Is there a cooling in the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey? Which country should Azerbaijan rely on with respect to military construction? Should Baku support Turkey in its contradictions with the European Union and Israel? Azerbaijani political analysts Ilgar Velizade and Elkhan Shainoglu are answering EADaily’s questions.
Recently, some media outlets and experts have been writing about the cooling in relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Do you agree with this and how do you assess these relations at the moment?
I.V.: There is no cooling in the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey. Azerbaijan is well aware that Turkish MPs who voted recently for the anti-Azerbaijani resolution in the PACE represent the opposition camp and do not exert influence on Turkey's foreign policy. Of course, there is a certain disappointment with the actions of these people, who often presented and present themselves as "friends of Azerbaijan", but apparently opportunistic considerations prevailed, rather than a strategic vision of the prospects for bilateral relations.
E.S.: Azerbaijan and Turkey are allies. This is not only related to the ethnic affinity of the two countries; regional challenges are strengthening this union, too. This notwithstanding, negative aspects sometimes come to the fore in the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey. For example, Baku was offended by Ankara after the Turkish authorities did not take any legal measures against four persons, including well-known journalists and a former deputy who illegally visited Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, some Turkish MPs voted in the Council of Europe in favor of a resolution that severely criticized the authorities in Azerbaijan. But these points in general do not affect strategic relations.
On a positive note, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week invited his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev to attend the D-8 summit (union of several Muslim countries) in Istanbul. The fact is that Azerbaijan is not a member of D-8. But Erdogan as a host could invite one country (any he chooses), and the president of Turkey chose Azerbaijan. And this does not happen for the first time. Erdogan as a host invited the president of Azerbaijan to the G20 summit. A few days later, Erdogan will arrive in Baku and participate in the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. These examples once again show that the strategic alliance has not suffered because of certain negative aspects.
To what extent the relationships between Turkey and Azerbaijan are those of allies and can we expect that a relevant agreement could be signed on it?
I.V.: The form of the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey is those of allies, at least because they are determined by the terms of the Treaty on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Assistance concluded in 2010. In particular, it provides for broad mutual support of the parties in case of military aggression committed by third countries and, in fact, it is an agreement that establishes the status of the two countries as allies.
E.S.: As I already mentioned, there is no alternative to the Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance. Both countries need this alliance. Armenia occupied 20% of the territory of Azerbaijan. Russia supports Armenia, and Iran is playing a double game. In such a situation, Baku has no right to spoil its relations with Turkey. In my opinion, the time has come to deepen the allied relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey.
Speaking of military development, which country should be Azerbaijan’s reference point - Turkey or Russia?
I.V.: In its military development, Azerbaijan is guided by its own interests. As practice shows, the orientation toward any single side is flawed from the military-strategic point of view, as it hampers the actions of the party oriented toward such cooperation, makes it hostage to the policy pursued by the main military partner. Developing military and technical cooperation with Russia, Turkey, Israel, Pakistan and other countries, Azerbaijan is strengthening its material and technical base, while also trying not to become a dependent party.
E.S.: Turkish military bases should also be deployed on the territory of Azerbaijan, including Nakhchivan, and let no one say that Turkey is a member of NATO and allegedly has no right to open a base in the third country without an agreement with Brussels. After all, Turkey opened a base in Qatar, and there were no grumbles from NATO. Hence, the same can be done in Azerbaijan. Russia will not be able to oppose this. It will be illogical. If Moscow is against it, then a reasonable question may be put to the Kremlin: "If you can have a base in Armenia, then why cannot Turkey have a base in Azerbaijan?".
Turkey has certain problems now in its relations with the EU and Israel. Is Baku ready to support Ankara on these issues?
I.V.: Azerbaijan, as well as Turkey, has its own foreign policy priorities. Of course, the parties support each other in the international arena and intend to do so in the future, however they coordinate these actions with their own interests.
Turkey's problems with the EU are related to the reluctance of leading EU countries to see Turkey as part of the European Union. How can we support Turkey? Naturally, we render moral support to it, considering the position of these countries against Turkey as unfair, but we cannot take practical actions in this direction. Ankara understands this and views our position as moral support.
As for Israel, Turkey is well aware that our relations with this country are not directed against Ankara's interests; therefore, they have no influence on the nature of the Azerbaijani-Turkish interaction.
E.S.: The Israeli factor is one of the rare issues where Baku cannot support Ankara. Baku buys from Israel the most advanced weapons, which showed its best side during last April hostilities. In addition, Azerbaijan sells oil to Israel through the port of Ceyhan.
The same goes for Azerbaijan's relations with the EU. Baku does not contemplate accession to the EU; in the current conditions it is unrealistic. On the other hand, Baku is preparing to sign a strategic agreement with Brussels.