"Azerbaijan is a Muslim country with a large Shiite population that borders with Iran. We are interested in this small state's location," Ben-Eliezer said.
Azerbaijan has recently become the center for economic cooperation with Israel. Israeli arms companies equip the Azerbaijani army and the National Infrastructure Ministry is trying to form collaboration with Azerbaijan on purchasing oil and natural gas.
Ben-Eliezer visited Azerbaijan's capital Baku last week, for a trip that officially focused on contracts for purchasing oil, and perhaps even natural gas, from Russia via Azerbaijan, through Turkey to Israel.
However, government officials told Ynet that the visit may have also included an attempt by the Israeli government and its defense establishment to strengthen ties with Azerbaijan.
The officials stated that Azerbaijan is a poor country in desperate need of foreign investments, and that it is currently in the midst of a strategic conflict with its neighbor Armenia. The Muslim country is also trying to break free from Russia's bear hug. Diplomatic sources said that Israel and the US are also interested Azerbaijan due to its proximity to Iran.
According to government officials, as Turkey refuses to continue allowing the US to use its air bases for attacks in Iraq (and will apparently refuse to cooperate with an Iran strike as well), Azerbaijan's location plays a key role for the Americans and Israel.
Referring to the Baku visit, Ben Eliezer said: "We achieved important progress on economic issues and other issues as well. I met with the Azerbaijan's president for a meeting that was important for Israel's interests."