What’s Turkey’s role in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

NATO, the United States, Russia, and Iran have repeatedly called for an halt to the intense fighting that broke out between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in late September.

Turkey has also called for a truce, but it has struck a different tone.

In early October, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised Azerbaijan’s “great operation both to defend its own territories and to liberate the occupied Karabakh”.

Turkey stands with and will continue to stand with “friendly and brotherly Azerbaijan with all our means and all our heart”, Erdogan said.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as Azerbaijani territory, including by Armenia, but is dominated by ethnic Armenians who broke away from Baku in a war in the 1990s.

It has been the subject of several UN resolutions calling for an end to the occupation of Azeri lands.

‘Unconditional’ support

While Turkey has always supported Azerbaijan’s claims over disputed territory in the region, it did not play a significant rhetorical or military role in support of Baku in its previous conflicts with Armenia.

Turkey and Azerbaijan’s relationship even took a huge hit in 2008 as Turkey pursued a policy of rapprochement with Armenia.

“The failure of this diplomatic efforts between Turkey and Armenia was a watershed for Turkey-Azerbaijan relations,” Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who now chairs the Istanbul-based think-tank Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (Edam), told Al Jazeera.

“It’s after that that the relationship recovered and deepened.”

Military ties have deepened significantly between Turkey and Azerbaijan over the past 10 years as the oil-and gas-rich state spent heavily to gain military superiority over its much poorer neighbour Armenia.

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