Turkey-Azerbaijan cooperation in Nakhchivan to destabilise region - analyst

Turkey’s military presence in Nakhchivan and possible plans to build a military base there poses a threat to Armenia, as well as Iran and Russia, former adviser to Armenia’s defence minister, David Jamalyan, told Armenian news website Jam News on Monday.

Turkey and Azerbaijan started military exercises on July 29 in Baku, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh in Azerbaijan, as well as in the Azerbaijani exclave Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The exercises were scheduled to end on Aug. 10, but Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday their continuation.

The military cooperation comes after Azerbaijan and Armenia came head to head at the Azerbaijani province of Tovuz and the Tavush province across the border in Armenia in mid-July.

“Under the guise of these joint exercises, Turkey is introducing a military contingent and equipment to Nakhichevan,” Martirosyan said, “and the big question is whether it will withdraw them after the exercises.”

Turkey’s efforts to gain more influence in the region could mean that “Russia loses influence in the South Caucasus, destabilization of Russia’s southern borders will follow, which is, in fact, in Turkey’s interest,” he said.

Mere days after the border skirmish, on July 17, Russia announced a combat readiness check in the Black Sea, “confirming the thesis that Armenia and Russia’s strategic interests coincide,” Martirosyan said.

Turkey controls Nakhchivan, which is officially under Azerbaijani jurisdiction, and its push to connect the autonomous territory to Azerbaijan is “a direct threat to the territorial integrity of both Armenia and Artsakh,” he said, referring to the Nagorno-Karabakh region that is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but has a majority Armenian population.

“To implement this project, the Turkey and Azerbaijan must occupy the Syunik region of Armenia and the southern regions of Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said – a prospect that is “by no means desirable for Russia.”

The threat to Iran comes from the reason for Azerbaijan’s founding, i.e. a way to legitimise claims to northern parts of Iran, he said.

Turkey could get involved in the conflict by deploying regular troops in Nakhchivan and disguising them as Azerbaijani forces, he said, but this is likely to result in heavy involvement by Russia, fortifying its cooperation with Armenia.

Azerbaijan escalated the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2016, and again in 2020, he said, which “aggravated the position of (Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev) and his allies,” and could drive “destabilisation in Azerbaijan and feelings of public unrest and protest.”

Meanwhile, a Turkish Foreign Ministry press release on Monday accused Armenia of illegitimately occupying Nagorno-Karabakh, identifying it as Azerbaijani territory, and being “the true obstacle on the path to the establishment of regional peace and stability.”

“It is time for Armenian authorities to abandon aggressive nationalist policies and come to their senses,” it said.