NewsBlaze, a US-based portal, has published an interview with Mukhtar Babayev, Azerbaijan’s first Ambassador to Israel.
Mukhtar Babayev was interviewed by President of the US-Azerbaijan Cultural Foundation Nurit Greenger.
40-years-old Mukhtar Babayev is married with two children. He speaks four languages – Azerbaijani, Turkish, English and Russian
Between 2009-2013, he worked at the Azeri Foreign Ministry in various positions, including at the embassy in Belgium. Later he began holding senior positions in the Ministry of Education, initially, as the head of the international cooperation department, and then as the deputy minister of science and education.
Azerbaijan’s first ambassador to Israel: “Our relations with Iran are at an all-time low”
Since declaring its independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has positioned itself as one of Israel’s best friends in general, and in the Muslim world in particular. The secular Shiite state became a significant supplier of oil to Israel, at the same time that Jerusalem became a major supplier of military equipment to Azerbaijan. However, and despite the fact that Israel had an ambassador in Baku since 1993, Azerbaijan did not see fit to correct the asymmetry and open an embassy in Israel until 2023.
In March 2023, the friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan received historic validation when the Muslim country finally opened its embassy in Tel Aviv.
In an interview with the Globes newspaper, the Azeri ambassador refers to the tensions with Iran, invites Israeli high-tech companies to operate from Baku and is sure that the relations between the countries are not only about oil and weapons.
The 30-year-long wait ended this year. Last November, the message came from the President of Azerbaijan that his government approved the opening of its embassy in Tel Aviv. In January, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, decided to appoint the Deputy Minister of Science and Education, Mukhtar Mammadov, as his country’s first ambassador to Israel.
That same month, an event occurred that may shed light on some of the reasons why Baku avoided the step of opening its embassy in Israel: a gunman attacked the Azerbaijani embassy in Iran, killing the chief security officer and injuring two others. Since then, an unusual situation has arisen in which the Azerbaijani embassy in Tel Aviv is more active, while the embassy in Tehran is empty.
In an interview with Globes, the Azeri ambassador referred to his country’s relations with Iran, which he says are at an all-time low. He invites Israeli companies to operate from Baku, deals with the expansion of Israeli tourism to Azerbaijan, and states that “the sky is no longer the limit for relations between Azerbaijan and Israel.”
Tensions With Tehran Increase
“We are interested in good relations with every country, especially with our neighbors,” explains Mammadov regarding Azerbaijan’s hostile neighbor to the south, Iran. “With Iran we have trade relations and cooperation in the fields of energy and transportation. Azerbaijan has never been the one to harm its relations with any country. Unfortunately, with Iran we are at the lowest level of relations since we got our independence.”
The attack on Azerbaijan’s embassy in Tehran in January 2023 was a new peak for Iranian aggression that was also reflected in many military exercises along the border between the two countries. Moreover, the incident was not the last to come. In March, Azerbaijan MP Fazil Mustafa was shot outside his home, but survived the attack. The finger of blame, once again, was pointed at the Ayatollahs’ regime. “Azerbaijan is not the one that brought the relations to the current state,” explains Mammadov, “we want good relations with Iran, but we have not seen any results for the investigation of the attack on the embassy.”
Recently, the possibility of a renewed, even if reduced, nuclear agreement between Iran and the US has come up again. Baku, despite the state of its relations with Tehran, is less concerned about it, and it even seems that Azerbaijan is not in a position similar to Israel’s on this issue. “These matters are between the US and Iran. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries,” explains the ambassador.