Turkey is Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan is Turkey
In 1994, I was in Baku when the ceasefire was declared and bloodshed stopped at the Armenia-Azerbaijan war over Nagorno-Karabagh. The previous two years, together with a small group of Turkish journalists, I was touring off and on the Nagorno-Karabagh and the surrounding Azerbaijani provinces, witnessing immense human trauma unleashed by the Armenian aggression. It was a very sad experience. Hundreds, thousands and eventually over 1.5 million Azerbaijani citizens were forcefully uprooted from their settlements, condemned to become displaced or as was the case at Hojali and many other settlements who became victims of a genocidal pogrom.
Those were very bitter years. The situation of hundreds of thousands of displaced Azerbaijanis at a makeshift refugee camp made of old train wagons and tents in the outskirts of Beylegan was appalling. The Azerbaijan of that time could not offer much to provide comfort to its displaced citizens. Summer houses and farmhouses were offered to become temporary shelters for the displaced. Unfortunately, after so many decades since the ceasefire declaration, no progress could be made in restoring the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan by ending the Armenian occupation. Worse, over the years, Armenia tried to repopulate the occupied areas – a program that largely failed because of the massive emigration of the Armenian population outside the country. Is it not strange that only in Istanbul, there are tens of thousands of Armenians, mostly working illegally? This fact alone demonstrates vividly the desperate economic situation, the anti-Turkish policies, and the continued Azerbaijan occupation of Armenia in the country over the past decades.
In 1994, the economic situation of Azerbaijan was terrible as the country was not capable of using its oil and gas wealth for its development. At the time, under-armed Azerbaijan could not defend its territory against Russian-backed Armenian aggression. Furthermore, the legitimate government of Ebulfez Elçibey was toppled by the Surat Husseinov coup in the middle of the war with Armenia.
But, from the moment Haydar Aliyev returned from Nakhichevan, first as parliament speaker and later as president, the ceasefire period was effectively used for the prosperity of the country, thanks to oil and gas revenues. Today Azerbaijan is capable of fighting to liberate its Armenian-occupied territories.
About six months before his demise, I had the opportunity to come together with Aliyev. During the talk, I said: “Mr. President, I have been coming to Azerbaijan once or twice a year since 1992. We know each other from that time. I just cannot compare the Azerbaijan of 1995 with the Azerbaijan of 2002 [He passed away in 2003]. You created a miracle.”
Aliyev, in all smiles, said: “Yusuf bey, how well you said… Azerbaijan is progressing. We have been using every cent for the prosperity of our country, the wellbeing of our people. Write it, please. Tell everyone how great struggle waged here to achieve an advanced country. My only regret is we could not liberate our occupied territories. That is my great pain.”
Similarly, in my talks with late Aliçibey, he was also in pain because of the occupation. Yet, all Azerbaijan governments have been acting for a negotiated end to the occupation of Azerbaijani territory and restoration of peace and neighborly relations among all Caucasian nations.
In the 1990s it was only Turkey extending little material but mostly moral support to Azerbaijan while Russia was openly and discreetly, West in many ways, were all supporting the aggressor Armenia. The negotiations process, particularly the “efforts” of the Minsk group could not go further than empty talk on deaf ears. Today, in line with the “One nation, two states” dictum of the late Aliyev and late Süleyman Demirel, if Azerbaijan needs Turkish support, it will have it unconditionally because Azerbaijan is Turkey, Turkey is Azerbaijan.
Hopefully, without turning into a full-fledged war, the current situation will be replaced with a ceasefire primarily and a renewed negotiations process, the precondition of which ought to be the unconditional return of the five Azerbaijani regions around the Nagorno-Karabagh district.
Otherwise, today’s Azerbaijan is capable of liberating its entire occupied territory with its military might, and if needed, with Turkey’s unconditional support.