This article by METU Professor Huseyin Bagci appeared on TurkishDailyNews on Sunday who comments on Turkey’s support to Aliyev referring to Aliyev’s recent talk in Ankara University. Find below the whole article
Azerbaijani President Aliyev spent all of last week in Turkey making a “public and diplomatic attack” to gain support for a peace plan for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia since 1988. The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is a legacy of soviet times when both countries’ presidents were singing the “Communist International” when they were meeting with Soviet Communist Party leaders in Moscow.
Now, President Aliyev is appearing to follow more and more nationalistic policies as the antithesis to Armenian President Robert Kocharyan’s policies, who is looking equally to Moscow and Paris as the most reliable allies. When a few weeks ago the French president was inviting both of them to talk about a possible solution and treaty on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it became very clear that this conflict has already reached a multidimensional point and the solution is less likely than a few years ago.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also issued a similar invitation to both presidents to talk on the issue on American soil, where the Americans had great success in the case of the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict in the mid ’90s. However, why is Aliyev showing now such a policy change? In 1993 when Turkish Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin was suggesting a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, Aliyev was not interested at that time because he was more interested in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Can it be seen as a turnover in his policies? Partly, yes. Aliyev has been and is a great realistic politician in the region.
In an interview before his visit two weeks ago in a Turkish daily he said that someone can change his ideas without any problem as he did — he is not a communist anymore. Indeed, Aliyev-style politicians are condemned to be realistic in such a political and security environment, particularly in the Caucasian region.
It has always been like this there. But, what is important now for Aliyev is that he enjoys great political support in Turkey. And due to Armenian government and Armenian diaspora policies in regional as well as in international arenas Turkey offers a warm welcome for him because for the first time Aliyev based his changed policy on Armenian occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh and he is searching for military aid in case of any possible military confrontation with Armenia in the future by the most reliable neighbor Turkey. Aliyev is also lucky because after former President Suleyman Demirel his chemistry with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer is also very good and Aliyev is intelligent enough to make the best of it.
However, one should realize that Turkey and Azerbaijan indeed are natural partners in regional as well as in international politics. In the early ’90s, there was more enthusiasm in both countries’ leadership, but now this enthusiasm is mixed with more rationality and common interests than ever. For Turkey too, President Aliyev is a reliable and realistic politician who in return supports Turkey’s Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project and is ready to supply further oil and gas to Turkey in favorable terms. Azerbaijan is the only country among the five Turkish Republics of Caucasia and Central Asia who is considered as the closest Turkish state to Turkey from cultural to economic fields. President Aliyev’s well-organized “routine visits” to Turkey create a common understanding for Azerbaijan domestic as well as foreign problems in Turkish public opinion.
Whether a workable peace plan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia could be reached is an open question. But, Turkey and Azerbaijan are in this question closer than ever. As long as Armenia keeps 25 percent of Azeri territory there will be no solution there. Even the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has not been able to reach an acceptable solution in the last seven years.
Now, Armenia’s principal allies Russia and Iran have to develop new policies concerning the region despite the fact that Armenia is still a military ally and base for Russia in regional security matters. Russian President Putin and Armenian President Kocharyan understand each other very well and both are following nationalist policies and common strategic interests. The only problem for Putin is how he could also please Azerbaijan. In this sense, Russia is also having a specific role for any acceptable peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia and will remain as one of the key actors in the future.
President Aliyev’s visit also has shown how Turkey is needed by Azerbaijan and how Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the future. But the most important lesson was for the outside world was that Turkey supports Azerbaijan and it is not alone. There is great trust between the two countries and this will be noted by the regional neighbors. Aliyev left Turkey with great satisfaction because he knows that he is always welcome in Ankara and will enjoy the political support of Turkey. What more should Aliyev expect?