Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday conducted an official visit to Azerbaijan for talks dedicated to security and policy issues and aimed at fostering defense cooperation between the countries, according to a Defense Minister press release. Gantz was accompanied by MOD Director General Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Amir Eshel, Director of the Policy and POL-MIL Bureau Dror Shalom, and Military Secretary Brig. Gen. Yaki Dolf.
Minister Gantz met with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Defense Minister of Defense Colonel General Hasanov Zakir Asgar Oglu, and Chief of State Border Service Colonel General Elchin Guliyev.
Gantz also visited the State Border Service HQ. Back in March 2012, Foreign Policy revealed that the Israeli Air Force is using the Sitalchay Military Airbase, some 340 miles from the Iranian border, as part of its plan to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
Gantz emphasized the importance of maintaining strategic relations between the State of Israel and the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as continuing to work toward regional and global peace and stability. He reflected on the changes in the Middle East following the signing of the Abraham Accords and discussed Israel’s developing ties with Turkey and additional countries in the region and the world.
In October 2001, Azerbaijan’s then-president Heydar Aliyev (Ilham’s father) declared that Israel and Azerbaijan had identical positions in the fight against international terrorism.
Israeli intelligence has been helping Azerbaijan in collecting information about extremist organizations in the region, many of which are supported by Azerbaijan’s neighbor Iran. In 2008, a plot was foiled to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Baku, located in the same high-riser as the Thai and Japanese embassies. Two Hezbollah militants went were convicted in May 2009 of placing three or four car bombs around the complex.
In 2012, Israel and Azerbaijan signed an agreement for Israel Aerospace Industries to sell $1.6 billion in drones and anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan.
Both Israel and Azerbaijan view Iran as an existential threat, and Kabul fears Tehran’s retributions against its 18 million ethnic Azeris.
In February 2012, Iran attacked Azerbaijan for collaborating against it with Mossad. A few weeks later, Azerbaijan arrested 22 individuals suspected of participating in an Iranian plot against Israeli and US targets in Azerbaijan.