Netanyahu on Rare Visit to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan

In this handout from the Israeli GPO, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks up to his aircraft as he departs to Romania on July 6, 2011 in an unspecified city in, Israel. Netanyahu will meet with Romania's President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Emil Boc. (Photo by Moshe Milner/GPO via …
Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty

The Times of Israel reports: In an effort to reach out to moderate Muslim countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated Tuesday morning to take off for a historic two-day visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. He will thus become the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit the region in almost 25 years of diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia.

Both countries are important allies. Azerbaijan, which has a long border with Iran, is a secular state that has long had warm relations with Israel. Nearly 98 percent of its 10 million citizens are Muslim, the vast majority of them Shiites. Baku is one of Israel’s main trading partners, buying weapons systems and providing the Jewish state with the lion’s share of its oil. Israeli trade with Azerbaijan is said to be significantly higher than with France, for example.

Baku is reportedly interested in acquiring Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, a deal that is likely to be discussed during this week’s visit.

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