Mukhtar Mammadov, first ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Israel
Staff: 40 years old, married with two children
Languages: He speaks four languages: Azerbaijani, Turkish, English and Russian.
Professional: First ambassador of Azerbaijan to Israel. Between 2009 and 2013, he worked at the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs in various positions, including at the embassy in Belgium. Later he went on to hold senior positions in the Ministry of Education, initially as head of the international cooperation department, and later as vice minister of science and education.
Relations with Iran
Azerbaijan’s first ambassador to Israel: “Our relations with Iran are at their lowest point”
Since it declared its independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has positioned itself as one of the best friends of Israel in general, and of the Muslim world in particular. The secular Shiite state became a major oil supplier to Israel, at the same time that Jerusalem became a major supplier of military equipment to Azerbaijan. However, despite the fact that Israel had had an ambassador in Baku since 1993, Azerbaijan did not see fit to correct the asymmetry and open an embassy in Israel until 2023.
In March 2023, the friendship between Israel and Azerbaijan received historic validation when the Muslim country finally opened its embassy in Tel Aviv.
In an interview with the Globes newspaper, the Azeri ambassador refers to tensions with Iran, invites Israeli high-tech companies to operate from Baku and is sure that relations between the countries are not just about oil and weapons.
The 30-year wait ended this year. Last November, the message came from the president of Azerbaijan that his government approved the opening of his embassy in Tel Aviv. In January, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev decided to appoint Deputy Minister of Science and Education Mukhtar Mammadov as his country’s first ambassador to Israel.
That same month, an event occurred that may shed light on some of the reasons why Baku avoided the step of opening its embassy in Israel: a gunman attacked the Azerbaijani embassy in Iran, killing the head of security and wounding two others. . Since then, an unusual situation has arisen in which the Azerbaijani embassy in Tel Aviv is more active, while the embassy in Tehran is empty.
In an interview with Globes, the Azeri ambassador referred to his country’s relations with Iran, which he says are at an all time low. He invites Israeli companies to operate from Baku, deals with the expansion of Israeli tourism to Azerbaijan and claims that “The sky is no longer the limit for relations between Azerbaijan and Israel.”
Tensions rise with Tehran
“We are interested in having good relations with all countries, especially with our neighbors,” explains Mammadov regarding Azerbaijan’s hostile neighbor to the south, Iran. “With Iran we have trade and cooperation relations in the fields of energy and transportation. Azerbaijan has never been the one to damage its relations with any country. Unfortunately, with Iran we are at the lowest level of relations since we gained our independence.”
The attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran in January 2023 was a new spike in Iranian aggression that was also reflected in many military exercises along the border between the two countries. Furthermore, the incident was not the last to come. In March, Azerbaijani parliamentarian Fazil Mustafa was shot outside his home but survived the attack. The accusing finger, once again, pointed to the regime of the ayatollahs. “Azerbaijan is not the one who brought relations to the current state”, Mammadov explains, “We want good relations with Iran, but we haven’t seen any results for the embassy attack investigation.”
Recently, the possibility of a renewed, if scaled-down, nuclear deal between Iran and the US has resurfaced. Baku, despite the state of its relations with Tehran, is less concerned about it, and it even seems that Azerbaijan is not in a position similar to Israel’s on this issue. “These issues are between the United States and Iran. We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.” explains the ambassador.
Mukhtar Mammadov is no stranger to the world of diplomacy. The Azerbaijani official has a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Baku (2004), a master’s degree in European studies from the College of Europe in Belgium (2007) and a master’s degree in public administration from the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Azerbaijan ( 2018). Between 2005 and 2013, he worked at the Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs in various positions, including at the embassy in Belgium between 2009 and 2013.
At the end of this post, Mammadov joined the Ministry of Education, serving as head of the department for international cooperation and chief of staff of the ministry until 2021. In the same year, he was promoted to deputy science minister. and education, which he held until he was asked to serve as ambassador to Israel this year.
As mentioned, the cooperation between the two countries was close long before his arrival in Tel Aviv. According to data from Baku, in 2021 Israel imported 1.7 million tons of oil from Azerbaijan; in 2022 there was a jump of 25% to 2.2 million tons of oil, and in 2023 Israel managed to import 801 thousand tons until April. In other words, at the current rate, another increase is expected until the end of 2023.
On the other hand, according to data from SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between 2018 and 2022 Azerbaijan was the second largest security export destination for Israel, with 9.1% of all exports. Considering the organization’s estimates that Israeli arms exports rank 10th in the world, the scope can be understood. The same diverse military assets that Israel provides to Azerbaijan, from rifles to missiles to armored vehicles, greatly helped Azerbaijan defeat Armenia in the Second Karabakh War, in 2020.
Despite the trade figures between Israel and Azerbaijan, Mammadov emphatically states that “Relationships are not just about oil and guns.”
According to, “different countries, and not only Azerbaijan and Israel, sell and buy everything. Azerbaijan sells natural gas to about ten countries of the European Union. This is not to say that the relationship between us and these countries is based solely on energy. We are developing the relationship between the countries in various fields, for example in education”.
A bridge to business opportunities
Excluding the peak of the Corona period (2021-2020), the total volume of trade between Israel and Azerbaijan has expanded in recent years, which in 2022 amounted to $1.7 billion. Since then, the momentum has continued when the aerospace industry won a tender this year for the sale of two satellites, one for observation and one for communication, and according to Mammadov it shows that “The sky is no longer the limit for relations between the two countries.”
“I don’t know anyone who is satisfied with any volume of trade, because it is always possible to do more”, declares the ambassador of Azerbaijan. “We are the ‘hub’ and we have access to many countries in the region. It is worthwhile for Israeli companies to look for opportunities in Azerbaijan, because activity there and with it opens up new markets. We are mainly interested in joint ventures and are already having positive talks that will soon yield results in the fields of industry, high-tech and agriculture.”
In July 2021, even before the opening of the Azerbaijani embassy in Israel, a tourism office was inaugurated in Tel Aviv in the presence of the Azerbaijani Minister of Economy and the Israeli Minister of Tourism, then Yoel Rezbozov. Considering that the flight duration from Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel, to Baku is three hours maximum, Azerbaijanis well understood the potential of inbound tourism from Israel. “Israelis love to travel” says Mammadov.
The declaration of the Corona pandemic severely affected tourism from Israel to Azerbaijan, which reached 47 thousand tourists in 2019. However, already last year there is a renewed and improved tourism trend that reached 23.9 thousand tourists. By April 2023, 8,611 Israelis landed in Baku. True, this is very little compared to the 194,000 Israelis who visited Turkey between January and May, but Azerbaijan is optimistic. “We plan to increase the number of flights, they are already full or almost full.”
“The tourism potential is great,” explains the ambassador of Azerbaijan. “During the April visit to Baku by Eli Cohen, Israeli Foreign Minister, the parties discussed the issue of tourism. This topic also came up during the visit of President Yitzhak Herzog on May 30, 2023. We take care of marketing, and tourism agencies are doing a hectic job. We work with travel agents and bloggers, and we believe that the volume of Israeli tourism in Azerbaijan will increase.”