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April 19, 2013 3:58 pm

FM of Iran’s Northern Neighbor, Azerbaijan, to Visit Israel for First Time

avatar by Zach Pontz

Azerbaijan's FM Elmar Mammadyarov. Photo: Wikipedia.

Azerbaijan will send its foreign minister to Israel next week for the first time since the majority Muslim nation on Iran’s northern border regained independence from the former Soviet Union 22 years ago.

Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov plans to meet top Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials on April 21-23 to discuss the Middle East peace process and bilateral ties, the ministry announced Thursday.

Azerbaijan has been on friendly terms with Israel since it regained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. However, the country’s leaders have refrained from visiting Israel because of pressure from Iran.

Speculation as to the visit has revolved around Azerbaijan’s fears that Iran could be moving closer to producing a nuclear weapon. An Azerbaijan official was quoted by Israel’s Channel 2 as saying that the country’s policy wouldn’t be dictated to it and that “it feared becoming sandwiched between two nuclear neighbors”–Iran and Russia.

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However, a source told Israel National News that the country remains “uneasy” regarding tensions between Israel and Iran. “We hope that the conflict will end by diplomatic means,” the source said.

“In the case that the United States or Israel should want to attack Iran, Azerbaijan will remain neutral and is not prepared to become the site of ground warfare,” the source said. “Our nation will be hurt by such a situation and we do not want this.”

The source expressed hope that a diplomatic resolution would prevail.

“If diplomatic efforts fail, you have to double and triple them,” he said.

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