meeting of a commercial forum with Israeli and Kazakhstani businesspeople in order to encourage investment in Israel and boost bilateral trade.

Israel views economic relations as a main anchor between the countries. The Israeli business delegation is comprised of over 70 representatives from companies in the fields of homeland security, renewable energy, agriculture, water, health and medicine, and finance.

These are two large and significant countries in the Islamic world, and our goal is to strengthen diplomatic, security and economic relations with them,” Netanyahu stated before leaving Ben-Gurion Airport. “In complete contrast to what is heard from time to time, not only is Israel not suffering from diplomatic isolation, Israel is a country that is coming back. These countries want very much to strengthen ties with Israel, and following the strengthening of our relations with the major powers of Asia, with countries in Africa and with countries in Latin America, now come ties with important countries in the Islamic world. This is part of a clear policy of going out to the world. Israel’s relations are flourishing in an unprecedented manner.”

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News