ISTANBUL (RFE/RL) — Turkey’s strong support for Azerbaijan makes it a party to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Thursday, August 27.
“Turkey is also a party to the conflict, standing with a brotherly state and defending its rights,” Akar told the Turkish Anatolia news agency.
Successive Turkish governments have unconditionally backed Azerbaijan in the conflict, reflecting close cultural and ethnic ties between the two Turkic nations. They have refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia and kept the Turkish-Armenian border closed. They have has also provided military assistance to Azerbaijan.
Ankara voiced support for Baku in unusually strong terms during and after last month’s deadly clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. The Armenian government decried the Turkish reaction, accusing Ankara of trying to destabilize the region, undercutting international efforts to resolve the conflict and posing a serious security threat to Armenia.
Akar again blamed Yerevan for the flare-up of violence which left at least 17 soldiers from both sides dead. “Armenia does not act reasonably by relying on forces standing behind it and punching above its weight,” he said, apparently alluding to Russia, the South Caucasus state’s main ally.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Ankara to exercise restraint in its reaction to the Armenian-Azerbaijani hostilities when they spoke with their Turkish counterparts by phone in late July.