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How Erdogan plays the Azerbaijani card

This post was published in Regnum. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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MOSCOW, (BM) – The next military exercises of Azerbaijan and Turkey and their geography are perceived with mixed feelings, if we bear in mind their motivational rationale. After the “Tovuz crisis” on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, the geopolitical situation in the region is degrading.

Joint military exercises with Turkey have begun in Azerbaijan. They will last until August 10 and will affect Baku, Nakhichevan, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh. The Air Force and Air Defense of both countries, armored vehicles and artillery are involved.

This fact can be taken as ordinary. According to DW, in 2013 alone, Baku and Ankara held seven joint exercises, last year their number almost doubled. But in the light of the “Tovuz crisis” – military clashes on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border – the current maneuvers are objectively perceived in the context of the armed confrontation between Baku and Yerevan, which attracts increased attention.

Azerbaijan does not make secrets that it does not exclude the use of force to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Ankara claims that in case of war between Azerbaijanis and Armenians, it will support Baku. This is an intriguing situation. Armenia is a member of the CSTO and can count on the support of its allies under certain conditions and circumstances.

Azerbaijan has agreements on military cooperation with Turkey, a NATO member, which also objectively brings the situation to the level of bloc confrontation in the region between the CSTO and the North Atlantic Alliance. And this aggravates rather than facilitates the solution of the problems of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is acquiring fundamentally new characteristics with some paradoxes.

One of them is that Turkey is interested in the existence of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which will use it to strengthen its political and military influence in Azerbaijan. Because, if you take out of the brackets Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is difficult to find an answer to the question of what kind of war and with whom Ankara is preparing Baku.

By the way, it is no coincidence that many experts characterize the current Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises as “designed for a media effect.” Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan states that “the tactical nature of the Azerbaijani-Turkish exercises does not cause concern,” but it is important that they do not turn into “provocative actions” in the immediate vicinity of the Armenian borders, defense facilities and other infrastructure.

Yerevan demonstrates its understanding of what is happening in the region, when – again a paradox – the course of events with Turkey’s participation suits it, taking the Azerbaijani-Armenian problems beyond the framework of the dialogue between the two countries, when Ankara is replacing Baku.

There is one more important nuance. This is not the first time that the exercises are held in Nakhichevan, which suggests the possibility of a front, more precisely, a confrontation between the CSTO and Turkey as a NATO member in the event of a military confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There are no common borders between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan now.

According to Art. 3 of the Moscow Russian-Turkish Treaty of March 16, 1921, Nakhichevan was included in the Azerbaijan SSR as an autonomous territory. In particular, this article reads: “Both contracting parties agree that the Nakhichevan region, within the boundaries specified in the annex to this treaty, forms an autonomous territory under the auspices of Azerbaijan, provided that Azerbaijan does not cede this protectorate to any third state.”

Nobody canceled the agreement. That is, if the actions of Baku in the Karabakh direction are blocked by the OSCE Minsk Group, in the Nakhichevan one – by the provisions of the Moscow Russian-Turkish agreement of March 16, 1921.

Failure of the structure is fraught with serious shocks for the region with the most unpredictable results. The fact of Turkey’s active military presence in Nakhichevan is negatively perceived by Tehran. It is no coincidence that when the Karabakh war began in April 2016, Russian military experts noted that Iran could raise the issue of the blockade of Nakhichevan, whose existence is ensured through its territory.

Then a corridor between Nakhichevan and Turkey would open, which would lead to a geographic expansion of the scale of the conflict. If Ankara begins to take action on the part of Nakhichevan, and such statements are made, for example, it will deliver a diversionary blow from this direction, then Turkey cannot but understand that this will create real grounds for Russian intervention.

That is why the next Azerbaijani-Turkish military exercises and their geography are perceived with mixed feelings, if we bear in mind their motivational justification.

And further. The Turkish Ministry of Internal Affairs announced the start of the anti-terrorist operation Yıldırım-3 Ağrı Da вı in three provinces of the country at once – Agra, Igdir and Kars, directly at the borders with Armenia, against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, operating in the area from Iraq and Syria to Iran and Azerbaijani-Turkish and Turkish – the Armenian border.

In short, in our opinion, after the “Tovuz crisis”, when Ankara directly supported its military-political ally and expressed its readiness to openly intervene in the conflict, the geopolitical situation in the region began to deteriorate.

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