Armenia has bonds with Turkey just as much as Azerbaijan

Turkey is not fighting Azerbaijan's war

MOURNERS GATHER at the funeral of Azerbaijani Armed Forces Maj.-Gen. Polad Gashimov, who was killed in an armed clash on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Baku, Azerbaijan, in July, 2020. (photo credit: REUTERS)
MOURNERS GATHER at the funeral of Azerbaijani Armed Forces Maj.-Gen. Polad Gashimov, who was killed in an armed clash on the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Baku, Azerbaijan, in July, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In recent days, foreign media outlets have been portraying the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a struggle between “little Armenia” fighting against “Turkish jihadists.”
Numerous media pundits have been pushing forward this narrative, while falsely claiming that Turkey is sending its troops and Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside Azerbaijanis. There even have been claims that Turkey stands behind the recent escalation of violence. As a member of the Defense and Security Committee of the Azerbaijani National Assembly, I must stress that such statements do not reflect the truth on the ground.
Azerbaijan is a sovereign independent country. Yes, Turkey is our ally. We share similar bonds with them. However, so does Armenia. Armenia also has a close friendship with Russia and France. But it does not mean that French or Russian people are fighting alongside the Armenians. Yes, we do buy weapons from Turkey, but we also buy weapons from Russia, Israel, and other countries. Azerbaijan’s defense portfolio is quite wide and diversified. However, some countries give those weapons free of charge to Armenia and are doing so even right now.
Thus, Turkey is not fighting beside us on the ground nor is Ankara deploying Syrian mercenaries to fight over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Turks are merely giving us moral and diplomatic support. In a recent statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed that Turkey did not send any fighters to Azerbaijan, a statement that is also backed up by the Syrian Human Rights Organization, which, according to MEMRI, denies such allegations.
Indeed, in the eyes of the Syrian Sunni jihadists, Azerbaijanis are also infidels, for we are Shi’ites opposed to radical Islam, who pride ourselves on having a multicultural society. Thus, no Syrian Islamist would ever bother to come fight in the defense of Azerbaijan, for they view us to be no different from Christians and Jews.
The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia would have escalated regardless. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia began in 1988, when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result, the Armenian armed forces occupied 20% of Azerbaijani territories, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding districts. More than one million Azerbaijanis became refugees and IDPs.
Four UN Security Council resolutions, adopted in 1993, demand the immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of the Armenian forces from Azerbaijan’s occupied territories. Unfortunately, the Armenian government continues to ignore these resolutions.
On March 29, 2019, Armenia’s Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan during his meeting with the Armenian community in New York called upon Armenia to pursue “a new war for new territories.”
On August 5, 2019, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan called for the unification of the Nagorno-Karabakh region with Armenia by saying: “Karabakh is Armenia. Period.” His statement that “Karabakh is Armenia” is a serious blow to negotiations. He put groundless preconditions unto the negotiation process. He sought that the illegal regime in Nagorno-Karabakh will be a third party to the negotiations.
No country in the world, including Armenia, recognizes the illegal entity established in Nagorno-Karabakh. Thus, he has started jeopardizing the format for the negotiations set up by the OSCE Minsk Group, which was in place for almost 30 years. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that these politically flawed and harmful statements do not leave room for negotiations.
On July 12, 2020, the Armenian armed forces violated the ceasefire and fired in the direction of the Tovuz district in Azerbaijan. As a result of this, 12 Azerbaijani servicemen, including a major-general and a 76-year-old civilian man, were killed. It is important to note that Armenia’s provocation happened 300 km. from Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding territories.
However, this location has regional strategic importance. This is the territory where the energy and transport corridor are passing through, which will export new natural gas to Europe. The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, the last stretch of the Southern Gas Corridor, which also includes two other pipelines running via Georgia and Turkey, became operational this month and will contribute to Europe’s energy security. This provocation is not only against Azerbaijan; it is against the strategic energy interests of the European countries.
On August 26, the Armenian Prime Minister announced the establishment of a civilian militia consisting of tens of thousands of civilians who will be forced to undertake military actions against Azerbaijan. This clearly demonstrated the new aggressive intention of the Armenian leadership.
Azerbaijan’s preference for negotiations over the past 30 years shows my country’s commitment toward finding a peaceful resolution to this conflict. But the Armenian leadership’s deliberate provocations destroyed the negotiation process.
Furthermore, the inactivity of the OSCE Minsk Group, which was set up in 1992 to resolve the conflict, worsened the peace negotiation process. The OSCE Minsk Group turned a blind eye and did not condemn publicly the illegal settlement policy and other provocations of the Armenian political-military leadership.
On September 27, the Armed Forces of Armenia violated the ceasefire by using large-caliber weapons and they launched an intensive attack on Azerbaijani positions. The bombardment of densely populated civilian areas and installations inside Azerbaijan was deliberate and targeted.
Despite the humanitarian ceasefire agreement between the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers, the Armenian forces violated the agreement hours after it. On the night of October 11 and 16, Armenian forces shelled civilians in Ganja, the second largest city in Azerbaijan. It is located hundreds of kilometers away from the battlefield. The Armenians committed a war crime when they killed tens of civilians and injured hundreds of others, including women and children. This is a gross violation of international law, including international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions.
Although Yerevan immediately denied the attack, international reporters from Reuters, BBC and others confirmed what Azerbaijan stated. They also said they could not find any military target in the area. Thus, Armenia deliberately and wantonly targeted Azerbaijani civilians, for this kind of ballistic missile does not make mistakes. They are programmed to hit a precise location. Thus, this attack was orchestrated by the highest echelons of the Armenian government.
The Azerbaijani prosecutor’s office confirmed that since the fighting began, Armenian forces have killed a total of 60 Azerbaijani civilians and injured 270. The number of damaged homes has reached 1,704, while 90 buildings and 327 public buildings have also become unusable amid the Armenian attacks.
In light of this, I call upon the Israeli people to understand Azerbaijan’s position. Although Armenia is a small country, they enjoy the backing of powerful superpower allies and other regional actors, who are sworn enemies of the State of Israel. We already witnessed that all Armenia’s attempts to somehow try to affect the Israel-Azerbaijan relationship have already proven to be unsuccessful.
This is because Israel is our strategic partner, and we want to maintain that cooperation. The Israel-Azerbaijan relationship is not just a matter for today, but rather is a thousand-year-old partnership and friendship between the Jewish people and the Azerbaijani people. These deep roots have been transformed into being the cornerstone of the modern relationship between the two countries in all sphere.
Currently, there are also Jewish-Azeri soldiers fighting on the frontlines in Nagorno-Karabakh. One of the proud members of the Jewish community in Azerbaijan, Daniel Zarbaliv, says: “I am proud to serve my country on the front line, and we will liberate all our lands from a 30-year-long occupation.” He concluded by addressing the Israeli people, asking them to “support us, pray for us. The truth supports us, the truth supports Azerbaijan.”
Current affairs reaffirm the historic truth that the countries that support the position of Azerbaijan are on the right side of history and are adhering to international law.
The writer is a lawmaker in the National Assembly of Azerbaijan. He is the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to GRECO (Group of States against Corruption, the Council of Europe’s Anti-Corruption Body) and the deputy head of PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe).