LP.Please tell us about yourself?
A.I (Samir Humbatov)was born in Baku,Azerbahijan. At the moment,I am the head of the Center for International Relations and Diplomatic Studies. Doctoral student of Dumlupınar University majoring in Political Sciences and International Relations.I had participated more than 70 International Conferences and the author of up to 90 scientific articles and writings.
LP.How Azerbaijan stands out in the Muslim world in its relations with Israel?
A.Diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and Israel have been successfully continued for more than 30 years. It is true that there was a time difference in the issue of opening diplomatic corps. That is, in 1992, Israel opened its embassy in Azerbaijan. In 2023, Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Israel. The late opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Tel Aviv did not cause any concern on the part of Israel. The Israeli side also understood well that some Muslim countries, especially Iran, were trying to use various forms of pressure to prevent Azerbaijan from opening an embassy in Israel. Some states respect Azerbaijan’s cooperation with Israel and did not express their displeasure in any form, and this trend continues today. As an example, it is possible to mention the friend and brother Pakistan. Although Pakistan does not recognize Israel as an official state, it does not object to Azerbaijan’s cooperation with Israel in any form.
After the second Karabakh war, the international political conditions forced Azerbaijan to open an embassy in Israel. As a result, Azerbaijan opened its embassy in Israel in 2023. It should also be noted that Azerbaijan has decided to allocate not only an embassy in Israel, but also a representative office in the Palestinian Authority. One of the other important nuances to be added is that the relations between Azerbaijan and Israel cover both mutual political, economic, cultural, military and security fields, and are not directed against third countries.
LP.How do other countries in the region, such as Iran and Russia, view the relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan?
A.Of course, neither Iran nor Russia are interested in the entry of other actors into the region. Even using all possible options, they are trying to prevent the formation of relations between the South Caucasus states and other power centers. The progress of the processes shows that it was possible to use certain pressure mechanisms on Armenia and Georgia, but these mechanisms did not work for Azerbaijan. Before the second Karabakh war, they tried to use certain influence mechanisms, but after the second Karabakh war, the status of Azerbaijan changed and it gained the status of a victorious state.
Thus, Azerbaijan moved to a closer integration process with the international community, and Israel was directly involved in these processes. New realities and new blocs are already forming in the region. It is also observed that the Azerbaijan-Israel-Turkey-Great Britain bloc has formed against the Iran-Armenia-Russia-France bloc. This trend also means the emergence and formation of a new balance of power in the region. It should be taken into account that the Russian-Ukrainian war is also affecting the status quo of the region.
LP.How have recent events, such as the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and Iran’s nuclear program, affected the ties between Israel and Azerbaijan?
A.First of all, I should note that there is no territorial unit called Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh territorial unit was established by the USSR in 1923, and its status was canceled by the Azerbaijan SSR in November 1991. Currently, the full name of the place is Karabakh Economic Region.
As for your question, there are different approaches here. There is no doubt that Israel recognizes and supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. It declares it openly on any regional and international platforms. During the April 2016 battles, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman openly supported Azerbaijan and stated that he was “absolutely right”. As for Iran’s nuclear program, I can say that it should be considered a serious threat not only to our region, but to the whole world. Because any weapon of mass destruction in Iran’s hands, including nuclear weapons, can fall into the hands of terrorist groups at any moment, which can be considered a particularly dangerous trend for regional states. Taking into account all these mentioned, I can say that Azerbaijan and Israel can be in close positions regarding Iran’s nuclear program. It should also be noted that if Israel will carry out any attack against Iran, it will be carried out by other means, not through Azerbaijan.
LP.What role does Turkey play in the relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan, and how has this relationship evolved over time?
A.I would like to remind here that Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize Israel’s independence in 1949. Of course, Iran had close relations with Israel before the Islamic revolution. But after the revolution, these relations began to break. At the same time, it should be noted that relations between Turkey and Israel in the political, economic, military-security, and agricultural fields began to deepen from the middle of the 20th century. It is true that there were certain tensions between the parties due to the Palestinian issue, but relations were not completely severed. It can even be said that in the 70s and 90s of the 20th century, the modernization of the Turkish army was carried out by Israel. In other words, such deep relations existed between the parties.
Although there were tensions between the parties after Davos in 2009 and the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, relations began to normalize after the visit of Israeli President Isaac Herzog to Turkey in 2022. From the statements made at the level of the leaders, it can be concluded that Azerbaijan, especially Mr. President Ilham Aliyev, played a special role in the normalization of Turkey-Israel relations. Of course, Israel and Turkey seem mutually interested in cooperating with each other. This policy creates more suitable conditions for Azerbaijan. Because Azerbaijan has high relations with both Turkey and Israel. It is for this reason that we can easily note that Turkey is also interested in the development of Azerbaijan-Israel relations.
LP.What are some of the key areas of cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan, such as in the fields of security, technology, or energy?
A.The relations between Azerbaijan and Israel are not only political, but also economic, military-security, energy, agriculture and other fields are developing more intensively. Just as Azerbaijan is Israel’s main oil supplier, Israel is also considered one of Azerbaijan’s main arms suppliers. The second and main stage of mutual relations between the parties began after the election of the President of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliyev. Starting from 2005, a special place was given to Israeli-made weapons in the arsenal of the Azerbaijan Armed Forces. In 2016, during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Azerbaijan, an agreement was signed for Azerbaijan to purchase weapons worth 5 billion dollars from Israel over a long period of time.
On March 28, 2023, the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport of Azerbaijan established the Cyber Security Center of Azerbaijan together with the Technion Institute of Israel. Of course, these works constitute a certain part of relations. In addition, it is possible to note that the annual trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Israel is close to 3 billion dollars, of which approximately 1.5 billion dollars is oil sales.
In conclusion, I can mention that the basis of the relations between Azerbaijan and Israel today is not only cultural relations, but also strategic partnership. Today, more than 30,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan, especially in Baku and Guba’s Red settlement.