Azerbaijan, a secular Muslim-majority country, is facing a delicate diplomatic challenge as it tries to maintain its strong ties with Israel while avoiding alienating its “brother” nation Turkey, and the rest of the Islamic world over the recent Gaza conflict.
Turkey, which has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause and a fierce critic of Israel, has thrown its unequivocal backing behind Azerbaijan in its ongoing dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan, which recaptured the ethnic Armenian enclave in a lightning offensive in September 2023, has relied heavily on Israeli and Turkish weapons, especially drones, to achieve its military victory.
Israel, which considers Azerbaijan a strategic partner and a reliable supplier of oil, has also reportedly provided Baku with a staging ground for conducting intelligence activities against Iran, its archenemy, and Armenia’s ally.
However, Azerbaijan’s close relationship with Israel has also drawn the ire of Armenia, which recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv in October 2023, accusing Israel of fueling the bloodshed in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia, which has a large diaspora in the United States and Europe, has also sought to mobilize international pressure on Azerbaijan and Turkey over their alleged human rights violations and war crimes in the region.
Azerbaijan, which is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Organization of Turkic States, has tried to balance its interests and values in the face of the Gaza crisis. On the one hand, it has expressed its concern over the violence and the civilian casualties on both sides and supported a UN General Assembly resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire. On the other hand, it has refrained from directly condemning Israel or Hamas and has condemned any attempts to link the Gaza conflict with the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Azerbaijan’s balancing act reflects its pragmatic and nuanced approach to foreign policy, which aims to preserve its sovereignty and security in a complex and volatile region. However, as the Gaza conflict continues to escalate and polarize the international community, Azerbaijan may find it increasingly difficult to maintain its delicate equilibrium.