A joint military exercise of Turkish and Azerbaijani armed forces began in Azerbaijan on Monday. The two-day exercises are being held in Baku, as well as Karabakh, recently liberated from Armenian separatists, and the Azerbaijani exclave Nakhchivan.
Named after the founder of the Republic of Türkiye and a week before the centenary of the Turkish republic, Azerbaijan is hosting the Turkish Armed Forces for a comprehensive military exercise. The “Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 2023” exercise began on Monday with the participation of thousands of troops and fighter jets.
Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry announced that up to 3,000 troops would take part in the tactical drills, which involve dozens of artillery weapons as well. Türkiye’s ATAK helicopters and soldiers from its Special Forces Command, known as the “maroon berets,” will also participate in the exercise. Last week, Turkish fighter jets and troops arrived in the Caucasus country for the exercise. Türkiye and Azerbaijan already carried out a joint military exercise to mark the Turkish centenary and the centenary of the birthday of Azerbaijan’s late leader Heydar Aliyev.
The first exercise was held between April and May in the eastern province of Kars, near the border with Iran. But it is the first time that armies of two countries, staunch allies in the region, are carrying out an exercise that also includes Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s Karabakh was fully liberated from Armenian separatists in September, three years after Azerbaijan fought a war against Armenia to retake its occupied territory.
Baku said the exercises were aimed at “ensuring combat interoperability” between the allies. “Various tasks are performed to use artillery, aviation and other types of troops in combat operations, organize their interaction, build pontoon bridges across rivers and land troops deep inside imaginary enemy territory,” the ministry said.
Monday’s drills came as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Türkiye, Iran and Russia were set to send their foreign ministers to hold talks in Tehran in a diplomatic format initiated by Moscow in 2020 after Baku and Yerevan went to war over Karabakh. The talks are seen as Moscow’s attempt to reduce growing Western influence in a region it has long considered as its backyard. According to Moscow’s plan, they were meant to also include Georgia. But Tbilisi, who aspires to join the EU and NATO, has rejected the proposal.
The European Union and United States have in recent years taken a lead role in mediating a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia, which has traditionally mediated the conflict, has seen its role diminished since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Tensions are running high between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a month after Baku’s lightning offensive. Azerbaijan rejected an EU proposal for peace talks recently after Türkiye was excluded from the talks though Baku expressed willingness for a separate round of talks in Brussels on a later date. Baku also accuses Yerevan of undermining the peace process with its aggressive rhetoric. Armenia, in the meantime, lobbies against Azerbaijan over Nakhchivan, which Azerbaijan seeks to connect to Baku with the assistance of Türkiye. President Ilham Aliyev hosted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently in Nakhchivan, which has no direct connection to the rest of Azerbaijani territories. Azerbaijan and Türkiye champion what they call the Zangezur corridor, a direct land link through Nakhchivan between Türkiye and Azerbaijan, something that is opposed by Iran.
Türkiye has close linguistic and cultural links with Azerbaijan and offered Baku’s military and political support during its three-decade-long conflict with Armenia, with which Ankara has no formal diplomatic relations.
Source: Daily Sabah