Senior Turkish officials have renewed pledges of support to Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia with Turkish and Azerbaijani forces holding joint exercises and Turkish defense minister making threatening remarks about Armenia.
On July 16, while the recent round of fighting in Tavush was still ongoing, an Azerbaijani military delegation arrived in Ankara to meet with the Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and head of Defense Industries Ismail Demir. In what could be construed as a threat, Akar said that “this attack shows that Armenia is punching above its weight [and] would drown in its own trap.” The comments came two days after senior Azerbaijani military officers were killed in fighting, triggering a series of angry responses from Azerbaijan, including a threat to bomb Armenia’s nuclear power plant.
As was seen in publicly available Flight Radar data, on July 17 the Turkish air force cargo planes began flights to Baku, presumably delivering combat drones that Azerbaijan agreed to buy from Turkey earlier in the year. On the same day, Russian aircraft began military cargo deliveries to Armenia, which Azerbaijani reports suggested included anti-drone electronic warfare equipment.
In late July, the Turkish military deployed half a dozen F-16 jets and at least nine combat and transport helicopters, together with two Komando special forces companies, to hold a series of joint maneuvers near Baku, around Ganja and in Nakhichevan. At the closing ceremony near Baku on August 13, Azerbaijani defense minister Zakir Hassanov expressed hope that the Turkish military would support Azerbaijan in its decades-long quest to regain control of Karabakh.
“The Turkish armed forces have demonstrated their power to the world in Syria, Iraq, and Libya,” Hassanov was quoted as saying. “With the support of the Turkish military Azerbaijan will fulfill its sacred duty.”
Akar stressed continued support: “Azerbaijan.. is not alone. Let everyone know that we are one nation.” He added that while Turkey supports “peace and tranquility in the Caucasus, the entire region,” its government would not allow for “our rights and interests to be violated, and we will do everything to defend them.”
For his part, Ilham Aliyev pledged to make Turkey Azerbaijan’s main weapons supplier. Until now, most Azerbaijani weapons purchases came from Israel, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.
Even as Azerbaijan and Turkey appear to draw ever closer, judging by pronouncements of Turkish leaders in other venues, their focus remains on the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The Turkish government is also mindful of Russia with president Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin before the exercises in Azerbaijan, with the two reportedly agreeing on the need to “stabilize the situation” between Armenia and Azerbaijan.