Azerbaijan’s makes the country extremely strategic for all the major regional players. Its significance for Israel becomes even greater when considering that it borders Iran.
By HERB KEINON
OCTOBER 1, 2020
In April 2012, then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman – who at that time had been foreign minister for some three years – told the local press during a visit to Azerbaijan that he considered the deepening of the relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan as one of the main achievements of his term in office.
But Liberman’s interest in Azerbaijan, and his understanding of its strategic significance for Israel, predated even his years in the Foreign Ministry.
Back in the days when Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were not political adversaries but, rather, allies and he served as director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office during Netanyahu’s first term in office, he was instrumental in arranging a brief stopover in Baku for Netanyahu in 1996 on the way back home to Israel from Southeast Asia – the first ever by an Israeli prime minister.
Azerbaijan, he said in an interview, “sits at the meeting point of three empires – the Persian, Ottoman and Russian empires.”
That location makes the country extremely strategic for all the major regional players. Its significance for Israel becomes even greater when considering that it borders Iran.
“It is important that we have a [friendly] state in that location, a Muslim state, modern and secular,” said Liberman, who visited the country three times as foreign minister and once as defense minister.
Perhaps because of a special affinity he feels to Azerbaijan as a result of being a key architect in building the relations between Jerusalem and Baku, Liberman was eager to do something Wednesday that Foreign Ministry officials pointedly have refrained from doing for some time: talk on record about the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflict, a conflict that exploded this week with fierce fighting in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region.