Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke with his Armenian counterpart on the phone on Monday amidst concern in Armenia over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan. Since September 27th, Azeri and Armenian forces have been locked in deadly clashes in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
After the conversation, the Armenian Ambassador to Israel Armen Smbatyan told Armenian media that the two countries were engaged in talks and that he expects Israel to halt arms sales to Azerbaijan.
“I think that in this situation, Israel will stop supplying weapons to Azerbaijan,” Smbatyan said. “In two or three days they seem to be on the way to stopping the supply of weapons … I was given a verbal promise.”
The office of Israel’s president released a statement after the conversation with the Armenian leader. The statement said that Israel “has longstanding relations with Azerbaijan and that the cooperation between the two countries is not aimed against any side.”
Israel and Azerbaijan are major trading partners. It is estimated that Israel provides about 60 percent of Azerbaijan’s weapons. In an interview last week, an assistant to the president of Azerbaijan said the Azeri military is using Israeli-made attack drones in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In 2016, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said his country had bought $4.85 billion in military equipment from Israel. Some analysts believe Israel will not be so quick to give up these lucrative arms sales.
Efraim Inbar, the president of the Israel-based think tank Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, spoke with AFP on the matter. “Azerbaijan is an important country for us,” Inbar said. “We have to make sure that we will honor the contracts we make with Azerbaijan … What they do is not our responsibility. They can fight with knives, they can fight with stones, people fight with many things.”
Azerbaijan is also fighting with Turkish-supplied drones, something Aliyev confirmed on Monday. Turkey voiced its support for Azerbaijan as soon as the fighting broke, and has been accused of supporting the Azeris in other ways, including sending mercenaries from northern Syria to Nagorno-Karabakh.