Azerbaijan has close ties with Israel

Israel's marriage of convenience with Azerbaijan

The timing turned out to be bad: On September 17th, Armenia opened an embassy in Tel Aviv as a sign of improved relations with Israel - two weeks later the Armenian ambassador left the country again. Yerevan protested against the use of Israeli weapons in the fight against the Armenian enclave Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan.

In fact, according to experts, an Israeli self-detonating Orbiter-1K drone can also be clearly seen on a video released by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), Israel delivered $ 825 million in weapons to Baku between 2006 and 2019, and of course these are now also used in attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh.

Strategic alliance

The strategic alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan, which is now decades old, has hardly been discussed since the outbreak of the new round of the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Indeed, a conflict in which Israel is practically actively on the same side as Turkey seems to be a paradox today. That was not always the case, however. The Israeli-Turkish relations have only steadily deteriorated in the past few years. Israeli ties to Azerbaijan, which is often described as the Turkish proxy state in the Caucasus, have not been affected.

The Azerbaijanis or Azeris are Turkic people, but like the Iranians, the majority are Shiite, neither of which is an obstacle to a close alliance with Israel. However, recently Israel has also tried to normalize a complicated relationship with Armenia. And Azerbaijan, for its part, has established a more relaxed relationship with Tehran than before with Russian mediation.

The border with Iran

Tehran has always accused Baku of fueling Azeri separatism in Iran, while Baku has accused Tehran of supporting the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. This position against Iran is one of the reasons for Israel's interest in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan shares a border with Iran, and Israel is said to have helped Baku set up espionage facilities back in the 1990s - from which it benefits itself.

Another reason for Israeli interest in Azerbaijan in the past few decades was oil: up to 40 percent of Israeli demand is imported from Azerbaijan through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. However, as Israel's relations with the Arabs improve - particularly oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the richest of the United Arab Emirates - oil may play a lesser role in the future.

Transactional relationship

The Israeli-Azerbaijani relationship is probably the classic case of a "transactional", as political science calls it: Both states want something from each other, and this also applies when regional political circumstances - such as the Israeli-Turkish relationship - turn for the worse.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, diplomatic relations were quickly established after 1991 and the growing Azerbaijani armaments requirements after the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1994 were met by Israel. For Israel, however, the geographical location of Azerbaijan is important - it is the chance to look into Iran. And the Israeli arms industry will not want to do without good business with Baku either. But given the current Azerbaijani aggression, which Turkey is loudly supporting, this alliance is increasingly embarrassing for Israel. (Gudrun Harrer, October 7, 2020)