Experts ponder implications of Erdogan's latest Karabakh visit

3 November 2021 12:21 (UTC+04:00)

By Vugar Khalilov

Experts closely watching the official launch of major projects in Karabakh by the leaders of two fraternal and ally countries - Azerbaijan and Turkey in late October have described this key event as the determination of Baku and Ankara to achieve long-term regional peace, security and cooperation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the first international leader, who landed at a brand-new airport that Azerbaijan has constructed in liberated Fuzuli in eight months after its remarkable victory in the 44-day war with Armenia in 2020.

Erdogan's historic visit to Fuzuli on October 26, 2021, to inaugurate along with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev the Fuzuli International Airport, which is currently Karabakh’s only air connection with the world, and the Zangazur corridor of immense strategic importance was the focus of attention in the regional and international media.

President Aliyev stressed the importance of the visit, saying "this shows that Turkey and Azerbaijan, as two brotherly countries, are always close to each other".

Change in geopolitical panorama

Parliament Speaker Sahiba Gafarova earlier stated that “today, projects that are being resolutely implemented by joint efforts of Azerbaijan and Turkey change the geopolitical panorama of the region and add new nuances to it”.

Some experts think that Erdogan used his visit to Fuzuli and other territories over which Azerbaijan gained control after the autumn war of 2020 to communicate Turkey's readiness for regional cooperation.

Another message from Erdogan is thought to be the confirmation of Turkey's readiness to be the guarantor of Azerbaijan's security in line with the Shusha Declaration that Baku and Ankara signed on June 15, 2021.

Furthermore, it is believed that Turkey seeks to use the new regional situation for the development of international transport communications, which should benefit everyone.

These plans can be successfully implemented with the opening of the Zangazur corridor across the narrow isthmus of the Armenian territory between Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which has a border with Turkey. Therefore, Turkey, like Azerbaijan, counts on the normalization of relations with Armenia.

Erdogan earlier stated if Armenia shows sincere will in relations with Azerbaijan, there will be no obstacles to the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia.

In addition, the Zangazur corridor has geopolitical significance as a link providing uninterrupted communication between the Turkic states from Russia's Altay (35 percent of the republic's population are members of the Turkic ethnic group) to Southern Europe. This will increase the role of Azerbaijan as a link between the Turkic world and Turkey.

Toghrul Juvarli, a member of the Azerbaijan National Public Committee for European Integration, believes that Erdogan's participation in the opening of Fuzuli airport was of great importance for both states.

“The participation of Erdogan increased the significance of this event, attracted more international attention to it. The message was given to the world that Azerbaijan, having finished the war, is busy with creative work. On the other hand, the construction of the airport still in the dead zone underscores the scale of the damage caused to Azerbaijan by the war," Juvarli said.

The expert stressed that the opening of the airport, as well as the laying of the construction of a new highway in the direction of Horadiz-Zangilan-Aghband along the Iranian border to the border with Armenia, showed that Azerbaijan is determined to implement the Zangazur corridor project, which will become part of international communication between Europe and Asia.

Important message to investors

For Azerbaijan, the opening of the airport had a symbolic meaning, among other things.

The construction of a new modern airport among the ruins in just eight months confirms the country's determination and ability to restore territories completely destroyed during the war. This, according to the government, is an important message for investors that the region is overgrown with transport infrastructure, it has prospects and the participation in projects can bring economic benefits.

Chairman of the Humanitarian Research Public Union Avaz Hasanov believes that the construction of the airport will speed up the construction of other infrastructure on the liberated territories.

“The airport in Fuzuli is able to receive aircraft of all classes, including cargo ones. This will make it possible to quickly deliver materials and equipment from foreign countries here. The presence of an airport is an important factor in attracting foreign investors and contractors. Firstly, when there is an airport nearby, it is very convenient to send specialists for a preliminary examination and assessment of the places of upcoming work. Taking into account the fact that there is no hotel infrastructure in the region, it is very important to fit in one day. Secondly, the presence of the airport testifies to the seriousness of the government's intentions to restore vast territories, and this strengthens investors' confidence in the prospects for capital investments," Hasanov stressed.

Hasanov also outlined the importance of the construction of airports in terms of tourism.

Erdogan's visit also showed that the brotherhood of Azerbaijan and Turkey not only brings stability to the region but also serves as a model for regional actors. Through their practical activities, the two countries resolutely defend each other's national interests and implement the joint projects in various spheres, he said.

Regional transport communications

Azerbaijan, along with Turkey earlier offered a new regional cooperation format that would involve all six countries in the region, including Armenia.

President Aliyev announced Baku's willingness for a new regional cooperation platform at a press conference on December 10, 2020.

The six-sided platform is the idea of launching a consultative regional mechanism with the participation of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

It is believed that the cooperation platform will meet the interests of all its potential participants, contribute to strengthening peace, confidence, lead to stimulating economic processes and cooperation in the South Caucasus. 

It should be noted that President ─░lham Aliyev said during his visit to Zangilan on October 20 that although Armenia earlier resisted the unblocking of the regional transport communications, "they have now agreed to it".

The document signed on January 11, 2021, envisages the unblocking of transport communications in the region after Baku and Yerevan reached a ceasefire deal in November 2020 after the 44-day war.

Shusha Declaration

On June 15, 2021, during Erdogan’s first visit to Karabakh, both Baku and Ankara signed the Shusha Declaration on Allied Relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey.

The pact assesses the opening of the corridor between the western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the construction of the Nakhchivan-Kars railway as a contribution to the intensification of transport and communications.

The document envisages the sustainable development of Azerbaijani-Turkish relations at all levels, including in the political, economic and humanitarian spheres. At the same time, the declaration addresses issues of defense cooperation and mutual military assistance.

It also highlights the importance of partnership and cooperation in the field of military industry, which increases the strength of both countries. 

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