Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov in Baku on Thursday, July 13, 2023. The visit was aimed at strengthening the strategic ties however Iran perceived the visit as a serious threat and challenge to Iran’s national security.
Gallant and Aliyev discussed various regional and global developments, as well as areas of security and industrial cooperation. They also expressed appreciation for the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel earlier this year, which marked a milestone in their diplomatic relations. Gallant said that Azerbaijan was not only a strategic partner but also an asset with great regional influence in the economic, energy security and additional fields.
Israel has also accused Iran of behind the foiled attack of the Israeli embassy in Baku. The visit of Israel’s defense minister comes after the statement of Israel’s Foreign Minister’s accusations towards Iran.
Iran is not comfortable with the increasing influence of Israel near its border, as it fears that Israel could use Azerbaijan as a base for espionage or military operations against it. Iran also has a large ethnic Azeri minority that it suspects could be influenced by Baku’s secular and pro-Western policies. Iran has tried to balance its relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia, which are locked in a conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The visit to Azerbaijan provoked Iran’s anger and condemnation, as Tehran considers Baku as its historical ally and neighbor, and Israel as its archenemy. Iran accused Israel of meddling in its affairs and trying to undermine its security and sovereignty. Iran also denied any involvement in the attack on the Israeli embassy in Baku in May, which Israel blamed on Iran. Iran warned Azerbaijan not to fall into Israel’s trap and to respect its territorial integrity and national interests.