Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov was in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Monday. The top diplomat met his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan and was later received by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. At a joint news conference with Bayramov, Fidan reiterated Türkiye’s commitment to ties with Azerbaijan and support for resolving the issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
For his part, Fidan said that the Lachin Road, the only land route giving Armenia access to Karabakh, is Azerbaijan’s territory and that Baku can take any measure on it. Azerbaijan emerged victorious in its attempt to retake occupied Karabakh from Armenia after years of invasion. “Lachin Road is Azerbaijan’s territory. Therefore, Azerbaijan takes whatever measures it deems necessary. Taking (measures) is also one of its greatest sovereign rights. Medical transitions are also possible. Other routes, which are suitable for extensive material transport, have also been allocated. When we look at all these evaluations, we think that there is no justification for criticizing Azerbaijan on this issue,” he said.
Azerbaijan has called on countries and international organizations that have made anti-Azerbaijani statements to respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially concerning developments in Karabakh and the Lachin road. Despite ongoing talks on a peace agreement, tensions between Baku and Yerevan have risen in recent months concerning the Lachin road, as well as Azerbaijan’s establishment of a border checkpoint on the road.
Fidan said that it is “extremely important” that the peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia conclude. The minister added that agreements between Armenia and Azerbaijan should be signed soon, adding: “This represents a great opportunity for other countries in the region.” He also called upon the international community “not to discriminate” against one side in peace talks and support them without bias for one party. The United States and Russia are among the superpowers engaged in peace-brokering efforts between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
About the key Zangezur corridor land route in the southern Caucasus, Fidan said its opening is “vital.” “The road to regional stability is through a comprehensive peace agreement. For this, the opening of the Zangezur corridor is of great importance,” he added.
The Zangezur region was originally part of Azerbaijan, though the Soviets gave it to Armenia in the 1920s, leaving Azerbaijan deprived of a direct overland route to its exclave of Nakhchivan. Following its 44-day war with Armenia in the fall of 2020, Azerbaijan has focused on planned connections, including motorways and a 43-kilometer (26.7-mile) railway through the corridor. The corridor would be near or adjacent to Armenia’s border with Iran, reportedly making Tehran concerned the project might cut off its frontier with Yerevan.
“A strong Türkiye means a strong Azerbaijan and a strong Azerbaijan means a strong Türkiye,” Fidan said at the news conference, noting that the Shusha Declaration signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in 2021 showed the world this concept. He highlighted the indispensable bond between neighboring countries, whose common motto is “two states, one nation,” about their Turkic identities. “Relations between Türkiye and Azerbaijan are independent of times and circumstances. We are bonded by fate, by our common stance encompassing a major strategic framework,” Fidan said.
Fidan also spoke about the thaw in Turkish-Armenian relations. “Turkish-Armenian relations were frozen because Armenia occupied Azerbaijani territories. Thankfully, the invasion is over. Yet, there are still disputed issues though it is over, including a cease-fire and border demarcation. The work is underway to resolve these issues and we closely follow the developments on those matters,” he said. He said Türkiye’s current stance was “starting a normalization process with Armenia” once Armenia and Azerbaijan agree on disputed issues. “Only then, do we aim to start the economic and stability process with Armenia by normalizing the relations,” he said. On the normalization process between Türkiye and Armenia, Bayramov said they backed the process. “President Ilham Aliyev himself expressed our will to work on a peace agreement, turning the page on January 2021, after all that happened in 30 years of occupation (of Azerbaijan’s territories by Armenia). Azerbaijan openly supports the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations,” he said. Bayramov noted that they presented five basic principles of the peace agreement in February 2021 and launched talks under the auspices of international negotiators. “It took more than two years for the Armenian prime minister to accept Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. “We hope this verbal approval will be put into writing and will not take such a long time for Armenia to sign this document of approval,” he said.
For his part, Bayramov said he was pleased to be in “a brotherly country,” adding that they exchanged ideas as part of strategic relations between Türkiye and Azerbaijan. He stated that bilateral relations were at the “highest and closest level” in the history of the two countries under the leadership of the incumbent presidents. “Relations between the countries are based on our national leader Heydar Aliyev’s “one nation, two state” (motto) and remarks of (Republic of Türkiye’s founder) Mustafa Kemal Atatürk that the ‘joy of Azerbaijan is our joy, the sorrow of Azerbaijan is our sorrow.’”
He said Azerbaijan has been behind Türkiye since the Feb. 6 earthquakes in the country’s south and would continue supporting Türkiye in rebuilding efforts. He noted that the Shusha Declaration had elevated relations to the alliance level and strengthened their cooperation. He noted that they were already engaged in cooperation in an array of fields from the economy, military, transportation, health care, agriculture, food security and culture, and the two countries became main partners in terms of trade volume and mutual investments.
“In 2022, our trade volume increased by 25% and reached about $6 billion,” he stated. Bayramov stressed energy cooperation between their two countries, noting that the Southern Gas Corridor changed Eurasia’s energy map, adding that they were developing projects for additional gas supplies to Europe via Türkiye. In addition, Bayramov said they were engaged in trilateral and quadrilateral relations with Georgia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Fidan said energy cooperation between the two countries was beyond merely serving the interests of Türkiye and Azerbaijan and had evolved to a strategic level. “In this context, we also contribute to Europe’s energy security. We achieve a major part of this role with Azerbaijan, particularly through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline and the TransAnatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP). TANAP is the backbone of the Southern Gas Corridor, an important gas supply line for Europe. It delivers 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas yearly and at least half of it is supplied to Europe. The Ukraine-Russia conflict showed us the first global energy crisis and Europe is at the heart of (this crisis). It is still not over and it is difficult to predict when it will be over. Europe may face a new crisis in the coming winter and uncertainties prevail in energy markets, not only on the amount of supplies but also on price stability. We continue our strategic dialogue and preparation with Azerbaijan for the coming years on this issue. Creating additional capacity for supplies and expanding TANAP’s capacity is debated. We are also working on bringing other resources in the Caspian basin to our country,” he said.
“An Azerbaijan-Türkiye-Israel platform can be beneficial for our relations to flourish in a wider region,” Bayramov underlined. Azerbaijan maintains close ties with Israel, whose ties deteriorated in recent years before Ankara and Tel Aviv resumed normalization. In the South Caucasus conflict, Ankara and Tel Aviv openly supported Baku in its struggle against Armenia to regain its occupied lands. Israel and Türkiye are working to reset relations after years of strained ties, mainly over Türkiye’s justified stance on the Palestinian issue. Israeli President Isaac Herzog made a landmark visit to Türkiye last year amid a thaw, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to visit Türkiye the previous week before he postponed it due to health issues.