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Turkish military base in the territory of Azerbaijan? Reaction from Baku

On July 20, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ratified a protocol authorizing Turkish armed forces to use the premises of the Gizil Sherg military town in Baku and a terminal at the Zeynalabdin Taghiyev military aerodrome located 45 km north of the Azerbaijani capital.

According to Aliyev’s press office, the protocol was signed on June 3, 2016.

Aliyev has instructed the defense ministry to ensure the implementation of the protocol and the foreign ministry to report to the Turkish authorities on the process.

Haqqin.az hurried to report that Turkey had established a military base in Azerbaijan. But the Azerbaijani defense ministry refuted the report. According to Deputy Defense Minister Ramiz Tahirov, the aerodrome is used for the dispatch of Azerbaijani peacekeepers to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. “While the plane is being fueled, the pilots are having rest in the premises, but once the plane has departed, the Turkish representatives leave the premises and they are locked,” Tahirov said, adding that now that the premises have been leased to the office of the Turkish military attaché, the latter has promised to repair them.

Military expert Uzeir Jafarov says that the protocol has just legalized the stay of Turkish military men in Azerbaijan. “De facto, they have used the terminal for many years already. Turkish military men lived in Gizil Sherg during joint maneuvers. Now those facilities have been given a diplomatic status, which means that from now on Azerbaijan representatives will not be able to get there without the Turkish side’s permission. Perhaps, similar facilities will be offered to Azerbaijani military men involved in regular maneuvers in Turkey,” Jafarov says.

“This is not a military base. For Turkey to be able to establish a military base in the Azerbaijani territory, Azerbaijan will have to review its military doctrine. A military base is a closed area controlled exclusively by the owner state. At the Zeynalabdin Taghiyev aerodrome, the Turks use just one terminal. As regards Gizil Sherg, it is located in the center of Baku and is not a closed area,” Jafarov says.

According to Azerbaijani political analyst Zardusht Alizadeh, whatever it is, this is Azerbaijan’s response to Russia’s aggressive policy in the post-Soviet area. “Russia’s aggressive policy has urged all post-Soviet republics to seek protection,” the expert says.

He believes that Azerbaijan has two goals in mind by allowing Turkey, and de facto NATO, to use its territory for military purposes: to neutralize the military threat coming from the Russian military base in Armenia and to protect itself from potential military attack by Russia. “In fact, Azerbaijan is insuring itself against negative scenarios,” says Alizadeh.

He expects no negative response from Iran as this facility poses no threat to that country. “Even more, the presence of Turkish troops in Azerbaijan will strengthen the country’s position in its talks with Russia concerning both the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and bilateral relations,” Alizadeh says.

In other words, the South Caucasus has found itself in a zone of geopolitical dualism: on the one hand, NATO is actively expanding into the region, on the other hand, Russia and Iran are actively opposing this. As a result, the region is going off balance.

The paradox here is that the Russian-Iranian tandem has a much bigger influence on the region than the United States does. And this is true even for pro-American Georgia and Azerbaijan. The reason is simple: the West has no military presence in the South Caucasus.

Earlier The New York Times reported attempts to create secret U.S. military bases in Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. The author of the plan is David Petraeus, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who may become Vice President if Hillary Clinton wins the forthcoming presidential election. There is one more plan envisaging secret intelligence measures in the abovementioned countries. According to the New York Times, at first Barack Obama prohibited any unconventional military measures in the countries where the United States has no official military bases, but the growing threat of terrorism has forced him to change his opinion.

Some six months ago Azerbaijan sent NATO a number of proposals on how to protect the region’s energy arteries. The Azerbaijanis suggest that the facilities be protected by the Americans. They in NATO said that they had no such plans but would consider the proposals.

For the time being, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline is guarded by Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Turkey has had a special project for this purpose since 2006. In 2001, it tried to enlarge it. The security of pipelines remains one of the key priorities for the region. Russia has made no proposals on the matter so far, so, now it is NATO’s turn to react. But this may displease Iran, who may qualify this as a direct threat from the West.

Maksud Talibli (Baku), specially for EADaily

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