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Israeli foreign minister to inaugurate embassy in Turkmenistan, 15 miles from Iranian border

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is currently visiting two Muslim countries that border Iran

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen arrives at a government conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Jan. 15, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, currently visiting Azerbaijan, will travel to Turkmenistan on Wednesday night, making him the first Israeli minister to visit the country since Shimon Peres in 1994. 

Cohen will inaugurate an Israeli embassy in the Turkmen capital city of Ashgabat, about 15 miles from the Iranian border. It will be the Israeli embassy closest in proximity to Iran. 

Israel has had an ambassador in Turkmenistan for over 10 years but had not previously opened an embassy. 

Cohen will meet Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedow and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov during his visit. He will also meet with the agricultural minister and heads of the Turkmen Jewish community.

Turkmenistan is home to fewer than 1,000 Jews, many of Persian descent, as their ancestors fled from persecution in Persia in the late 1830s. 

Turkmenistan is a closed state run by a dictator. According to the United Nations, the state has a poor human and civil rights record. 

The country shares a 713-mile-long border with Iran, and Israel’s interest in the country appears to be strategic. 

Cohen, arrived in neighboring Azerbaijan on Tuesday. The Shia Muslim country has become an unlikely ally of Israel in recent years based upon cooperation in trade, energy solutions and defense. Azerbaijan supplies 30% of Israel’s oil. 

“Azerbaijan is a strategic partner of Israel due to its geographical location and the fact that it is a Muslim-Shiite country that opened an embassy in Israel,” Cohen said before his flight. 

Israel’s relations with Azerbaijan improved considerably following Azerbaijan’s recent conflict with Armenia in 2020, when Israel supported the country with arms deals. 

While Israel’s position vis-à-vis Azerbaijan was not popular with the general Israeli public, which is often more sympathetic to Armenia due to the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turkish Empire, many analysts view Israel’s support as a calculated move designed to garner allies against a potential operation against Iran’s nuclear program. 

Azerbaijan has denied it will allow Israel to use its airstrips for an operation against Iran. However, the country has continued to increase cooperation with Israel, appointing its first ambassador to Israel in January and opening its first embassy in Tel Aviv in March.  

With Iranian aggression towards Israel continuing, the Jewish state might be working to gain support for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear targets. Improving ties with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will likely be part of that strategy. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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