US, France, Russia call for Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire, but Turkey encourages Azeri offensive
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – On Monday, the foreign ministers of the US, France, and Russia issued a joint statement, calling for a ceasefire in the escalating conflict in the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On the same day, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun held separate phone conversations with the Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers in which he “urged” them “to agree to a ceasefire immediately and resume negotiations,” according to a statement released by State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.
However, the following day, on Tuesday, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, visited Azerbaijan, which has been pressing an offensive to take control of the separatist region. Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan, but it is controlled by Armenian forces, which have enjoyed the support of Armenia’s government since Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent states, following the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.
In Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, Cavusoglu criticized the position of the US, France, and Russia—the co-chairs of the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE’s) Minsk Group—which was established in 1992, after the conflict erupted between Azerbaijanis and Armenians.
“Let’s have a ceasefire, okay. But what will happen after that?” Cavusoglu said in Baku. “Will you be able to tell Armenia to withdraw from Azerbaijan’s territory? Or are you able to draw up a solution for it to withdraw? No.”
“There should be no doubt that when needed, we will act like one state,” Cavusoglu tweeted on Tuesday, as well. “Turkey is Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan is Turkey.”
Although Turkish officials refer to Azerbaijan as “Turkey’s brotherly Turkic nation,” there is a significant difference between the two, as Azerbaijanis are Shia, while the Turkish population is overwhelmingly Sunni.
The current round of conflict, which began on Sept. 27, is the most serious fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1994, when a ceasefire was reached, mostly through Russian mediation, and then supported by the other members of the Minsk Group.
Two days after the current round of fighting began, the UN Security Council called for an immediate end to hostilities, while the Minsk group issued its first call for a ceasefire.
However, on Oct. 1, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected that call. Addressing the opening of a new session of parliament, he proclaimed, “Given that the US, Russia, and France have neglected this problem for nearly 30 years, it is unacceptable that they are involved in a search for a ceasefire.”
That stance is popular in Turkey, where even the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, has backed it.
Erdogan’s Neo-Ottoman Ambitions
“Nagorno-Karabakh now appears to be figuring” in Erdogan’s regional ambitions, the Voice of America reported on Tuesday, as it noted that the Turkish president “has made no secret of his wish to restore Turkey’s past Ottoman greatness and regional influence.”
In his speech to the Turkish parliament, Erdogan also claimed: “Jerusalem is ours — one of our cities.”
“In this city that we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance,” he said.
The Ottomans joined the Central Powers, led by Germany, shortly after the outbreak of World War I and then lost their empire, following the defeat of Germany and its allies four years later.
One instrument of Turkey’s power projection—in the conflict with Armenia, as well as in Libya and Syria—appears to be the Islamic extremists that it has cultivated through the conflict in Syria.
Turkey has dispatched some 1,500 Syrians to Azerbaijan, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Monday. According to the magazine, commanders of the Syrian National Army (SNA) arrived in Azerbaijan even before the fighting began “to explore the region and coordinate with the Azerbaijani army about the distribution of troops.”
The Syrians were offered four-month contracts at $1,500 a month and told they “would be mostly manning guard posts.” But they are engaged in active combat, Foreign Policy explained, and some 55 have already died there.
“The arrival of the bodies of the dead mercenaries in Syria” has dismayed many people, it reported. “One SNA fighter in Afrin, Syria, said the arrival of the dead was ‘a tragic day like had not been witnessed before.’”
Of course, Kurds, and others in northern Syria living in areas under the control of the SNA, would be astonished at such a statement.
“A United Nations report last month detailed crimes including kidnappings, rape and extortion carried out by the SNA against Kurds, Christians, and other minorities,” Foreign Policy said.
Moreover, Turkey claims—without providing any evidence, as Foreign Policy noted—that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is supporting Armenia.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany