Haaretz reported that since 2016, at least 92 cargo flights flown by Azerbaijani Silk Way Airlines have landed at Israel’s Ovda airbase, the only airfield in the occupied territories through which explosives are transferred.
In October 2013, the head of the Israel Civil Aviation Authority signed an exemption permitting Silk Way planes to fly shipments of explosives – “classified as dangerous materials banned to fly” – from Ovda to a military airfield on the outskirts of the Azeri capital city of Baku, the report said.
The data, it added, expose an increasing pace of flights to Baku, especially in the middle of 2016, in late 2020 and at the end of 2021, which coincide with periods of Azerbaijan-Armenia fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Haaretz also cited foreign media reports that said Azerbaijan has allowed the Israeli spy agency Mossad to set up a forward branch in Azerbaijan to monitor what is happening in neighboring Iran and has even prepared an airfield intended to aid the occupying entity in case it decides to attack Iranian nuclear sites.
It further highlighted official reports from Azerbaijan that said Israel has over the past years sold Azerbaijan the most advanced weapons, including ballistic missiles, electronic warfare systems, kamikaze drones and more.
An investigative report in the Czech media in 2018, it continued, found that weapons banned for sale to Azerbaijan were flown there in spite of the arms embargo – in a circular deal through Israel.
“Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel are discreet but close,” wrote Rob Garverick, head of the political and economic department in the US embassy in Baku, in a 2009 telegram that was published as part of the Wikileaks documents.
Each side “finds it easy to identify with the other’s geopolitical difficulties and both rank Iran as an existential security threat. Israel’s world-class defense industry with its relaxed attitude about its customer base is a perfect match for Azerbaijan’s substantial defense needs that are largely left unmet by the United States, Europe and Russia for various reasons tied to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Recent estimates show that Azerbaijan has become Israel’s largest supplier of oil while Tel Aviv is now responsible for almost 70 percent of Baku’s weapons.
In contrast to its warming of ties with Israel, Azerbaijan’s relations with Iran were strained in January following an attack on the Eurasian country’s embassy in Tehran.
Politicizing the incident, Azerbaijan closed its diplomatic mission and evacuated staff over what it called a “terrorist act,” with President Ilham Aliyev blaming it on the “Iranian establishment.”
This is while an initial investigation pointed to “personal and family-related problems” as the motive of the assailant.