The Turkish and Azerbaijani armies began on Tuesday fresh joint military exercises in Azerbaijan highlighting their growing cooperation.
A statement by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry cited by local news agencies said the five-day exercises are taking place in Baku and the Nakhichevan exclave surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. It said they will be watched later this week by Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and General Umit Dundar, the commander of the Turkish Third Army deployed near Turkey’s borders with Armenia and Georgia.
The statement added that the drills are aimed at boosting “friendship, cooperation and coordination” between the armed forces of the two allied countries. It said nothing about the number of troops and military hardware involved in them.
The Turkish General Staff announced over the weekend that an infantry company and a mechanized platoon of its forces will take part in the drills in Baku and Nakhichevan respectively, suggesting that the total number of participating Turkish servicemen stands at roughly150. In a statement posted on its website, it said the purpose of the drills is to “promote interoperability and mutual sharing of knowledge and experience.”
Hasanov discussed their conduct with the visiting chief of staff of Turkey’s Ground Forces, General Ihsan Uyar, in Baku on April 30. “Our armed forces … should constantly strengthen their relations and act together against the common enemy,” the Azerbaijani defense chief reportedly told Uyar in a clear reference to Armenia.
Turkish-Azerbaijani exercises appear to have become more frequent since the signing in 2010 of a bilateral treaty on “strategic partnership and mutual assistance.” The air forces of the two Turkic states held such drills in central Turkey as recently as in March.
The Armenian military claims that Turkey also trains Azerbaijani special forces that regularly launch incursions on Armenian positions around Nagorno-Karabakh. The number of such attacks as well was retaliatory raids by Armenian commandos has increased significantly in the last two years, resulting in more combat casualties on both sides.
It is not clear whether the 2010 treaty commits the Turkish military to fighting on the Azerbaijani side in case Baku attempts to forcibly regain control over Karabakh and Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it.
A direct Turkish military intervention would be seriously complicated by Armenia’s military alliance with Russia and, in particular, the presence of Russian troops on Armenian territory. Armenian leaders say the perceived Turkish threat is the main reason why their country hosts a Russian military base.