by WorldTribune Staff, December 14, 2016
Azerbaijan has signed a $5 billion deal to buy weapons and security equipment from Israel.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced the deal on Dec. 13 during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s state visit to Baku. The arms deal reportedly will include missile-defense systems.
Aliyev’s comments came amid ongoing hostile relations between Azerbaijan and southern neighbor Iran. Teheran’s leaders have repeatedly condemned Azerbaijani-Israeli ties, including in the past week.
Analysts say Iran sees the growing closeness between Azerbaijan and Israel as a threat to its security and claims that Israel is using Azerbaijan as a forward base to gather intelligence and prepare for a potential military strike.
Netanyahu spent six hours in Azerbaijan, a majority Shi’ite state, before flying to Kazakhstan, a majority Sunni country, for meetings on Dec. 14.
Israel purchases more than half of its oil from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Netanyahu and Aliyev also signed economic cooperation agreements in the fields of agriculture, prevention of double taxation and mutual quality standards during a two-hour meeting on Dec. 13.
“We’re very satisfied with the level of this cooperation,” Aliyev said during a joint press conference with Netanyahu following the meeting.
Both Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan want to strengthen their ties with Israel, Netanyahu said, and “following the strengthening of our relations with powers in Asia and countries in Africa and Latin America, now comes the connection with important countries in the Muslim world.”
Though Netanyahu briefly visited Azerbaijan during his first term as prime minister in 1997, this will be the first-ever visit of a sitting Israeli prime minister to Kazakhstan.