Liberman may visit Azerbaijan amid Iran tensions (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 04/20/12)
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Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is expected to visit Azerbaijan by
the end of the month, in a trip indicating the flourishing of ties
with the strategically important country on Iran’s northern border.
According to the Vestnik Kavkaza website, which covers the Caucasus
region, Liberman is expected to visit Baku on April 23 to discuss all
aspects of bilateral relations.
The schedule for the visit “remains secret,” the website said.
A spokesman for Liberman would neither confirm nor deny the visit.
The swiftly developing ties between the two countries was thrust into
the headlines late last month when Foreign Policy magazine ran an
article claiming that Israel had gained access to an Azerbaijan
airfield to facilitate a possible attack on Iran.
“The Israelis have bought an airfield, and the airfield is called
Azerbaijan,” the report quoted an unnamed US official as saying.
Azerbaijani and Israeli officials denied the report. Israeli
officials suggested it was intended to derail any possible attack on
In any case, ties between the two countries are booming.
Azerbaijan supplies a large percentage of Israel’s oil needs, and
Israel – according to foreign reports – recently inked a $1.6 billion
arms deal with Baku.
In March, Azerbaijani officials announced the arrest of 22 people on
suspicion of spying for Iran. The 22, according to the Azerbaijani
national security minister, were said to have received orders from
the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to “commit terrorist acts against
the US, Israeli and other Western state’s embassies and the
Iran has accused Azerbaijan of helping Israel assassinate nuclear
scientists inside the Islamic Republic.
This week, Agriculture Minister Orit Noked visited Azerbaijan.
In November, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau visited the
country, as did Communications and Welfare and Social Services
Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Liberman last visited Azerbaijan, which now is a member of the UN
Security Council, in February 2010.
The Azerbaijani website News.AZ carried an interview earlier this
month with Yevda Abramov, an MP for the ruling New Azerbaijan Party
and chairman of the Azerbaijan- Israel interparliamentary working
group, who said the relationship between the countries has reached
the level of a “strategic partnership.”
Abramov said that Israel has provided support to Azerbaijan
in “creating a military and industrial complex,” and that
Israel “sells modern military equipment to Azerbaijan.”
“Today, there are 100,000 former Azerbaijani citizens in Israel. This
is a large diaspora,” Abramov said. “Therefore, Azerbaijan lays big
hopes on its diaspora in Israel. This diaspora plays a very big role
in bringing Azerbaijan’s position to the international community.
Azerbaijan will continue developing close ties with Israel.”
Asked about how Tehran viewed his country’s relationship with Israel,
Abramov said that while “Azerbaijan does not depend on Iran,” the
fact that there is a massive Azerbaijani population in Iran obligates
Baku to “use diplomatic ways to explain to the Iranian side that the
Israeli arms purchased by Azerbaijan do not target them.”
At the same time, he said, “Tehran should realize that Azerbaijan is
disappointed with Iran’s close ties with Armenia.”
“Iran provides vital assistance to Armenia,” he said.
“Had it not been for the Iranian assistance, the Karabakh conflict
would have found its solution in a very short period.
In other words, Iran feeds vitamins to the exhausted organism of
Armenia. Azerbaijan has more grounds for complaint than the Iranian
side.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/20/12)
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