April 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Opens First Permanent Embassy in Turkmenistan

April 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israel Opens First Permanent Embassy in Turkmenistan

Latest Developments

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen inaugurated Israel’s first embassy in Turkmenistan during a visit to the Central Asian state on April 20. Cohen is the first Israeli foreign minister to visit the majority Muslim country since 1994.

The newly built embassy is located in the capital city of Ashgabat — just 10 miles from Turkmenistan’s long border with Iran, whose President Ebrahim Raisi threatened the destruction of Tel Aviv and Haifa during a celebration of Iran’s anti-Israel Quds Day on April 18.

Expert Analysis

“At a time when Iran is escalating on all of Israel’s borders, Jerusalem is sending a strong message to Tehran that Israel is deepening its strategic partnerships on Iran’s borders as well.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Cooperation on Regional Security

Cohen arrived in Ashgabat on April 19 and inaugurated the newly built Israeli embassy on April 20. He also met with Turkmenistan’s President Serdar Berdimuhamedov, Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, other high-level officials, and members of the country’s small Jewish community.

A statement released by Israel’s foreign ministry highlighted the embassy’s proximity to Iran and quoted Cohen, who said the permanent embassy “will encourage cooperation between the governments and between the economies in the fields of technology, agriculture, and regional security.”

Surrounding the Enemy

The visit comes after Cohen concluded a three-day visit to Azerbaijan, another Muslim-majority country bordering Iran. Azerbaijan has grown closer to Israel in recent years in its diplomacy, trade, and military cooperation, while exchanging harsh words with Tehran’s regime. While there, Cohen met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Cohen said the two discussed “strengthening their political and security alliance” in the face of “strategic regional challenges we share, chief among them regional security and the fight against terrorism.”

Motherland of Neutrality

Turkmenistan’s official motto is “Turkmenistan — Homeland of Neutrality,” and the country has remained neutral in international affairs since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This neutrality has allowed it to maintain ties with Israel, which has long had a temporary mission in the country, and with Israel’s enemy Iran, with which it shares a 713-mile border. Its primary trading partner is China, to which it exports bulk natural gas, but it has sought to start exporting gas to Europe and the rest of the world through a so-far stalled pipeline project across the Caspian Sea.

A Repressive State

While the embassy’s opening constitutes a positive development, Turkmenistan’s insularity rivals North Korea’s, and the Central Asian country received the fourth-worst rating in the Reporters Without Borders 2022 Press Freedom Index. The index states that news in the country “amounts only to praise for the regime.” The government also practices strict internet censorship, requiring residents to sign into a government-developed platform before logging on. The government blocks most social networks and fines those caught using VPNs. As a result, the country has one of the lowest internet access rates in the world.

Related Analysis

Iran Attacking Israel on Multiple Fronts,” FDD Flash Brief

More than Just Friends? New Azerbaijan-Turkmenistan Agreement on Joint Energy Production in the Caspian Sea,” by Brenda Shaffer

Iran’s policy toward the Caucasus and Central Asia,” by Brenda Shaffer


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