Azerbaijan seeks to mediate between Turkey and Israel

Turkey and Israel played important roles in Azerbaijan’s recent victory over Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. Now, several weeks after the ceasefire, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev is trying to repair relations between his two allies, Israeli officials told me.

The big picture: Drones and other weapons systems from Turkey and Israel helped Azerbaijan to achieve military superiority over Armenia. But relations between Turkey and Israel have been frozen for most of the past decade.

Driving the news: Aliyev has increased tensions between Israel and Turkey in a recent liaison with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Israeli officials said.

  • Aliyev’s aides told his Israeli colleagues that Erdoğan responded positively to the idea of ​​improving relations.
  • Erdoğan has a history of bellicose comments about Israel, but Aliyev’s advisers claimed that he is not anti-Israel, but was incited against Israel by advisers who no longer advise him.
  • Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said in a recent call with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi that Azerbaijan thinks it is a good time for Israel and Turkey to fix the barriers.

What they are saying: “Aliyev and his senior advisers have announced that they want to see their two good friends – Turkey and Israel – return to normal relations and that they are willing to help make that happen,” an Israeli official told me.

  • Israel’s Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the story, as did Aliyev’s foreign policy adviser.

Flashback: Israeli-Turkish relations have been deteriorating since the Gaza war in 2008, and contacts have been frozen almost entirely after the “Gaza Flotilla incident” in 2010, in which Israeli commandos attacked activists who were trying to break an Israeli blockade to deliver helps Gaza.

  • Then President Barack Obama facilitated a trilateral call with Netanyahu and Erdoğan in 2013 to try to promote a reconciliation agreement.
  • These negotiations dragged on until 2016, and the eventual deal broke up two years later, when a new crisis emerged on the Temple Mount.

The most recently: In recent months, there have been several signs that Turkey wants to re-engage with Israel, in particular over its dispute with Greece and Cyprus over the exploitation of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean.

  • But Israeli officials say they will be very cautious, given their suspicions about Erdoğan’s true intentions.
  • In any case, Israel will not damage its relations with Greece and Cyprus to repair relations with Turkey.