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Reporters have been authorized by Parliament. Why has Turkey delayed sending troops to Azerbaijan?

Russia and Tajikistan held joint tactical military exercises

△Russian peacekeepers at checkpoints in Azerbaijan, source: AFP

Half a month ago, on November 17, the Turkish Parliament passed a motion to send troops to Azerbaijan, which was proposed by the Turkish presidential palace to “supervise Nagorno-Karabakh peace process and prevent the recurrence of conflict”.

Now, nearly half a month has passed, why hasn’t Turkey sent out its soldiers? What is the relationship between Turkey’s delay in sending troops and the Turkish-Russian game?

On November 16, the Turkish presidential palace submitted a motion to send troops to Azerbaijan to the Grand National Assembly to supervise the ceasefire process in Nagorno-Karabakh region for a period of one year. Turkish President Erdoğan will decide the number of soldiers. The motion signed by Erdoğan mentions that Turkey sends troops for “the well-being of the local people” and “for the national interests of Turkey”.

The Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the motion the next day. The motion received wide support in the parliament. Except for the Zhengfa Party and the Nationalist Action Party, opposition parties, such as the Republican People’s Party and the Good Party, voted for the motion.

△Turkish Grand National Assembly, Source: Turkish Media.

On November 21, Turkish Defense Minister Akar said that the preparations for sending troops to Azerbaijan had been completed and that Turkish soldiers would start their missions in Azerbaijan as soon as possible.

Now, nearly half a month after the Great National Assembly passed the motion, Turkey has not sent soldiers out. What happened?

“It’s clear that Turkey and Russia are divided,” Bola Baqatar, an expert in international relations at Istanbul Culture University in Turkey, told the main station reporter. The two countries did not agree on the specific matter of Turkey’s dispatch of troops to Azerbaijan. Baqatar believes that the leaders of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia are likely to hold further consultations on this matter.

As early as November 11, the day after Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Agreement came into effect, Turkish President Erdoğan announced that Turkey and Russia had signed a memorandum of understanding, Turkey would join the Russian peacekeeping forces, and the two sides would establish a joint center to supervise the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire process and prevent the recurrence of the conflict. . Erdoğan also said that the joint center would be built on “liberate land” in Azerbaijan.

Two days later, Russia sent a delegation to Turkey to discuss specific matters of the Turkish-Russian Joint Center. The talks between Turkish and Russian representatives lasted for several days, but no concrete results were announced. Turkey’s defense minister only said that “bilateral cooperation will continue”. Turkish Foreign Minister Çavušoğlu said that Turkey will hold talks with Azerbaijan next, and the location of the joint center will be determined in the talks with Azerbaijan.

However, many media believe that the Turkish-Russian negotiations are not smooth, so where are the differences between the two sides?

△ Turkish and Russian leaders met in the Kremlin in January 2019. Photo Source: Associated Press.

Reuters quoted Turkish sources as saying that Turkey wants to set up an independent military observation point in Azerbaijan, while Russia does not think that Turkey does not need to set up an observation point outside the Turkish-Russian Joint Center, which is an important difference between the two sides.

In addition, whether Turkey will enter the Nagorno-Karabakh region is also the focus of attention. Turkey’s position on this is relatively vague. In the motion submitted by the Turkish government, Turkey can send troops to Azerbaijan to supervise the ceasefire process in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and does not say whether to enter the Nagorno-Karabakh region. And on the Russian side? The position is very clear. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov made it clear that Turkish peacekeeping forces will not enter the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The Turkish “observer”‘s movement can only be limited to the Turkish-Russian joint center in Azerbaijan. Lavrov said that the joint center will supervise the ceasefire through remote means, such as drones and other technical means, to know which party has complied with the agreement and which party has violated it.

Turkey’s Daily Morning Post quoted experts as saying that one reason why Russia does not want Turkish soldiers to enter the Nagorno-Karabakh region is that the move may lead to the deterioration of Armenian-Russian relations and even anti-Russian sentiment. Therefore, for Russia, whether Turkey deploys soldiers in the Nagorno-Karabakh region is a sensitive issue. Russia needs to maintain the balance and stability of relevant forces in the region.

Hussein Bazhe, director of the Turkish Foreign Policy Research Institute, told the reporter of the General Station: “Russia is the biggest winner of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Russia will decide who will be deployed in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and how many troops to deploy. From this perspective, Turkey is not so proactive. Turkey expressed its willingness to send troops to Russia, but the number and location of troops are still determined by Russia. Baj also said that Turkish soldiers would not patrol in armored vehicles dancing the flag, as in Syria. In the Naqqa region, only Russian soldiers can do so. The Turkish personnel will watch Russian soldiers patrol Nagorno-Karabakh at the Joint Center.

As early as 2010, Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a strategic partnership and mutual assistance agreement. According to this agreement, either Turkey and Azerbaijan is subject to military attack or aggression, and the other party must provide all possible support, including of course military support. Now that such an agreement is in place, why does the Turkish Parliament pass the motion to send troops to Azerbaijan?

Although the Russian side said that Turkey’s actions could only be limited to the joint center. However, Jünar Çevikz, the former Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan, said in an interview with the media that the intention of the military proposal passed by the Turkish Parliament is not limited to the Turkish-Russian Joint Center.

Turkish commentator Ayden Sezl said in an interview with the media that the Turkish-Russian Joint Center does not need military forces. This is a technical advisory center. It is also difficult for Turkey to intervene in ceasefire violations, because Russia will intervene first. Sezl believes that the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the military proposal for domestic political needs. Through this motion, the Turkish government sent a signal to the people that in Azerbaijan, Turkey’s military strength is very active and influential. The motion is also seen by some Turkish media as a manifestation of Turkey’s growing influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

On November 24, Erdogan and Putin talked on the phone. Turkish media reported that Erdoğan said on the phone that he hoped that the Turkish-Russian Joint Center could be launched as soon as possible. With the opening of the Joint Centre, Turkey’s position and influence in the Nagorno-Karabakh situation will become clearer. 

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