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Netanyahu meets Azerbaijan President, hails close ties

Israel’s Prime Minister met Azerbaijan’s President yesterday during an historic visit to the Central Asian republic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met President Ilham Aliyev, who revealed that Azerbaijan has purchased £3.8bn worth of Israeli arms.

Aliyev said: “The biggest part of these contracts has already been executed and still we continue to work on that. And we are very satisfied with the level of this cooperation.”

Media reports have suggested that these purchases include radar systems and drones, and that Azerbaijani soldiers already use Israeli-made Tavor rifles. Azerbaijan holds military significance for Israel as it borders Iran.

Speaking about his visit, Netanyahu said: “We have so many areas where we are cooperating and can cooperate to benefit of our peoples.”

He noted “robust” relations in energy, not only Azerbaijani oil “which is a very important part of our oil imports,” but also the possibility of “using common facilities for the export of gas”.

Netanyahu and Aliyev yesterday signed a variety of bilateral agreements, including on standardisation, double taxation, agricultural cooperation and the establishment of a joint commission on advancing cooperation in economic matters, science, technology, health, agriculture and trade.

Netanyahu said that Azerbaijan is a predominantly Muslim state and that the relationship with Israel is “an example of Muslims and Jews working together to secure a better future for both of us” and “an example that shines against the background of intolerance and lack of acceptance and mutual respect”.

Netanyahu has visited Azerbaijan once before during his first term as Prime Minister in the late 1990s. Today, he will visit Kazakhstan for the first time, another majority Muslim Central Asian state. He is expected to discuss security and economic cooperation with the country’s leaders. In January, Kazakhstan will take a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

On departing for Central Asia this week, Netanyahu said that his visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan demonstrates that “Israel’s relations [with the world] are growing at an unprecedented pace”.


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