Staunton, January 11 – Ankara has sent 136 Turkish military personnel to the Qarabagh region to help with demining operations, the Turkish defense ministry says; and plans to use airfields in the Azerbaijani cities of Ganja, Gabala, and Lenkoran as bases for its military assistance operations, according to a Baku news agency.
Azerbaijani government officials have confirmed the first, but they have refused to confirm that Turkey will have bases or will be able to use existing airfields for its forces in the future (capost.media/news/politika/boytsy-turetskogo-spetspodrazdeleniya-vydvinulis-v-karabakh/rusmonitor.com/v-azerbajdzhane-poyavyatsya-srazu-tri-tureczkie-aviabazy.html).
President Ilham Aliyev has talked about the development of these airfields in the past, suggesting that this would boost regional cooperation, words that may mean that he considers it entirely possible that in the future Turkish forces will be able to make use of them, even though he has not confirmed this to date and even appeared to deny the possibility.
Specifically, the Azerbaijani leader has said that “I believe that the two international airports will help us in the process of reconstructing Qarabagh and will promote transportation of cargo and the development of tourism.” In reporting this, the Baku media say, if the airports are used also for basing Turkish aircraft, this will “significantly increase its influence in the region.”
How much these reports and comments point to the creation of what could properly be called Turkish bases in Azerbaijan remains to be seen. These words may be only a reflection of aspirations and discussions rather than any concrete agreement. Nonetheless, they are making some in Moscow nervous about what might become foreign bases in a CIS member state.
Commenting on these reports, Moscow observer Aleksey Nesmiyan, who blogs under the screen name “El Murid,” says that “the goal of Turkey is not peacemaking but a military presence in the region in an obvious way” and underscoring the formation of an alliance between Ankara and Baku (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5FFD5ACCEA192).