Farzad Ramezani Bonesh
Senior Researcher and Analyst of International Affairs
The July 2020 confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan did not open a new situation in the history of their conflict. But Turkey’s position on this issue is plausible.
From the past, Turkey has been concerned about Armenian domination to parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent areas, which cover 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s territory, and has demanded Armenians to leave the region.
Even in 1993, in support of the Azeris, it closed its borders with Armenia. In fact, this constant view of Turkey has existed since the crisis began. But now, the Turkey benefits from the Karabakh, more than before.
Economic and energy issues
Economic relations between Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan are in a good condition, and the goal of increasing trade between the two countries to $ 15 billion by 2023 is targeted.
In addition, Azerbaijan and Azeri companies have invested in Turkey, and the deep economic ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan have created a “win-win” strategy for Ankara.
In addition, most of Turkey’s oil and natural gas consumption comes from foreign sources, and Turkey needs large investments to supply its energy needs. Meanwhile, in
Turkey’s strategic documents, special attention has been paid to diversification of energy resources. Turkish natural gas imports from Azerbaijan in the first four months of 2020 for the first time exceeded Turkish gas imports from Russia.
On the other hand, in economy, especially in the security of energy, Turkey seeks to expand its influence. Important oil and gas lines have been built with the support or partnership of Turkey.
That m, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and the Tanap gas pipeline are important.
In fact, Turkey’s heavy dependence on Azerbaijani gas could also be a lever for effective pressure on the Turks and the Turkish economy.
Therefore, increasing military actions by both sides increases the risks to the region’s oil and gas infrastructure. If the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict escalates, Turkey will be severely damaged.
Ankara now seems to fear that the Armenians, by dominating the country’s communication and energy transmission route, will cut off one of the most important economic arteries of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Turkish energy artery, and ultimately seek to weaken Turkey. This has drawn more Turkish attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis.
Since 1994, the ruling leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh have received financial and military support from Armenia. Armenia remains an ally of Russia and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
On the other hand, Azerbaijan has been able to get more power by relying on more on oil revenues, military purchases and advisory support. So that the balance of power between Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan is now in the interest of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Under these circumstances, Ankara and Baku are planning to expand military relations in the framework of military cooperation, joint exercises, purchase of some military weapons, military training for Azerbaijani personnel, strategic cooperation agreement and mutual support between the two countries. Therefore, in the escalation of tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, if Azerbaijan wants to enter a Full-scale war, the Turkish army will face a new situation.
Although the recent developments in the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict are unlikely to lead to direct intervention, the risk of proxy war has increased. In fact, as some sources have previously stated, Turkey has sent thousands of militias to fight in Libya, and the Turkish military may now be putting pressure on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh by supporting militant groups.
In other words, at the moment, Turkey’s problem with Russia may be pursued in some areas in the form of proxy wars in Nagorno-Karabakh. That means, Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan and Russia’s support for Armenia will go on in the form of proxy.
Geopolitical and political dimensions
Basically, Turkey’s approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is a long-term issue. Turkey wants to expand its security in the South Caucasus against Iran and Russia. This goal strengthens Azerbaijan as a close ally.
Turkey also views the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis in the context of a Turkish issue. On the other hand, Turkey seems to want to improve its relations with the United States and use NATO support in any possible crisis against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In addition, Turkey does not want to play any role in the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, unless it leads to the implementation of resolutions binding on Armenia (recognizing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and implementing the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan). Therefore, Turkey does not consider the activities of the Minsk Group and the Council of Europe to be very useful.
In another dimension, Turkey tries to portray the issue of Azerbaijan in Turkey as a national and cross-party issue in Turkey, as well as the issue of Northern Cyprus. That means, as much as Nagorno-Karabakh is a problem of the Republic of Azerbaijan, it is also a problem of Turkey.In this regard, the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a necessary condition for the normalization of Turkey’s relations with Armenia.
Also while Armenia believes that Nagorno Karabakh has nothing to do with the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, Ankara wants to put pressure on the Armenian by using international community to end its continued occupation of part of the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Therefore, by criticizing the international mediation, Turkey seems to consider the Minsk process meaningless and inefficient. From this point of view, European institutions should also resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
In this context, Turkey condemns the holding of elections in Nagorno-Karabakh, and Baku has the right to self-defense and occupies the Nagorno-Karabakh in accordance with the UN charter.
The Nagorno-Karabakh case, with its legal and historical complexities, has remained unresolved after nearly three decades, and Turkey can be considered as one of the influential factors for the continuation of the current and future situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In fact, Armenia has many partners in the world and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and is in contact with the NATO Defense Alliance.
Meanwhile, although Turkey seems to want to radically change the situation in favor of Baku in the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, but wide-ranging challenges have led it to continue the previous strategy, but to consider tactical changes in the interests of Azerbaijan.