BAKU (RFE/RL) — Turkey’s top army general reportedly voiced support for Azerbaijan’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and promised continued assistance to the Azerbaijani military during a visit to Baku that ended on Tuesday.
General Hulusi Akar, chief of the Turkish General Staff, met with President Ilham Aliyev, Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and other Azerbaijani leaders during the two-day trip.
“Our military cooperation must continue to be reinforced,” the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry quoted Akar as telling Hasanov. The latter briefed him on the most recent upsurge in fighting with Armenian forces near Karabakh and along the border with Armenia.
According to the APA news agency, Akar and Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasi-zade called for a resolution of the Karabakh conflict that would uphold the “inviolability of Azerbaijan’s borders.” The Turkish general said in that regard that “in recent years” Ankara has been helping Baku with weapons, training military personnel and holding joint Turkish-Azerbaijani military exercises. Those exercises are proving to be “very fruitful,” he said.
Akar also stressed the importance of the joint drills at the separate meeting with Aliyev. He said they have helped the armed forces of the two Turkic allies to achieve “exemplary interaction in various spheres,” reported APA.
The Armenian military claims that Azerbaijani forces increasingly use TR-107 multiple-launch rocket systems manufactured in Turkey in ceasefire violations along “the line of contact” around Karabakh. It says that Azerbaijani commando units periodically attacking Karabakh Armenian army positions were trained in Turkey.
Turkish-Azerbaijani war games appear to have become more frequent since the signing in 2010 of a bilateral treaty on “strategic partnership and mutual assistance.” It is not clear whether the treaty commits the Turkish military to fighting on the Azerbaijani side in case Baku attempts to forcibly regain control over Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it.
Armenia has sought to preclude direct Turkish military intervention in the Karabakh conflict with close defense links with Russia and, in particular, Russian military presence on its soil. A Russian-Armenian agreement signed in 2010 upgraded the security mission of a Russian army base headquartered in Gyumri, an Armenian city close to the Turkish border.