Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen will on Thursday inaugurate Israel’s first permanent embassy in Turkmenistan.
The first visit to the Central Asian nation on the doorstep of Iran by an Israeli foreign minister in nearly three decades, coming a day after Cohen’s trip to Azerbaijan, highlights the Jewish state’s growing ties in the region.
The embassy will be located less than 12 miles from the border with Iran, a Foreign Ministry official said, making it the closest Israeli mission to the Islamic Republic.
Turkmenistan’s border with Iran stretches 713 miles, making it, along with neighboring Azerbaijan, a strategic partner for Israel.
Cohen also met with Turkmenistan’s President Serdar Berdimuhamedow as well as with Foreign Minister Raşit Meredow and Agriculture Minister Esenmyrat Orazgeldiýew.
Israel is hopeful that Turkmenistan—which has voiced interest in strengthening relations—will follow in Azerbaijan’s footsteps and open its own embassy in Israel as well.
A Muslim-majority country of about six million people, Turkmenistan, located just north of Iran, established relations with Israel in the run-up to its declaration of independence in 1991. About a decade ago, Israel opened a temporary embassy there that has been active until now. The permanent embassy has now been completed.
Over the years, senior officials from Israel and Turkmenistan have visited each other’s countries, signing agreements of cooperation in the fields of politics, trade and energy. Recently, progress has been made in collaboration on health and cyber defense as well.
Turkmenistan has one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world and significant quantities of oil.
Ishmael Khaldi, Israel’s first Bedouin ambassador, took up his post in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat several weeks ago.
Beyond defense ties, Israel will be offering Turkmenistan technological, medical and agricultural know-how, the Foreign Ministry official said.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, Cohen met in Baku with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, weeks after Azerbaijan became the first Shi’ite nation to open an embassy in Israel.
They discussed the fight against terrorism and the expansion of security and economic cooperation between the two countries.
“I congratulated the president on his decision to open an embassy in Israel,” Cohen tweeted. “This demonstrates the high esteem in which the State of Israel is held in the world.”
Cohen also met with his Azeri counterpart and members of the Jewish community.
Trade between the two countries mushroomed from $200 million last year to an expected half billion dollars this year, a Foreign Ministry official said.
Representatives from 30 Israeli financial companies met with their Azeri counterparts at an economic forum in the country on Wednesday.
Separated by the Caspian Sea, both Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are located on Iran’s northern border, making them key security partners for Israel.