The first-ever ambassador of Azerbaijan to Israel has arrived in Tel Aviv, with Azerbaijan set to become the first Shiite Muslim country to open an embassy in the Jewish state.
The move comes amid burgeoning relations between Israel and Azerbaijan and threats of violence against both by Iran. It is also the fruit of three decades of covert and overt ties rooted in a centuries-long affinity that has expanded from a security- and energy-related focus to include diverse people-to-people relations.
Ambassador Mukhtar Mammadov, who previously served as deputy education minister and is a veteran of both the Education and Foreign ministries, will work from the Azeri trade office that already exists in Tel Aviv until an embassy building is inaugurated, officials said.
“This morning a historical moment! I had the pleasure of welcoming Mukhtar Mammadov, 1st ever Azerbaijani ambassador on his arrival to Israel,” tweeted Michal Hershkovitz, director of the Central Asia and Caucasus Department in the Israel Foreign Ministry, affixing a photo with the ambassador at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday.
The ambassador is expected to present his credentials to President Isaac Herzog next week.
Israel has operated an embassy in Baku since 1993, a year after relations were established. It was one of the first countries to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991 after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
For Israel, ties with Muslim oil-rich Azerbaijan—which shares 428 miles of border with the Islamic Republic, split into two sections separated by the Armenia-Iran frontier—are of great strategic importance, both as a conduit for reconnaissance but also because Baku supplies Israel an estimated 40% of its oil needs and is a leading purchaser of its military hardware.
On Jan. 27, a gunman stormed the Azerbaijan Embassy in Tehran, killing its security chief and wounding two guards. The attack followed inciting comments in Iranian media over Azerbaijan’s ties to Israel.