With their white star and crescent on a red background, the resemblance between the Turkish flag and the Azerbaijani flag has rarely been so striking. As soon as the first civilian and military casualties were announced following the fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Sunday, September 27, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately recalled that the populations of the two countries constituted “One and only people”, and that Ankara fully supported the Caucasian republic. On Monday 28, Turkey’s strongman called again for the end of « l’occupation » Armenian from Karabakh.
In frozen conflict for nearly thirty years, this region of Azerbaijan, populated mainly by Armenians and which claims its independence, is the scene of regular combat for lack of a real regulation of its statute. Clashes in July raised tensions again. Yerevan and Baku accuse each other of being at the origin of the aggression. In Turkey, the press unanimously relays the version of Armenia’s aggression, reviving a little more the historical enmity towards the country and its people.
Erdogan castigates the international community
The reactions were not long in coming on the Turkish side. In a social media post, President Erdogan blasted the partiality of the international community and the ineffectiveness of the Minsk group, made up of France, the United States and Russia, in charge of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. “The international community has not had the necessary and sufficient reaction to Armenia’s provocative attack; it has once again demonstrated its double standard policy ”, he wrote, denouncing the “Negligence” of the Minsk trio “For nearly thirty years”.
“Azerbaijan is an important country for Turkey. The population is of the same ethnic origin, explains Ilhan Üzgel, professor at Ankara University and specialist in international relations. Moreover, from a strategic point of view, Azerbaijan supplies natural gas to Turkey, and the two countries have created a coalition against Armenia. “
Launched into an offensive foreign policy, Turkey sees this conflict as an additional possibility to establish itself as a key power in the region. The pro-government press is blowing on the embers. “We are winning in the Caucasus. The military solution is now the only way out ”, headlined Ibrahim Karagül, columnist and editor-in-chief of the daily Yeni Safak. And to insist: “If a ceasefire is decided again, the Armenian attacks will continue. “
A new front between Turkey and Russia
If the diplomatic efforts undertaken fail, Turkey’s involvement would prove decisive since it is already providing military support to Azerbaijan, notably by providing drones. Weakened internally by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis, the power of the AKP – the Islamic-conservative party of the Turkish president – could occasionally benefit from a conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, which would fuel nationalism.
But after Syria and Libya, the Caucasus would nevertheless constitute a new theater of operations which would see Russia – an ally of the two countries and a member of the Minsk group – and Turkey to oppose. “A growing conflict would be very risky for Turkey because Russia would become more involved,” estime Ilhan Üzgel. So far, the two countries have taken steps to avoid this kind of situation. Neither side wants to go to war. “
Thirty years of tension
1921. Populated 95% of Armenians, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is attached to the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.
1988. The region proclaims itself as the Soviet Socialist Republic.
1991. This time, it declares its independence, unrecognized by the international community, triggering violence between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
1994. A truce is signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, without the conflict being resolved in substance. Tensions reappear regularly.
2016. “Four Day War” (April 2-5).