EXCLUSIVE: Claim That Azerbaijan Helps Israel With Intelligence on Iran is ‘James Bond Fantasies,’ Israeli Ambassador Says (INTERVIEW)
Iran’s accusations that Azerbaijan is helping Israel spy on the Islamic Republic are “James Bond fantasies,” Rafael Harpaz, Israel’s ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan, has told The Algemeiner.
In a recent exclusive interview, Harpaz and Elin Suleymanov, the Republic of Azerbaijan’s ambassador to the U.S., addressed various claims by Iran regarding Azerbaijan’s involvement in Israeli efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran, Azerbaijan’s neighbor to its south, has repeatedly accused the the Azeris of allowing their territory to be used by Israeli intelligence operatives, according to The Jerusalem Post. Last month Iran also claimed it shot down an Israeli-made drone spying on its nuclear activity that it said took off from Azerbaijan.
Suleymanov said Azerbaijan is fiercely independent and refuses to get involved in military conflicts in its area.
“Azerbaijan became an independent country in 1991. Azerbaijan is staunchly, painfully, sensitively independent from everybody. We don’t like interference,” he said. “We don’t like our land to be used by anybody. We don’t even accept when people talk to us in a lecturing manner for instance other countries. It would be very contradictory to the very spirit of Azerbaijan to be used by anybody. We are very independent.”
“Israelis know very well and we have stated repeatedly that our territory will not be used for any military interference with any of our neighbors. We have discussed it with Iranians, with Israelis, with everybody,” he added. “We will not let our territory be used for anything like that and why should we? Azerbaijan tries to develop normal friendly relations with Iranians as well.”
Israel and Azerbaijan cooperate in a number of fields, including technology development, arms trade and oil. Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Azerbaijan sells Israel a third of its oil, according to The Jerusalem Post, and the countries contracted nearly $4 billion in arms deals over the past three years.
When asked if he thinks Iran regards Israeli-Azerbaijani relations as a threat to the Islamic republic, Suleymanov replied, “I don’t know but they shouldn’t.”
“Whatever we do with Israel first of all is not aimed against any other country, and has nothing to do with any other country,” he said. “And by the way, our relations with Iran are not aimed at any other country either and they have nothing to do with our relations with Israel, so we do very well with many countries on a bilateral basis.”
He added, “Our goal is not to threaten anybody. Our goal is to develop and to diversify our economy and I think the more diverse, the more developed Azerbaijan is, is good for everybody, for all our neighbors.”