The Nagorno Karabakh region is at the center of the tense relations between Yerevan and Baku. The enclave, which is predominantly Armenian, was annexed by Soviet authorities in 1921, but it declared its independence in 1991 with the support of Armenia.
A war followed, which left 30,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. Despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 1994, and Russian, American and French mediation under the name “Minsk Group”, clashes continued between the two parties.
And renewed clashes, on Sunday and Monday, during which dozens were killed in battles between separatists in Nagorno Karabakh, backed by Armenia and Azerbaijan, which raised fears of an open war between the two sides.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his country’s full support for Azerbaijan, calling for an end to what he called the Armenian “occupation”, and press reports stated that he sent Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan to help it in its war.
Why does Turkey support Azerbaijan?
Some analysts attribute the Turkish position to the historical dispute between Turkey and Armenia, and the latter’s adherence to the Armenian genocide file at the hands of the Ottomans, and that Erdogan’s support for Azerbaijan is a pressure card on Armenia to abandon its position on this issue.
But the Armenian journalist, Nani Sahakian, in her interview with Al-Hurra website, believes that “the Armenian genocide issue is a small thing compared to the plans and dreams of the great Turks in the region.”
“They like to say that they are one nation and two states, although when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, their relations were not strong, but now they are more closely related,” Sahakian explains.
The Turkish and Azerbaijani people agree on the Islamic religion, despite the difference on the sect. The first is Sunni and the second has a Shiite majority, and Turkey was the first country to recognize Azerbaijan in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Sahakian says, “Although they are two different countries, where the elite in Azerbaijan speaks more Russian than Turkish, while the general public speaks Turkish, as well as that Baku did not hold any democratic elections, but Turkey is a country with fairly good electoral traditions, Turkey Azerbaijan is the “younger brother” who suffers from poor economy and internal problems.
Military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey appeared for the first time in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with an agreement signed between the Azerbaijani and Turkish governments. Since then, the two governments have cooperated closely in defense and security.
On the other hand, relations between Armenia and Turkey do not officially exist, but have historically been characterized by hostility, according to Sahakian.
Sahakian added: “In the 1990s, when Armenia was at war with Azerbaijan, Turkey closed its air and land borders with Armenia in 1993 unilaterally, and airspace was opened in 1995 under pressure from the international community, but it never opened the land borders, which increased the economic situation. Worse “.
In 2016, bloody clashes in Nagorno Karabakh almost sparked a war between the two sides, in which 100 people were killed on both sides.
Armenia, which controls the disputed region, is satisfied with the status quo. As for Azerbaijan, which is rich in energy resources and whose military spending exceeds Armenia’s entire budget, it threatens to regain control of the region by force.
And last July, the two neighbors accused each other of launching an attack on the common border, which caused two deaths and wounded 5 Azerbaijani forces.
This latest escalation came after statements by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, last week, in which he threatened to withdraw from the peace talks around Karabakh, and considered that his country has the right to seek “a military solution to the conflict.”
The head of the Center for Regional Studies in Armenia, Richard Guiragossian, said, in his interview with Al-Hurra website, that “the recent renewed confrontations are a dangerous turning point, ruling out that the escalation will be easily reduced in light of the intervention of forces from neighboring countries, including Russia, Turkey and even Iran.”
He stressed that the intervention of these forces would represent the biggest obstacle to international diplomatic efforts to reduce the escalation in the region.
“People in Armenia believe that Turkey has new Ottoman dreams, and would like to wipe Armenia off the map,” says Sahakian. That is why we see that “Turkish support for Azerbaijan is the most dangerous threat to us.”
“It strengthens Russia’s influence”
Guiragossian says that the Nagorno Karabakh conflict reinforces Moscow’s influence on both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
He explains that in recent years, Russia has replaced the main Turkish supplier of weapons to Azerbaijan, and at the same time, Moscow has skillfully maintained its security partnership with Armenia.
He adds that Armenia offers Russia a unique location, as it hosts a Russian base, and it is the only country in the region that has joined Russia’s two projects, namely the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, but the question is: At what cost Armenia Russia pursues its own interests, while it It is no longer seen as a reliable security guarantor for Armenia? ”
As for the Turkish position, Geragossian considers it more dangerous and aggressive due to the Erdogan regime’s pursuit of its interests and its attempt to restore Ankara’s former role as a strategic military sponsor of Azerbaijan.
Will Nagorno Karabakh become a regional war zone between Russia and Turkey?
Geragossian believes that “despite the conflict of interests and the Turkish ambition to regain its lost role as a military sponsor and ally of Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey will maintain a level of caution in the crisis, to avoid any clash or direct confrontation between them, with a greater focus on war through proxies.”