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Intel Brief: Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and Turkish involvement


 

Date: 25/09/2023

Where:

  • Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan


Who’s involved:

  • Turkish Government, Azeri Government.



Events:

  • On 25/09/2023, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is visiting Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave.

  • Here he will meet with the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to discuss bilateral relations, international and regional politics, and the current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

  • During the talks, Erdoğan and Aliyev will most likely discuss the ‘Zangezur Corridor’, a project by Azerbaijan and Turkey to connect the Nakhchivan exclave over land through Armenia’s southern region of Zangezur.

  • Azerbaijan has stated that they are willing to use force if Armenia refuses to cooperate with the establishment of the corridor.

  • Currently, Turkish media has been reporting suspected militarization of the Zangezur region by Armenia, and referring to the Erdoğan-Aliyev meeting as ‘the corridor meeting.’

  • Iran stated that it “will not allow any change of borders in the region” warning against the possibility of Azerbaijan and Turkey using force to establish the Zangezur corridor. For Iran, the connection with Armenia is what allows them to conduct land route trade with Russia. It is reported that Iran has bolstered its military presence at the border.



Analysis:

  • The establishment of a ‘Zangezur corridor’ will be highly beneficial to Turkey, as Azerbaijan will then be able to export oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey.

  • With Armenia weakened by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and lacking Russian support, Azerbaijan may feel encouraged to escalate its pressure campaign over the Zangezur corridor.

  • Although Turkish media reports of Armenian militarization of the Zangezur region, the reports may not be accurate, especially as Turkish media is mostly state-controlled.

  • The Turkish media reports may indicate that the Turkish government is starting to push a narrative about safeguarding Turkish international interests.

  • With this narrative, it will be easier for Turkey to domestically legitimize military involvement, if Azerbaijan chooses to engage militarily in the Zangezur region.

  • The narrative regarding the ‘Zangezur corridor,’ that emerged from the meeting between Erdoğan and Aliyev, will be key to determining future moves of Turkey and Azerbaijan in the region.

  • Iran’s red line on borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia could either prevent military operations from happening or it will involve Iran in the conflict.


Conclusion


Turkey’s interest in the development of the gas pipeline connection through the ‘Zangezur corridor’ suggests that it could use the current Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict to its advantage. An escalation of the conflict is likely if rhetoric continues from both Turkey and Azerbaijan that the establishment of the ‘Zangezur corridor’ is necessary and that Armenia is continuing to refuse cooperation while militarizing the region. In this scenario, it is likely that Azerbaijan will militarily engage in the Zangezur region together with Turkish support. If this conflict escalates, it will be relatively soon as Azerbaijan will likely want to use the military momentum gained from the Nagorno-Karabakh engagement.



 
20230925 Intel Brief_ Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict and Turkish Involvement
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