As long as Turkey and Azerbaijan have each others' backs, the countries will continue to successfully overcome challenges, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Thursday during a victory parade in Baku celebrating the recent liberation of Nagorno-Karabakh from over three decades of Armenian occupation.
"I believe Azerbaijan will continue to make history under the presidency of Ilham Aliyev," Erdoğan said, congratulating his Azerbaijani counterpart on the victory.
Highlighting the cultural and historical bonds the countries share, the president said, "Just like Azerbaijan, Turkey also felt the pain of Nagorno-Karabakh's occupation for 30 years."
"Today is a day of victory and pride for the whole Turkic world," Erdoğan underlined.
Erdoğan also warned that the liberation of the territories does not mean that the struggle has come to an end.
"The struggle carried out in the political and military areas will continue from now on many other fronts," he said.
"We hope Armenian politicians will properly evaluate their current situation and plan future strategies accordingly. If the Armenian people would also take the necessary lessons from the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war, this would mark the start of a new period in the region," he said, adding that so far, Armenian authorities wasted their people’s resources in their continued occupation of Azerbaijani territories.
He called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to rethink relations, as nothing can be gained under the "Western imperialist goading."
Ankara has pledged its full support to Baku in its efforts to liberate its lands from Armenian occupation.
About 20% of Azerbaijan's territory had been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades. In the most recent conflict that began on Sept. 27, Azerbaijan took back much of the land in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave that it lost in a 1991-1994 war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and forced many more from their homes. During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages from the Armenian occupation.
Aliyev had expressed multiple times during the most recent conflict that if there was to be peace, Baku wanted to see Ankara at the negotiating table as well.
Following the Nov. 10 signing of a Russia-brokered agreement to end the fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution, Turkey agreed with Russia that its troops would also monitor the cease-fire. Last week, Ankara and Moscow signed an agreement to establish a joint observation center in Nagorno-Karabakh as soon as possible.
The truce is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have been withdrawing as the agreement specified.
Baku says that 2,800 of its soldiers were killed in the fighting, with Armenia saying that it lost 2,317 troops. Some 93 Azerbaijanis also lost their lives.
Nagorno-Karabakh is an inseparable part of Azerbaijan, Aliyev said ahead of Erdoğan’s speech, marking the country’s victory and partnership with Turkey.
Armenia has received the response it deserves for its occupation of Azerbaijani lands, Aliyev said, adding that Shusha’s liberation was a turning point in the war.
“Shusha’s liberation a historical event. Its liberation crippled Armenian forces and led to our victory,” he said.
“If Armenia dares to show its fascism toward Azerbaijan once again, it will face our iron fist,” Aliyev said, noting that Armenia committed war crimes against the Azerbaijani people. “A new period is beginning for Azerbaijan,” he heralded.
The Azerbaijani president also expressed appreciation for Turkey’s support during the struggle.
“Azerbaijan received Turkey’s support from the first hours of the recent Nagorno-Karabakh war,” he said.
The parade featured over 3,000 personnel, some 150 military hardware, including missiles and artillery systems, air defense systems, UAVs, warships and boats, as well as part of the military equipment seized by the Azerbaijani army from the destroyed Armenian forces during the conflict.
Bayraktar made difference
Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 armed drones, purchased by Azerbaijan and played a significant role during the clashes, were exhibited as well. Turkey’s elite special force units, also known as the Maroon Berets, also attended the parade.
Later in the day, the two leaders held a joint press conference following the signing of multiple memorandums on various topics.
“Erdoğan’s remarks during the parade was a message to whole world: Azerbaijan is not alone, and Turkey will always be there for Azerbaijan,” Aliyev said, praising Erdoğan’s earlier statements.
“There are no other countries in the world that share bonds as close as Turkey and Azerbaijan,” he continued.
Aliyev also mentioned the significance of the Bayraktar drones for Azerbaijan, stating that they made a great difference.
“They had a major role in our victory. Whole world witnessed the strength of Turkish defense industry,” he expressed.
Doors open to Armenia
Regarding Armenia, Aliyev continued his positive stance toward the decades-long enemy.
“If Armenia leaves behind its irrational ambitions, it can also be part of our regional alliances one day. We destroyed their (Armenian) army. Yet, then we called on Armenia to cooperate with us,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan also gave a green light to Armenia.
“There has been an offer of a 6-country platform to establish regional peace, consisting from Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Iran and Armenia, if it wants to cooperate,” the president said, and added: “Turkey has no problems with the Armenian people, the issues are with the Armenian government.”
“If positive steps are taken, we may open our borders with Armenia,” he continued.
Still, the president also reminded the damage that Armenia caused in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Armenia burned everything down in Nagorno-Karabakh while leaving the region. They burned down not only the mosques but also the churches. It is hard to understand why,” he said.
“I believe when we visit the region next summer, we will see a transformed, revived Nagorno-Karabakh,” Erdoğan continued.
Minsk trio failed
Criticizing the Minsk trio for their failure to bring peace to the conflict for decades, Erdoğan questioned the intentions of the group in the first place.
“Why did Karabakh have to go through this painful occupation process for 3 decades? Why couldn’t the Minsk Trio do anything to bring peace earlier? Couldn’t they do anything? Of course, they could. But they didn’t,” he said.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, Russia, and the U.S. – was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail.
Regarding the French Senate’s recent controversial decision over the Nagorno-Karabakh, Erdoğan blamed the French President Emmanuel Macron for his failure to govern a state.
“Macron may get angry with me. But we still have to tell the truth. He does not get how governing a state works. The recent recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state by the French senate shows this. Even Armenia does not make such an absurd claim,” he expressed.
Last month, France adopted a resolution to recognize the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which drew heavy criticism from both Ankara and Baku for ignoring international law as well as U.N. decisions.
The symbolic resolution does not mean the French government will recognize a sovereign Nagorno-Karabakh, but it does a message of support to France’s large Armenian community. The French resolution calls on the government to “recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and use this recognition as an instrument of negotiations for the establishment of a sustainable peace.” It also calls on the government to pursue a tougher European response toward Turkey, which has supported Azerbaijan in the conflict.