Azerbaijani FM: Negotiations underway to open embassy in Israel

Negotiations are under way on the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said at a press conference on Friday.

“Azerbaijan will continue to develop relations with Israel and Palestine,” Mammadyarov said commenting on the results of his recent official visit to the Middle East.

Mammadyarov visited Israel with a delegation consisting of five members of the Jewish community and members of the parliament.

Azerbeijan, a majority Shiite country bordering Iran, has had close strategic relationship with Israel since 1992.

In a private statement released through WikiLeaks, Azeri president Ilham Aliyev once compared his country's relationship with Israel to an iceberg: “Nine-tenths of it is below the surface.”

An embassy would be the most recent and most visible sign of increasing cooperation on everything from trade to official visits (Israel President Shimon Peres made a high profile visit last year).  Some 40 percent of Israel's oil supply comes from Azerbaijan.

Beyond cooperation, the two countries share other affinities. Azerbeijan, like Israel, is a democratic secular state that embraces religious and ethnic minorities. Azerbaijan gave women the right to vote in 1919 — one year before the United States did.

“My teachers were Jews. My doctors were Jews,” Ambassador Elin Suleymanov of the Republic of Azerbaijan told the Jewish Journal in a February 2007 interview. Suleymanov, who was then Consul General to the Western United States, said. “They have lived with us through good and bad times.”

Azerbaijan's most famous Jew? Chess grand master Garry Kasparov.