Israel’s defense minister visited Azerbaijan on Thursday, seeking to strengthen ties between countries with shared opposition to Iran.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Azerbaijani officials agreed to work together to deter threats from Iran, the Israeli Defense Ministry said. Israel views Iran as its archenemy, while Azerbaijan, which borders Iran to the north, also has a rocky relationship with Iran.
“We have many shared challenges — in particular the fight against terrorism — which not only threatens national security but also aims to destabilize the region,” Gallant said in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. “Together, we may further deepen the ties between our countries and strengthen the cooperation between our defense establishments and our forces.”
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing Iran’s calls for Israel’s destruction and its support of hostile militant groups. It also accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear bomb, a claim that Iran denies.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to take military action against Iran, and Iran has accused Israel of involvement in a series of mysterious attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists and installations. On Thursday, Gallant said that Israel recently allocated billions to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Azerbaijan accuses Iran of supporting hard-line Islamists who tried to overthrow the government in Baku, a charge Iran also denies.
Relations between Tehran and Baku have soured further this year. In May, Iran expelled four Azeri diplomats, a month after Azerbaijan expelled four Iranian diplomats. In January, a gunman stormed Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran’s capital, killing its security chief and wounding two guards.
In March, Azerbaijan opened an embassy in Israel in another sign of warming ties.