Azerbaijani FM pays his first Israel visit
JERUSALEM - The Associated Press
Azeri FM Mammadyarov (L) shakes hands with Israeli President Peres. AFP photoIsrael’s president praised today Azerbaijan for playing a key role in countering Iran’s influence in the Middle East as the country’s top diplomat visited Israel for the first time.
The visit by Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov comes amid rising tensions between Israel and Iran.
President Shimon Peres told Mammadyarov that Israel considers Azerbaijan an important ally. He cited Azerbaijan’s “unique geographic location” and praised its government for taking a “clear stand” against war and terrorism.
Mammadyarov said his country, located between Russia and Iran, “is not in an easy neighborhood” and that he sees a “huge opportunity” to expand ties with Israel. The visit came as the U.S. defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, was visiting Israel to discuss the Iran situation. Iran has accused Azerbaijan of allowing the Israeli spy agency Mossad to operate on its territory and to target scientists working on Tehran’s nuclear program while Israel says authorities foiled Iranian-sponsored attacks against Israeli targets in Azerbaijan.