Op-ed: why Azerbaijan needs the deployment of Turkish troops in Karabakh
Since the ceasefire in Karabakh and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the region, Azerbaijan has been awaiting the arrival of servicemen from Turkey to launch the Russian-Turkish joint monitoring centre.
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According to a trilateral statement signed on November 10 by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Russia, as well as the prime minister of Armenia, the tasks of the joint Turkish-Russian monitoring center include monitoring the ceasefire and the actions of the peacekeeping forces in Karabakh.
According to the latest data, 60 servicemen from Turkey will serve in the monitoring center. 25 of them are already in Azerbaijan.
Political scientist Shahin Jafarli commented on the expected deployment of representatives of the Turkish army in the region and the possible results of this step.
“The issue of placing the Turkish army in Karabakh is very popular in Azerbaijan and has been on the agenda since November 10. The public is looking forward to the Turkish soldiers [coming to] Karabakh.
“Why? Because there is distrust of the Russian peacekeepers (and of Russia’s policy in general) in Karabakh, and the Azerbaijanis think that they can neutralise the danger from the actions of the Russians against our interests by placing Turkish soldiers there.
Undoubtedly, the mistrust and anxiety are based on real reasons, but we must also understand the risks that accompany the path we see as a solution to the problem.
If the Turkish soldiers, together with the Russian ones, took part in peacekeeping activities, and had equal rights and responsibilities with them, there would be no problems.
But this is not the case.
This center is a technical structure that does not have any political powers, nor any authority in the management of the peacekeeping operation. The center will carry out monitoring by technical means, mainly by drones.
Will the Turkish servicemen have the opportunity to conduct monitoring physically and directly on the territory? That is still unknown. (I doubt the Russians will give them this opportunity.)
In Azerbaijan, the majority adhere to the following point of view: if the Turkish military cannot take part in the peacekeeping mission, and the Russians continue to operate in Khankendi as they wish, Turkish soldiers, as a balancing force, should stand on the line of contact together with the Azerbaijani military in Shusha, Hadrut and other important areas.
In other words, even without coordination with Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey can independently create a new status quo and show their power.
The thought is pleasant to the ear and soothing. But we must also calmly think about the negative consequences of such a step.
First, the creation of such a situation means that we accept the division of the Karabakh lands into zones of influence of Russia and Turkey – like Berlin and Germany after the Second World War.
We accept that Russia is the guardian of the Armenians, and Turkey is taking care of us, and both fulfill these tasks on completely legal grounds.
Such a situation – the de facto recognition of the division of Nagorno-Karabakh – will make it much more difficult in the future to restore Azerbaijan’s sovereign rights in the territories now controlled by Russian peacekeepers.
Secondly, by placing Turkish military forces on the line of contact – against Russian forces – we officially declare that we do not trust Moscow, moreover, we [say we] see [them] as a threat.
As a society (the majority), we think so, but at the state level, such distrust and ostentatious doubt may result in a reduction in opportunities for dialogue and mutual understanding. What threatens such a cold snap in relationships, I think, is understandable.
Thirdly, the full deployment of the Turkish army in Karabakh for the period of the presence of the Russian army there will be perceived by the whole world as a real threat to Armenians. No matter how we say otherwise, no one will listen to us.
In this case, the West will also be forced to support Russia’s military presence, peacekeeping activities in the region will gain legitimacy, and even grounds will be created for its extension.
It is also possible that if Russia suddenly decides to leave the region, the West will ask her to stay and protect the Armenian population.
The reality is that actions in Karabakh without coordination with Russia, in a manner of threatening its interests, is similar to entering a minefield.
Along with this, there is also a very important other side of the issue, and this is often not taken seriously by our society:
- Does Turkey see itself in the role that we attribute to it?
- Is Turkey inclined to cooperate with Russia, or to rivalry and confrontation with it?
Those who are discussing this topic should think about these questions as well.
Those who think that Russian peacekeeping forces arrived here without Turkey’s knowledge are mistaken.
Do you think this is possible as a result of the process in which Turkey has been so active? I think not. It is possible that there is some kind of agreement between them, or a common opinion on this matter. This agreement, or mutual understanding, can be of a short-term tactical nature (for example, to have a plan for the South Caucasus or Syria), or a long-term strategic one with a wider geography (these are just my assumptions).
These two states have contiguous and diverging interests in many regions, but the leaders of both countries are inclined towards constructivism, trying not to let rivalry on certain issues spoil their relations.
Not a single force in Turkey is in favor of a clash with Russia, confrontation with it, and unreasonable radicalism and aggressiveness in foreign policy are not supported by Turkish society (except for the fight against terrorism).
Of course, we all understand that Azerbaijan is not able to stand alone against all threats in the region, and therefore we want Turkey to take us under its wing and protect us from these threats, to act as a guarantor of the territorial integrity of our country.
In fact, we don’t have any problem in this matter. Clauses 1 and 2 of the Treaty on Strategic Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, signed in 2010, give the right to do so. If any country threatens Azerbaijan or takes tough force against it, then one appeal of Azerbaijan to Turkey is enough for military intervention (it’s no secret that after the military exercises in the summer of 2020, a certain number of Turkish servicemen remained in our country).
But it makes sense to be realistic.
We must keep our relations with Russia on a level so that it does not introduce in Karabakh the model and mechanisms of secession, tried in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
And at the end, I would like to make a very important point:
Of course, we must keep in the center of attention what is happening in Karabakh, but directing all our energy day and night and continuously only to this issue can distract us from other important goals.
Yes, the Azerbaijani army won a great victory and liberated part of the lands that were under occupation. Now this problem is conserved on a much smaller territory by Russia.
But this does not prevent Azerbaijan from carrying out radical reforms, changing the country and developing it. We must not forget about our other problems and cannot leave them unattended,” Jafarli wrote on his Facebook page.