Turkey outperforms France, US in Caucasus

Turkey outperforms France, US in Caucasus

An agreement that ends the six-week conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia to the benefit of the former had been pretty certain since the clashes began in late September.

Azerbaijan was both superior on the battlefield and the political scene. The Azerbaijani army completely outcompeted the Armenian forces as its economy has strengthened in the last three decades.

It has successfully benefited from the international political landscape. Baku rightly estimated that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not try to stop the Azeri advance until a certain point in a bid to punish Armenia’s pro-Western prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan. Russian intervention came just as Azerbaijan was closer to taking control of Nagorno-Karabakh’s main city, Stepanakert.

The protests of the Armenian people against Pashinyan and his government will likely result in a leadership change in Yerevan, underscoring once again Moscow’s influence on the tiny Caucasus country.

Azerbaijan also benefited from the U.S. presidential elections to the full. Apart from a few statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Washington had no powers or time to impose any leverage on either party to stop the armed conflict. Baku also saw that the reaction of the Europeans, particularly of France, would fall short in having a genuine impact on the two warring sides.

However, one of the most important game-changers was Turkey’s full, unconditional and active support for Azerbaijan in its efforts to liberate its territories from the Armenian occupation. Apart from its huge political and diplomatic support, the Turkish General Staff and other key institutions provided expertise and other sorts of assistance to Azerbaijani institutions.

Turkey has successfully played its role in the conflict and used its unique relationship with Russia in the Caucasus theater as well. Azerbaijan would still have been victorious against the ailing Armenian army, but the Turkish intervention made it much more quick and smooth. That’s why, as many foreign observers admit, it can also be cited as the victory of Turkey.

At the end of the day, Azerbaijan has gained the seven regions (or rayons) surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh and a new reality is being instituted. The Russians will dispatch a peacekeeping force in the region for five years. Plus, as Azerbaijan President İlham Aliyev has stressed, a new mechanism to observe and protect the peace with the participation of Russian and Turkish troops will be set up in the region. This new mechanism will be in touch with Yerevan and Baku in a bid to avoid new violations of the ceasefire and a resumption of clashes.

That will formally introduce Turkey into the scene – something that will ultimately alter the 30-year status quo in which France, the United States and Russia acted as the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The establishment of a new Turkey-Russia balance in the Caucasus will surely sideline France and the United States, many observers agree.

The Azerbaijani victory in Nagorno-Karabakh undoubtedly marks the beginning of a new era in the region that will feature the stronger influence of Turkey.