Turkey using Caucasus as platform for global ambitions, Russia bargaining - analyst

Turkey’s activity in the Caucasus is likely designed to create an additional platform for foreign policy bargaining with Russia and closer cooperation with Central Asian countries, political analyst Andrei Areshev wrote in an article in the Valdai Discussion Club, a Moscow-based think tank, on Wednesday.

Azerbaijan and Armenia remain in dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which with Armenian military support broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991.

Fresh clashes broke out between the two countries’ forces at the border near Armenia’s Tavush and Azerbaijan’s Tovuz provinces on July 12. At least 16 people, including an army general, have been killed in the deadliest fighting in years.

Areshev, editor-in-chief of the Caucasus Studies Society website, said some recent events and trends in the dispute indicate the Nagorno-Karabakh region becoming the next “hotbed of tension”.

“The fact that this territory has a common border with Turkey greatly simplifies bilateral interaction (between Turkey and Azerbaijan), which was clearly made manifest in the course of a series of recent joint exercises involving a significant amount of manpower and equipment, including tanks, heavy armoured vehicles, missile and artillery systems, drones and front-line aviation,” he said.

Ankara is a close political ally of Azerbaijan, which it shares historical and cultural ties with and provides fresh arms to.

Areshev pointed to increased energy and defence cooperation, as well as intelligence sharing, between Turkey, Azerbaijan and neighbouring Georgia.

“Along with bilateral interaction with Azerbaijan and with the countries of Central Asia, political, economic and humanitarian cooperation within the framework of the “Turkic Council” is being strengthened,” he wrote.

“Thus, Turkey offers itself as a regional leader for the Middle East, North Africa, partly for the Balkans and the Caucasus, while primarily pursuing its own interests, not least economic ones.”