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Looking to shore up alliances against Iran, Azerbaijan to open an embassy in Israel

Azerbaijan will become first Shi'ite-majority nation with an embassy in the Jewish state

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev with then-Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018. (Photo: Presidency of the Republic of Azerbaijan)

Azerbaijan decided today to open an embassy in Tel Aviv, making it the first Shi’ite majority country to have diplomatic offices in Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid welcomed the decision.

"Azerbaijan is an important partner of Israel and home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Muslim world," Lapid said. "The decision to open an embassy reflects the depth of the relationship between our countries. This move is the result of the Israeli government's efforts to build strong diplomatic bridges with the Muslim world."

He also thanked Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and congratulated the Azeri people "who will now be represented for the first time in the State of Israel."

Other Muslim nations have opened embassies in Israel, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, but they are Sunni.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Aliyev and his Azeri Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov in Baku in October to discuss security and policy issues and defense cooperation between the two nations.

At the time, Gantz said the purpose of his visit was to “emphasize the importance of maintaining strategic relations between the State of Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan.”

The burgeoning relations between Jerusalem and Baki “reflected on the changes in the Middle East region following the signing of the Abraham Accords,” according to an official statement from Gantz's office.

But the recent cooperation may have more to do with Iran – a common enemy for both nations.

However, as Israel's relations with Azerbaijan and its main ally Turkey have been improving, its relations with Armenia, a Christian nation which has been embroiled in a struggle over the past two years, have deteriorated. Azerbaijan used Israeli-made drones in its war against Armenia and the Mossad is believed to be operating in Azerbaijani territory in order to spy on Iran.

Iran recently opened an additional consulate in Armenia, declaring close ties with the Christian nation. 

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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