Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan and Head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration, Hikmet Hajiyev, recently discussed the benefits of the defense cooperation with Israel.
Hajiyev’s remarks came during an interview with the Israeli I24 News TV channel on Wednesday.
“We are thankful to the State of Israel for defense cooperation. It is one of the signs of confidence and trust between our countries that we are cooperating in such a specific area,” Hajiyev said.
He added that strengthening national defense capability was crucial for Azerbaijan, which was subjected to military occupation by Armenia for decades and fought a war to liberate occupied territories.
“Defense cooperation with Israel, in particular the Israeli defense equipment, plays a crucial and important role and we are thankful to Israel and the Israeli people. It is very much inscribed in the memory of Azerbaijani people,” Hajiyev said.
Hajiyev paid a short trip to Israel this week. He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Ministry’s Director General Ronen Levi, and Tzachi Hanegbi, National Security Advisor and Head of the National Security Agency. During the meetings they discussed a “wide range of bilateral and regional issues”.
The defense cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel was among the priority issues during Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s visit to Azerbaijan in May. Back then, President Aliyev said at a joint press briefing with President Herzog that Azerbaijan has had access to modern Israeli defense equipment for many years, which helped Azerbaijan modernize its defense capability and be able to protect its statehood and territorial integrity.
Azerbaijan has been one of the major importers of defence products from Israel for many years. In 2014-2018 and 2018-2022, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the second-largest importer of Israel-made arms was Azerbaijan. In 2016-2020, the purchases from Israel, one of the world’s top eight arms exporters, made up 69 percent of Azerbaijan’s arms imports.
In 2016, President Aliyev revealed that the defense equipment contracts between Azerbaijan and Israeli companies were close to $5 billion.
Among the major arms supplied by Israel are loitering munitions, reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), guided missiles, and ballistic missiles produced by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit, Rafael, and other Israeli defense companies.
Azerbaijani authorities confirmed the use of Israeli-made “suicide” drones in the 2020 war with Armenia in the Karabakh region, the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
Harop loitering munitions, known also as “kamikaze drones,” have reportedly had a great impact on giving the Azerbaijani army a clear edge over Armenia’s troops on the battlefields. Azerbaijani forces also deployed the Israeli-made LORA operational-tactical missile system during the war.
The Middle East Eye claimed that Armenia launched the Russian-made Iskander ballistic missiles at Azerbaijan’s capital Baku in the final days of the hostilities in November 2020. However, the Azerbaijani forces intercepted the missile with a Barak-8 air defense system purchased from IAI.
Meanwhile, in 2021, Israeli defense company Meteor Aerospace and Azerbaijan’s Caspian Ship Building Company established a joint venture, known as Caspian Meteor. Its product portfolio reportedly features hi-tech defense solutions to meet the needs of the Azerbaijani military.
The defense cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel also enables countering the threats coming from Iran – the southern neighbor of Azerbaijan and Israel’s arch-rival, who has been seen intensifying its bellicose rhetoric against Azerbaijan following the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel on March 29, 2023.