Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said on Monday it had begun joint drills with its ally Turkey near the border with Armenia, weeks after Baku recaptured Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian separatists.
Azerbaijan last month took control of the long-disputed region in a 24-hour offensive that ended decades of Armenian separatist rule.
The ministry said “up to 3,000” troops would take part in the tactical drills held in capital Baku, the Nakhichevan exclave between Iran and Armenia, as well as territories retaken from Armenian separatists.
The exercises — dubbed “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk 2023” — involve dozens of artillery weapons and aviation.
Azerbaijan and Turkey kick off joint "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk 2023" military drills in Azerbaijan today with the participation of over 3000 personnel, 130 armoured vehicles, 100 artillery and 20 aircraft of different types (Israeli, Turkish, etc.).
— Nagorno Karabakh Observer (@NKobserver) October 23, 2023
Baku said they were aimed at “ensuring combat interoperability” between the allies.
The drills came as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Iran, and Russia were set to send their foreign ministers to hold talks in Tehran in a diplomatic format initiated by Moscow in 2020 — after Baku and Yerevan went to war over Karabakh.
The talks are seen as Moscow’s attempt to reduce growing Western influence in a region it has long considered as its backyard.
The European Union and United States have, in recent years, taken a lead role in mediating a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Russia, which has traditionally mediated the conflict, has seen its role diminished since being focused on its invasion of Ukraine.
Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated enclave of Karabakh was at the center of two wars between the Caucasus arch-foe neighbors — in 2020 and in the 1990s.
After less than a day of fighting, separatist authorities agreed to lay down arms and reintegrate with Azerbaijan.
Almost all of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population — some 100,000 people — fled for Armenia after the offensive, sparking a refugee crisis.