By Amberin Zaman
ISTANBUL (Al-Monitor) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 25 met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijani exclave bordering Turkey, as thousands of ethnic Armenians continued to flee Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia proper in the wake of a fresh Azerbaijani assault on the majority Armenian enclave that has been the scene of bloody conflicts since the early 1990s.
In a 44-day-long war in 2020, Turkey’s military support proved key in helping Azerbaijan wrest back all of its territories occupied by Armenia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it is backing the oil-rich Turkic nation’s current drive to seize all of Nagorno-Karabakh. The mountainous region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its population is 95% Armenian.
On September 20, the self-declared Republic of Artsakh, the Armenian name for the enclave, effectively capitulated after Azerbaijan launched a wave of attacks targeting what it called separatist “terrorists” — a reference to the local Armenian force defending some 120,000 ethnic Armenians who have inhabited the area for millennia.
Erdogan said it was “a matter of pride” that Azerbaijan’s latest “victory” was “successfully completed in a short period of time, with utmost sensitivity to the rights of civilians.” Even as he uttered those words, fresh allegations of abuses continued to flow from Armenian sources on the ground, with searing images shared online of women and children said to be wounded by Azerbaijani shelling.
Azerbaijan said it launched the operation to uphold a 2020 trilateral peace agreement with Russia and Armenia. Russian peacekeepers deployed in keeping with the agreement put up little resistance, prompting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to accuse the Kremlin of failing to honor its commitments. Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led bloc consisting of five other post-Soviet states under which members rise to the defense of others when under attack from outside forces.