Eli Cohen is set to become the first Israeli foreign minister to step foot in Turkmenistan in nearly three decades when he arrives in the Central Asian country’s capital Ashgabat on Wednesday night to open an embassy there.
It will be the closest Israeli embassy to arch-enemy Iran as Ashgabat is located 15 miles from the Turkmenistan-Iran border, which spans 713 miles from the Caspian Sea to Afghanistan.
Shimon Peres was the last Israeli foreign minister to visit the former Soviet state, making a trip there in 1994 along with a stop in Uzbekistan.
Cohen is scheduled to meet on Thursday with Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedow and Vice President and Foreign Minister Raşit Meredow, as well as Agriculture Minister Esenmyrat Orazgeldiýew and members of the local Jewish community.
Israel’s top diplomat will depart for Turkmenistan from the South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan, where he had brought a delegation of business leaders from Israel on Tuesday.
Baku last month upgraded its relations with the Jewish state by inaugurating its first-ever embassy in Israel, stationing Ambassador Mukhtar Mammadov to Tel Aviv. It was the first time that a Shi’ite country has opened an embassy in Israel.
On Wednesday, Cohen met in Baku with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. In a statement, Cohen said that the two men “talked about the strategic regional challenges we share, chief among them regional security and the fight against terrorism.”
Cohen met with Azerbaijani Economy Minister Mikayil Jabbarov on Tuesday.
Azerbaijan also shares a border with Iran.
In an interview with Azeri media, Cohen said that Jerusalem sees Baku as a “strategic partner” with a growing trade relationship.
“I am here to fulfill this potential and further strengthen relations between the two countries. We will sign agreements on innovation, cybersecurity and education. Our governments have set a goal to strengthen bilateral cooperation. My goal is to take the relationship to a higher level, and we are working on that,” Cohen said.