Turkey’s newly-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Azerbaijan last week. This event caused great deal of interest on the part of the media and the expert community. It was for the first time ever that the brotherly nation had elected a President by a popular vote. Substance of the talks in Baku was intriguing in light of Ankara’s declarations regarding the upcoming substantial changes in the country in all the areas. Leaders of Turkey and Azerbaijan announced to the world their intention to elevate cooperation to the next level, including concerted efforts within regional and global scale geopolitical processes. Turkey would advocate Azerbaijan’s cause more vigorously in all the international organizations. Ankara and Baku also stated their determination to develop cooperation in the field of economy and energy.
Ankara’s Message: Azerbaijan Is a Priority
R. T. Erdoğan’s visit to Azerbaijan, in the wake of the first-ever popular vote presidential elections in the country and immediately upon his visit to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, was indeed an event of great significance. It has been a tradition that the two fraternal nations are in close cooperation. Turkey and Azerbaijan presently enjoy high level of strategic cooperation. On certain aspects, relations between the two societies defy political boundaries and gain cherished substance. Nonetheless, R. T. Erdoğan visiting particularly Baku has significant geopolitical meaning.
Therefore, some notable aspects deserve an emphasis. Above all, Turkey is undergoing renewal. Its approach to economic, political and regional processes, strategic objectives and other issues is changing. That is to say that Turkey is becoming a powerful nation, a country to be reckoned with on the international level. This change by itself is impacting the substance of the country’s relations with the regional states. According to the forecast of the analysts, Turkey will pursue more resolute and yet more democratic policy than before. In this connection, visit of the Turkish President to Azerbaijan suggests priorities of the country’s foreign policy.
Apparently, first, Ankara attaches great importance to the developing geopolitical processes in the region and considers them as one of key conditions to its national security. Second, in the regional context, it regards Azerbaijan as its closest partner and perceives cooperation with the former as a serious boost to ensuring peace. This was reflected in the remarks made by the Presidents in Baku.
In his statement for the press, after the meeting with the participation of delegations of both countries, Azerbaijan’s head of state said, ”All the time, Turkey has remained transparent about the policy it conducts. It has stood next to Azerbaijan and has been committed to fairness, justice and international law. This issue was once again discussed today” (see: Joint statement for the press of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the President of Turkey Rejeb Tayyip Erdogan / AzerTag, 3 September 2014).
In his remarks President of Turkey also highlighted the importance he attached to this issue. He went on to say that without the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict Turkey-Armenia relations could not be normalized. In his speech in the Parliament at home the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also said, ”Liberation of the occupied Azerbaijani territories is a matter of priority for Turkey” (see: Başbakan Davutoğlu 62. Hükumetin programını okudu / Anadolu Ajansı, 1 September 2014).
Amidst those declarations Ankara’s ”red lines” in the South Caucasus have thus emerged. Turkish leadership approaches the issues of regional cooperation and peace from the prism of ensuring Azerbaijan’s legitimate rights and rejects any other models. Evidently, Azerbaijan factor is one of the priorities for resurging Turkey.
Cooperation Principle: Justice And Peace
This aspect bears fascinating geopolitical meaning. Two Turkic-Muslim nations are becoming a driving force of cooperation, security and development of democracy in the Caucasus. To this end, they are consolidating the concept of a strong state and peace loving and fair society. Both leaders are clearly declaring that their cooperation is not aimed against anyone. On the contrary, together they are battling for peaceful bolstering of ties between the nations of the region and ensuring greater prosperity.
Telling evidence of that could be the statement by Turkey’s top leadership regarding the perspectives of significant steps towards cooperation with Armenia after the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Official Ankara called on Armenia not to remain hostage of historical events and urged the former to embrace the offers of cooperation. This means that they are always ready for regional cooperation. Therefore, In the event of Armenia’s withdrawal from the occupied territories a greater window of opportunity would open.
There is one important aspect to be underscored here. It has almost become a tradition that countries frequently issue statements calling for cooperation and peace. In most cases, however, they are not genuine about their commitment or lack sufficient resources to fulfill it. In the meantime, Turkey and Azerbaijan prove that political and geopolitical objectives are backed by solid economic and cultural development programs. This was recognized once again in the remarks on economic and energy cooperation by the heads of state after their meeting in Baku.
Turkey’s president stated that his country envisaged raising the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Turkey to $15 billion mark. Moreover, in the next few years, Azerbaijan is expected to invest in Turkey some $17-20 billion. Preparations are underway for TANAP’s groundbreaking ceremony, due to be held on September the 20th (see: TANAP’ın temeli 20 Eylülde atılıyor / ”Sabah”, 4 September 2014).
TANAP is a project of the geopolitical significance. President Ilham has repeatedly shared his view about the fact that commissioning of TANAP would introduce dramatic changes on the issue of energy supplies to Europe. Azerbaijan and Turkey are the two nations that stand firm behind this development. This means that the role in the economic, energy and cultural life of the West can be taken to the next level.
Thus, the conclusions are of strategic nature. Ankara and Baku are conducting foreign policies that are of significance on global geopolitical level, and this is underpinned by concrete principles. Above all, the world must reckon with the image of a powerful nation. Strong Azerbaijan is just as important for Turkey as the former’s prowess is for Azerbaijan. This has been the position of the leadership of both countries. The key point is that with respect to one another, the two countries would refrain from actions that are insincere and detrimental.
Another important principle is ensuring regional integration through concerted efforts. This denotes commitment to the paradigm of peace, reconciliation and development. And as such, there are no eternal enemies but potential partners.
Third point can be the agreed joint actions aimed at the formation of a security system. One of the signs was that Ankara was poised to introduce the Nagorno Karabakh conflict to the agenda of NATO’s Wales Summit. This was how Turkey’s President put it, in terms of the motive, “There are promises made to Azerbaijan throughout previous NATO Summits. We will urge that those promises are honored, just like it happens in other cases. This is not a favor or a donation, this is an entitlement” (see: ”Azerbaycan’a verilen sözler tutulmalıdır / ”Yeni Şafak”, 3 September 2014).
And finally, the brotherly nations are making successful endeavors in solidifying their positions in global geopolitics. For them, the key aspect is the principle of justice and dismissing of double standards. That is how Turkey and Azerbaijan have been able to perform efficiently in the framework of international organizations. Ankara and Baku are displaying an example of coordinating efforts in the political-diplomatic field.
It is beyond doubt that there are other aspects of Turkey-Azerbaijan partnership. Nevertheless, the aforementioned principles were vividly manifested in the course of Erdoğan’s most recent visit to Baku. It was no coincidence that the President of Turkey was awarded by the President Ilham Aliyev the highest decoration of the Republic of Azerbaijan – the ”Heydar Aliyev” Order. Heydar Aliyev was a symbol of political professionalism, resolve, justice, cooperation and the course of democratic state building. Politicians decorated with this order must always bear this in mind.