President Erdogan: "Turkey will stand side by side with its Azerbaijani brothers"
Photo: ADEM ALTAN / AFP
They fought against the rulers Bashar al-Assad and the Kurds in Syria, and in Libya they also went into civil war for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey: the Hamza Brigade and the Turkish military leadership are closely linked.
Rumor has it that Turkey has now also brought Syrian mercenaries to neighboring Azerbaijan.
Ankara wants to send a thousand fighters to the Caucasus, according to online media close to the Syrian opposition in recent weeks.
The reports cannot be confirmed.
Azerbaijan denies the allegations and accuses warring Armenia of being behind the "campaign of lies".
Turkey has so far left the reports uncommented.
However, Ankara has clearly positioned itself in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"Turkey will stand side by side with its Azerbaijani brothers," Erdogan wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan had previously escalated again.
The two former Soviet republics have been fighting for decades over the Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan, which is predominantly inhabited by Armenians in the Caucasus.
Under international law, the region controlled by Armenia with an estimated 145,000 inhabitants belongs to Azerbaijan.
A ceasefire has been in place since 1994, but it has been repeatedly broken.
Both countries are currently engaged in the toughest battles in years.
Armenia declared a state of war on Sunday.
Turkey has had a close relationship with Azerbaijan for years under the motto "Two states, one nation".
Both countries are culturally close, and they are linked by a military alliance.
In the past, however, Ankara has not backed its "brother state" as clearly as in the past few weeks.
"You could see Turkey's new role as early as July," said Caucasus expert Stefan Meister from the Heinrich Böll Foundation to SPIEGEL.
For the first time, Turkey openly backed Azerbaijan.
This clear partiality has reached a new dimension.
Turkey had held a military exercise in Azerbaijan.
Fighter jets, attack helicopters and artillery units were involved.
The maneuver was taken as a warning to Armenia.
It cannot be ruled out that some of the military equipment and troops are still in the country.
"Turkey opened a new conflict here"
Under President Erdoğan, Turkish foreign policy has become increasingly aggressive in recent years.
This can be seen in Syria, Libya or in the dispute over gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
Ankara is now increasingly involved in the Caucasus.
"Turkey has opened up a new conflict here," says Meister.
In the past, Ankara has held back in the region, but intervention is now more active.
Meister suspects several reasons for the change in strategy.
President Erdoğan is under increasing pressure domestically.
The Turkish economy has been in crisis for months.
According to polls, Erdoğan no longer gets the majority nationwide he needs to be re-elected president in 2023.
Meister believes that his involvement in Azerbaijan could score points with conservative voters.
"Especially since the topic of Armenia in Turkey is highly emotional."
At best, Armenia and Turkey look at each other with suspicion; at worst, they can be called hereditary enemies.
Ankara is vehemently opposed to recognizing as genocide the massacres that were committed against the Armenian population during the time of the Ottoman Empire.
Fears of further escalation in the Caucasus
Russia stands behind Armenia as a protecting power.
According to Meister, this could be another reason for Turkey's involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Turkey is not only trying to establish itself as a regional power, Ankara could also want to send a signal against Russia, which is also trying to dominate the region.
Ankara and Moscow are already pursuing conflicting interests in the conflicts in Syria and Libya.
In the Caucasus they are now on different sides again.
Master fears that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will initially escalate.
"That can only be stopped with Russia and Turkey. These two powers are the only ones that are militarily present there," says Meister.
He only sees a solution if Russia exerts pressure on Turkey to refrain from interfering.
So far, however, Moscow has held back.
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