Azerbaijan and Turkey have launched second joint military exercises

Turkey and Azerbaijan on Thursday launched a two-day joint military training exercise to “improve interaction between the two nations’ forces,” according to a statement made by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry.

The exercises came almost five months after Azerbaijan, with Turkish support, fought a brief, but successful, war with Armenian forces over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The mountainous enclave is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but had been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s.

In August 2020, Azerbaijan President Ihan Aliyev said that these joint drills are a manifestation of Azeri-Turkish unity and that the “intensity of these exercises will be increased from now on”.

The two countries operate on a one nation with two states policy, according to the International Christian Concern which monitors the conflict.

“Azerbaijan’s military strength in the sieges against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh would not have been possible without the support of Turkey,” the organisation said.

The NGO is particularly worried about the fact that much of these joint exercises have involved mountaineering, meaning that they seem to be aimed at Nagorno-Karabakh.

The last time that such exercises were held, war broke out, the organisation noted.

The Turkish military has been providing mountaineering training to Azerbaijani military staff, the Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement in August.

The ministry said the training took place in the mountaineering commando school and training centre in the southern Turkish province of Isparta.

In July, Turkey and Azerbaijan carried out the Winter 2021 Drill, featuring domestically developed weaponry and equipment.

The drill mostly focused on operational capabilities during the harsh weather conditions of winter months, including practices of sheltering, reinforcement, maintenance and educational development.

Ground and air assaults, airdrops, airborne operations and logistic support were practiced by both militaries.

Ankara and Baku, with the participation of the countries’ air and ground forces, launched joint military drills last year in the wake of Armenian attacks on Azerbaijani border points.

Turkey, a NATO member with regional and global aspirations, has vowed to support longtime ally Azerbaijan “on the battlefield or the negotiating table,” if needed, according to a report by the Associate Press.

According to the AP report, Turkey’s military has been training Azerbaijani officers for decades. In August, their armed forces conducted large-scale military exercises in Azerbaijan.

Turkey is also Azerbaijan’s third-largest supplier of military equipment after Russia and Israel. It is known to have sold drones and rocket launchers, according to Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund. Turkey may have sent military drone operators to help Azerbaijan in the current fighting, he said.

Relations between Armenia and Turkey already were tenuous due to the mass killings and deporations of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a century ago. Turkey denies that these killings took place, and refers to them as the “1915 events,” which in the official Turkish account consisted simply of a mass migration by the Armenians living in the country. Scholars, however, consider those events to be the first genocide of the 20th century, which Turkey denies.

In 2009, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stepped back from reconciliation efforts with Armenia that had angered Azerbaijan. Erdoğan made the establishment of formal ties with Armenia conditional on its withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh.