Officials in Azerbaijan denied a report that they will allow Israeli military forces access to air bases in the country from which to attack Iran.
A report in Foreign Policy (FP) magazine in the U.S. said that senior American diplomats and military intelligence claimed that Azerbaijan, which borders Iran’s northwestern frontier, granted the Israeli Air Force permission to use local airfields in the event Israel plans to launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Israelis have bought an airfield, and the airfield is called Azerbaijan, Foreign Policy quoted a U.S. administration official as saying.
FP indicated that there are four abandoned Soviet-era air bases in Azerbaijan which could be made available to Israel.
I doubt that there's actually anything in writing, a former U.S. diplomat told FP.
But I don't think there's any doubt -- if Israeli jets want to land in Azerbaijan after an attack, they'd probably be allowed to do so. Israel is deeply embedded in Azerbaijan, and has been for the last two decades.
The FP report also said that the presence of Israelis in Azerbaijan would complicate efforts to resolve the spiraling crisis between Iran and Israel. In the event of a war in the Persian region, the Caucasus would also be dragged in.
We're watching what Iran does closely, a U.S. intelligence officer told FP. But we're now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we're not happy about it.
FP also noted that another regional power player, Turkey, is gravely concerned about any security alliance between Israel and Azerbaijan.
However, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that a spokesman for the defense ministry of Azerbaijan rejected the FP claims as “absurd and groundless.
An official with Azerbaijan's presidential administration, Ali Hasanov, similarly blasted the allegations as an attempt to damage relations between Azerbaijan and Iran.
We have stated on numerous occasions and we reiterate that there will be no actions against Iran... from the territory of Azerbaijan, Hasanov stated, according to AFP.
However, in early March, Azerbaijan security officials arrested 22 people who were plotting to bomb U.S. and Israeli targets in the country’s capital, Baku. The Azerbaijan government accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards of being behind the conspiracy.
Israel and Azerbaijan have good relations – so good, in fact, that last month the two countries signed a $1.6-billion arms deal earning the wrath of both Turkey and Iran.
Since 1996, senior Israeli government officials have made several trips to Baku.
Azerbaijan has also tried to maintain good relations with its Iranian neighbors. A few weeks ago, Azerbaijan’s defense minister Safar Abiyev visited Iran and said: We will not allow Azerbaijan's soil to be used against Iran under any conditions.”