Azerbaijan on Wednesday became the first Shi’ite Muslim country to open an embassy in Israel, with the two countries’ foreign ministers meeting in Jerusalem ahead of the inauguration ceremony.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called the arrival of an ambassador from Baku and the opening of a permanent embassy in the Jewish state “historic” after 30 years of diplomatic ties.
“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Israel,” Cohen said at a press conference with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, emphasizing the close coordination on regional security with an emphasis on countering Iran, which shares 428 miles of border with Azerbaijan, split into two noncontiguous sections.
“Israel and Azerbaijan share the same perception of the Iranian threats,” Cohen said. “The Iranian ayatollah regime threatens both our regions, finances terrorism and destabilizes the entire Middle East.”
Bayramov thanked Jerusalem for supporting “Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity during almost 30 years of illegitimate occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories by Armenia.”
Cohen is set to visit Baku next month.
Later on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting with Bayramov, congratulating him on the embassy opening and the ambassador appointment and praising bilateral relations, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
Azerbaijan’s first-ever ambassador to Israel, Mukhtar Mammadov, was at the meeting during which the strengthening of ties between the two countries was discussed. Israel’s director of the National Security Council, the prime minister’s chief of staff, the prime minister’s military secretary and the deputy foreign minister of Azerbaijan were also in attendance.
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 after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In late February, Mammadov arrived in Tel Aviv before presenting his credentials to Israeli President Isaac Herzog and taking up his post. Mammadov, the outgoing deputy education minister and a veteran of both the education and foreign ministries, had been working from the Azerbaijani trade office in Tel Aviv and will now move to the embassy.
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