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President Aliyev Highlights Defense Cooperation with Israel

By Timucin Turksoy May 31, 2023

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Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev at the joint press conference in Baku, May 30, 2023 / President.Az

Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s recent visit to Azerbaijan demonstrates the growing aspiration of the two countries to reach new levels of bilateral relations.

During the meetings in Baku, President Herzog and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev discussed the key areas for expanding cooperation, including defence, trade, tourism, cybersecurity, health, and education.

President Aliyev also highlighted the long-lasting cooperation in the area of defense industry.

“Azerbaijan has had access to modern Israeli equipment in this area for many years, which helps us to modernize our defense capability and be able to protect our statehood, our values, our national interests, and our territorial integrity,” President Aliyev said on Tuesday in a joint press briefing with President Herzog.

Azerbaijan has been one of the major importers of defence products from Israel for many years. In 2014-2018 and 2018-2022, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the second-largest importer of Israel-made arms was Azerbaijan. In 2016-2020, the purchases from Israel, one of the world’s top eight arms exporters, have made up 69 percent of Azerbaijan’s arms imports.

In 2016, President Aliyev revealed that the contracts between Azerbaijan and Israeli companies with respect to purchasing of defense equipment were close to $5 billion.

Among the major arms supplied by Israel are loitering munitions, reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), guided missiles, and ballistic missiles produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit, Rafael, and other Israeli defense companies.

Azerbaijani authorities confirmed the use of Israeli-made “suicide” drones in the 2020 war with Armenia in the Karabakh region, the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

Harop loitering munitions, known also as a “kamikaze drones,” have reportedly had a great impact on giving the Azerbaijani army a clear edge over Armenia’s troops on the battlefields. Azerbaijani forces were also seen deploying the Israeli-made LORA operational-tactical missile system during the war.

The Middle East Eye claimed that Armenia launched the Russian-made Iskander ballistic missiles at Azerbaijan’s capital Baku in the final days of the hostilities in November 2020. However, the Azerbaijani forces intercepted the missile with a Barak-8 air defense system purchased from IAI.

Meanwhile, in 2021, Israeli defense company Meteor Aerospace and Azerbaijan’s Caspian Ship Building Company established a joint venture, known as Caspian Meteor. Its product portfolio reportedly features hi-tech defense solutions to meet the needs of the Azerbaijani military.

The defence cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel also enables countering the threats coming from Iran – the southern neighbor of Azerbaijan and Israel’s arch-rival.

“We looked at the entire global and regional security structure, which is endangered and threatened by Iran – clearly something, which we discussed in depth,” President Herzog said on Tuesday in Baku.

The Iranian authorities have been seen intensifying their bellicose rhetoric against Azerbaijan following the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel on March 29, 2023.

During the post-opening press conference in Tel Aviv, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Azerbaijan and Israel share threats caused by Iran, which “creates non-stability in the Middle East by supporting and financing terrorism,” and called for joint action to contain Iran’s nuclear expansion.

Back then, Nasser Kanaani, Spokesperson for Iranian Foreign Ministry, described the diplomatic mission’s launch as an “anti-Iran stance” and demanded an explanation from Baku.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry interpreted Kanaani’s remarks as “another anti-Azerbaijani move” and “a step towards causing a crisis” in the relationship between the two neighboring countries.

The relationship between Baku and Tehran has been deteriorating, largely due to Iran’s activities in the region, including its large-scale military drills near Azerbaijani borders and growing support for Armenia.