Issued on: 10/12/2020 – 09:56
During a visit to Azerbaijan Thursday to celebrate his close ally’s recent victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Baku’s “struggle” against Yerevan was not over and vowed to carry on the contest “on many other fronts”.
“Azerbaijan‘s saving its lands from occupation does not mean that the struggle is over,” Erdogan said during a military parade in Baku. “The struggle carried out in the political and military areas will continue from now on many other fronts.”
Erdogan: Karabakh is now reunited with its motherland
Erdogan’s visit came weeks after Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a deal with Russia to end clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh after a string of Azerbaijani victories in its fight to retake the disputed region.
Azerbaijan’s historic win was an important geopolitical coup for Erdogan who has cemented Turkey‘s leading role as a powerbroker in the ex-Soviet Caucasus region.
Turkey backed Azerbaijan during the six weeks of fighting that erupted in late September and left more than 5,000 people dead. Ankara was widely accused of dispatching mercenaries from Syria to bolster Baku’s army, but repeatedly denied the charge.
Erdogan’s support crucial: analyst
“Azerbaijan would not have been able to achieve military success in Karabakh without Turkey’s open political backing,” analyst Elhan Shahinoglu of Baku-based think-tank, Atlas, told AFP.
“If not for Erdogan’s support, Yerevan’s ally Russia – which competes with Ankara for influence in the Caucasus – would have pressured Baku to stop fighting.”
The ceasefire deal spurred mass celebrations in Azerbaijan. But as thousands of Armenian residents of the region fled the territory, the pullout was met with fury in Armenia, where Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has faced large demonstrations calling for his resignation.
The deal saw Armenia cede control over parts of the enclave it lost during the recent fighting and seven adjacent districts it had seized during a war in the 1990s.
But the agreement leaves Nagorno-Karabakh’s political status in limbo.
French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed discomfort over the Russia-brokered ceasefire as France struggles to retain its geopolitical sway in the region following Armenia’s defeat.
The enclave will see its future guaranteed by nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers deployed for a renewable five-year mandate and the truce will be monitored in Azerbaijan by Turkish military.
Separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Baku in a war in the early 1990s that left some 30,000 people dead and displaced tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis.
But their claim of autonomy has not recognised internationally, even by Armenia.
Historic tensions from Ottoman to Soviet era
Armenia accused Turkey of direct involvement in the recent fighting – including sending foreign fighters to the battlefield – allegations dismissed by both Baku and Ankara.
Their shared border has been closed since 1993 when the two countries cut diplomatic ties.
Erdogan in 2009 dismissed internationally mediated reconciliation efforts with Armenia and said ties could only be restored after Armenian forces withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two countries share a deep and mutual distrust over Armenia’s efforts to recognise as genocide the World War I massacres of some 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman empire.
Turkey has furiously rejected the genocide label.
Referred to as “one nation, two states,” Turkey’s alliance with Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan was forged following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991 and has deepened under Erdogan’s tenure.
Turkey has helped Azerbaijan train and arm its military and serves as the main route for energy exports to Europe, bypassing Russia.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan links Turkey with ex-Soviet Turkic nations in Central Asia and with China.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)