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Turkey fans tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh trouble spot

February 03, 21:12 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Dmitry Petromarkovsky

MOSCOW, February 3. /TASS/. Tensions in the area of the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh dispute are getting higher with every passing day. This time it looks like Turkey is the one who keeps adding fuel to the smoldering conflict in this explosive region. The latest aggravation of its relations with Russia has turned the state of affairs from bad to worse.

The self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, established in 1991, is an area in Transcaucasia with a predominantly Armenian population. Baku regards it as an occupied part of Azerbaijan.

The past few days have seen a string of serious incidents in the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said last Sunday that the Armenian armed forces violated ceasefire 120 times and that 121 retaliatory strikes were dealt against the positions of the Armenian forces. Armenia’s Defense Ministry has dismissed Azerbaijan’s claims as provocative. Baku is certain that efforts by the Minsk Group of the OSCE, the customary diplomatic instrument of settling the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, are hopelessly stalled and that other actors should be invited to join settlement efforts. Nagorno-Karabakh was discussed at length at the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that ended last week. There was no unanimity regarding settlement prospects, either.

Shortly after relations between Russia and Turkey aggravated over the incident involving a Russian Sukhoi-24 bomber, shot down by Turkish warplanes over Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a visit to Baku late last November that Turkey would do its outmost for the sake of liberating the "occupied territories of Azerbaijan." Thus he unequivocally sided with Baku in the confrontation with Yerevan, with which Turkey had severed diplomatic relations.

"Just like Azerbaijan, Turkey is interested in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," Turkey’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, Ismail Alper Coskun, said, adding that Azerbaijan was capable of building up its defenses and Turkey would provide the required support.

"Russia-Turkey contradictions are currently in the acute phase, which encourages Azerbaijan to step up efforts on the Karabakh track," the media portal Svobodyana Pressa (Free Press) quotes the director of the Tavria Center of Information and Analysis at Russia’s Institute of Strategic Studies, Sergey Yermakov, as saying. "It is noteworthy that until just recently Turkey’s policies in the Caucasus had been rather flexible. Of late, Ankara preferred to act in a very straightforward manner, and in a situation like this Baku is keen to reap all the dividends it can. Azerbaijan hardly hopes that with Turkish support it will manage to resolve the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh by force. Yet, Baku’s intention to unfreeze the Karabakh conflict is obvious."

"Russian-Turkish partnership was a major factor for the stability of Nagorno-Karabakh," the leading research fellow at the Institute of International Security Problems under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Aleksey Fenenko, has told TASS. "On the one hand, that partnership was a restrictive factor for Azerbaijan, while Russia and its partner Turkey maintained a friendly relationship. On the other hand, it was a restrictive factor for Armenia, which remained uncertain if Russia, Turkey’s partner, would unequivocally support Yerevan, should another war in Karabakh flare up?"

Now the situation has changed somewhat, Yeremakov said. "On the one hand, the Russia-Turkey standoff gives Azerbaijan a competitive edge. It feels more at ease, for it realizes that Turkey needs it. It has remained Turkey’s sole regional ally. Secondly, the wish to annoy Russia in retaliation for its operation in Syria is another motive for Turkey to provide backing for Azerbaijan. On the other hand, this raises Armenia’s hopes somewhat: Turkey is no longer Russia’s partner, so Russia will unambiguously support Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan. From time to time this incites belligerent rhetoric in Armenia."

"In fact, all this is a logical extension of the same policy Turkey has conducted for the past twenty years. Of late, in view of the worsening of relations with Russia it has obviously put special emphasis on it," the director of the Yerevan office of the CIS Countries Institute, Aleksandr Markarov, told TASS. For the time being Turkey has confined itself to uttering threats, while doing nothing specific in reality."

"Everybody had been afraid to see a considerable worsening of the situation," the head of the Eurasian integration section at the CIS Countries Institute, Vladimir Yevseyev, told TASS. "Possibly, Turkey might be interested in that, but Azerbaijan does not look prepared well enough. In contrast to December 2015, when tanks were used in combat for the first time since 1994, the situation is slightly better. But everybody predicts a further worsening. Turkey’s influence will then manifest itself to the full extent."

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