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erdoğan embarks on first visit to azerbaijan following his reelection

Erdoğan Embarks on First Visit to Azerbaijan Following His Reelection

Author: Toghrul Ali

Jun 21, 2023

Image source: President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

On June 13, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid an official visit to Azerbaijan.  This constituted Erdoğan’s first trip abroad, which also included a trip to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) on June 12, since his reelection in the May 28 election runoff. Visiting Azerbaijan after every election victory has become a customary tradition for Erdoğan, which signifies the close bond formed in Türkiye-Azerbaijan relations over the years. Erdoğan’s trip to Azerbaijan focused on exploring further cooperation opportunities in the future, and his remarks to the public reaffirmed a clear message that Türkiye is going to stand with Azerbaijan based on the principle of “two states with one nation.” 

Erdoğan and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev held a one-on-one meeting before expanding the format to include the Turkish and Azerbaijani delegations. Subsequently, in a press conference, both leaders provided statements about the discussed areas of cooperation and expressed their shared vision of a “joint foreign policy.” Aliyev emphasized that “Türkiye and Azerbaijan will take a unified position in the field of foreign policy,” which he argued is highly important for the development, stability, and security of the region. 

The ministerial delegations discussed several areas of future cooperation, namely collaboration in the fields of defense, trade, energy, connectivity, and education. Aliyev expressed satisfaction with the significant growth in trade volume between Azerbaijan and Turkey that has reached $6 billion. He further emphasized that this upward trend is expected to continue, driven by collaborative projects, particularly in the energy sector. As the flow of Azerbaijani natural gas exports through Turkish territory to European nations continues to rise, Erdoğan affirmed that both countries will persist in their efforts to address European energy needs. In light of the war in Ukraine, Azerbaijan has become an important energy partner of Europe through its natural gas exports via the Southern Gas Corridor. Because the Southern Gas Corridor passes through Türkiye, future energy cooperation between Türkiye and Azerbaijan will ensure the uninterrupted flow of the Caspian region’s energy to the European market. During the meetings, it was also underlined that the energy cooperation between the two countries isn’t limited to natural gas; the delegations also discussed potential cooperation in renewable energy sources. 

Cooperation in the defense sector was another central part of the discussions. Aliyev said that following the Second Karabakh War in late 2020, the Azerbaijani army has been developing its capabilities based on the “Turkish model.” The day before Erdoğan’s arrival in Baku, Turkish military garments-producing company Akıncılar Taktik Tekstil signed an agreement with the Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense Industry of Azerbaijan on the establishment of a joint production enterprise and a laboratory in Azerbaijan. According to the agreement, bulletproof steel vests, helmets, and other military equipment will be produced at the facilities; these items are also expected to be exported to other countries. This protocol signed between Türkiye and Azerbaijan is expected to be in line with allowing Azerbaijan to switch to complete domestic production of military equipment and materials in the coming years. A similar agreement was reached with Baykar Technologies, a Turkish defense company specializing in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Baykar-manufactured TB2 UAVs played a pivotal role in Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenian forces during the 44-day war in the Karabakh region in 2020. In April, while delivering his remarks at the Technofest Aerospace and Technology Festival held in Türkiye, President Aliyev said that an agreement was reached on the establishment of the Bayraktar Technology Center in Azerbaijan in the near future. In this regard, both agreements reached between Türkiye and Azerbaijan in the defense sector are expected to facilitate Azerbaijan’s transition from an importer to a domestic producer of military equipment and materials in the coming years.

While delivering his remarks, Erdoğan also touched on the normalization and peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Specifically, he mentioned the importance of opening transportation along the Zangezur corridor. "If we solve the Zangezur issue quickly, this will lead us to progress on two important gains taken by both road and railway," Erdoğan said. He added that with the corridor, "Türkiye's connections with (the Azerbaijani exclave) Nakhchivan will grow much stronger,” allowing them to further strengthen bilateral ties. Upon his return from Azerbaijan, Erdoğan also criticized Iran’s stance on the Zangezur corridor: “Iran’s approach to this issue disappoints us and Azerbaijan - If Iran would approach this positively, then Turkey-Azerbaijan-Iran would be linked to each other, and we can have a ‘Beijing-London’ line through land and railroads.” He also mentioned that, unlike Iran, Armenia seems not to object to the opening of the Zangezur corridor. Unblocking the Zangezur corridor would positively contribute to the flow of goods and cargo shipments along the Middle Corridor, which has gained importance as an alternative to the Northern Corridor running from China through Russia to Europe. 

President Erdoğan's official visit to Azerbaijan on June 13 reaffirms the enduring bond between the two countries. With the appointment of a new cabinet, Erdoğan has signaled his aims to embark on an ambitious new era of Türkiye's domestic and foreign policy. While he made it clear that Türkiye will continue to stand by Azerbaijan moving forward, a new term for Erdoğan also provides him with an opportunity to shift Türkiye’s position as a mediator in establishing a lasting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan. On June 3, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attended Erdogan's inauguration in Ankara, which can be considered as the latest sign of a thaw in relations between Armenia and Türkiye. Unblocking of the transport routes such as the Zangezur corridor can successfully contribute to peace efforts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which by itself would accelerate the normalization process between Türkiye and Armenia.

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