Mr Haydar Babayev, Azerbaijani Minister of Economic Development on official visit to Israel to discuss diplomatic and commercial relations.

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

Azerbaijani Minister of Economic Development, Mr. Heydar Babayev, will visit Israel between 18 Feb. and 21 Feb. 2007, at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The minister is a leading member of the Azerbaijani government and has widespread influence on the policy and economy of his country. The visiting minister has expressed several times in the past his appreciation of the importance of the development of economic relations and cooperation between his country and Israel.

During his visit, Mr. Babayev will meet with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni, Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs Avigdor Liberman. He will also visit various Israeli commercial companies in the fields of finance and investment, Hi-Tec, agriculture and irrigation. Mr. David Artzi, chairperson of the Israel Export Institute will host dinner in his honor. Representatives of Israeli companies and organizations will also be present.

During their meeting, Minister Babayev and FM Livni will sign an agreement promoting and protecting investments in the two countries. This agreement is part of the bilateral support structure currently being built to both allow and encourage commercial activities between the two countries.

BACKGROUND

Azerbaijan is a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. The country, bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south, has a predominantly Muslim-Shiite population. The country maintains positive and escalating diplomatic relations with Israel. The scale of commerce between the two countries is still relatively small. In 2006, total trade reached 28 million dollars (not including oil). This sum, representing a fivefold increase over 2005 figures, is comprised mainly of Israeli exports.

Main exports from Israel are telecom equipment, chemicals, oil distillates and medical equipment. Israel is a main client of Azerbaijani oil, importing 15% of total production in 2006.