Israel’s Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, has inaugurated a new embassy in Turkmenistan, situated about 10 miles (17 kilometers) from the border with Iran, Israel’s long-standing adversary. The move comes as Israel seeks to strengthen its ties with strategically positioned countries in Central Asia.
“We look forward to a new era of our close relations. No doubt both countries will benefit from greater cooperation,” Cohen said during the ceremony on April 20, according to The Times of Israel.
During the ceremony in Ashgabat, Eli Cohen was accompanied by his Turkmen counterpart, Rashid Meredow, and the two officials jointly cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the embassy.
“We have a very good relationship with the State of Israel… We will do everything toward expanding and strengthening our relationship in different fields,” Meredow told reporters. “It is a very shining example of our friendship,” he added referring to the embassy opening.
Cohen arrived in Turkmenistan on April 19, becoming the second Israeli foreign minister to visit the country since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1993, two years after Turkmenistan declared independence as the Soviet Union collapsed.
Israel has had an ambassador in Ashgabat for the past ten years, but the ambassador has been working out of hotels and a temporary office. The establishment of a new embassy in Ashgabat will provide a permanent location for Israel’s diplomatic representation in Turkmenistan and will be the Israel’s closest official mission to Iran.
On April 20, Israel’s foreign minister also had a meeting with Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedow to discuss various topics. These included strengthening ties between Israel, Turkmenistan, and other Central Asian countries, regional security, border protection, collaboration in cybersecurity, and agriculture. During the meeting, it was also mentioned that Turkmenistan is considering the possibility of opening an embassy in Israel.
“Ties with Turkmenistan have great importance for security and diplomacy, and the visit will strengthen Israel’s place in the region,” Cohen said in the tweet after the meeting.
Cohen traveled to Turkmenistan after high-level talks in Azerbaijan, which shares a border with Iran. Given Israel’s increasing concerns about Iran and the need to strengthen ties in the region, his visit to Turkmenistan may have been part of broader efforts to build regional partnerships ahead of a potential confrontation with Iran.
Turkmenistan’s trade with Iran is limited, and the two countries have had disagreements regarding significant hydrocarbon reserves in the Caspian Sea. Despite the signing of a convention in 2018 that resolved such disputes among all five Caspian littoral states, Iran has yet to ratify the document. As a result, Ashgabat’s plans to construct a pipeline across the Caspian Sea to transport gas to Europe have been put on hold.