Increased Cooperation between Turkey, Azerbaijan
One item on the new cooperation agenda concerned Turkey’s support for Baku’s efforts to reclaim the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The majority ethnic Armenian territory declared independence in 1988, triggering a six-year conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that claimed 35,000 lives. The war ended in a cease-fire in 1994, and repeated international efforts to broker a peace deal have failed. At a recent event in Istanbul commemorating the killing of 603 Azeris in the village of Khojaly in Nagorno-Karabakh during the conflict in 1992, Turkish Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin delivered a passionate speech, saying: “As long as the Turkish nation stays alive, that blood will be answered for.”
A U.S. State Department report earlier this year strongly criticized Turkey for the current deadlock in Turkish-Armenian relations. But the American pressure may now be offset by rewards from the closer diplomatic and economic relations with Azerbaijan, which in recent months has signed a series of lucrative deals to supply gas to energy-hungry Turkey, as well as another agreement for Turkey to be a distributor of Azerbaijani energy to the wider region. The deals also help Turkey move away from energy dependence on Iran, which is facing growing international economic sanctions.
Azerbaijan’s change in diplomatic priorities may also have some geolinguistic underpinnings, as Turkish and Azeri are closely related Turkic languages. Azerbaijan and Iran are connected, in contrast, by their common religion, as well as by a large Azeri minority in Iran itself. The other two national languages involved — Armenian and Farsi — are both Indo-European but not members of the same subfamily.
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