Two weeks after launching a brazen attack on civilian and military targets in Armenia’s Tavush Province, Baku announced Monday that Azerbaijan and Turkey will hold “large scale” joint military exercises beginning Wednesday.
“Azerbaijani-Turkish Live Fire Joint Large-Scale Tactical and Flight-Tactical Exercises will be held in our country with the participation of the Land Forces and the Air Force of both countries,” an official statement by Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said.
The ministry also stressed that the joint exercises will involve military personnel, armored vehicles, artillery mounts and mortars, as well as military aviation and air defense equipment of Turkish and Azerbaijani armies.
“According to the plan, exercises involving the Land Forces will be held from Aug. 1 to 5 in Baku and Nakhchivan, and exercises with the participation of military aviation will be held from July 29 to Aug. 10 in Baku, Nakhchivan, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh,” the statement specified.
Official Ankara was quick to blame Armenia for the July 12 border clashes and reaffirmed its full support for Azerbaijan, with the Turkish foreign ministry saying, “Turkey will continue, with all its capacity, to stand by Azerbaijan in its struggle to protect its territorial integrity.”
Soon after Azerbaijan’s attack on Tavush Province, a high-level Azerbaijani army delegation went to Ankara for talks with Turkey’s military and defense industry officials. During those talks, Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Armenians “will certainly pay for what they have done.” Ankara also expressed readiness to supply Turkish-made weapons to Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani delegation to Ankara included Deputy Defense Minister Ramiz Tahirov and Kerem Mustafayev, the army chief of Nakhchivan. As Ankara was offering more weapons to Azerbaijan, official Baku threatened to bomb Armenia’s Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant.
Yerevan was quick to condemn Ankara’s response saying that Turkey was justifying the use of force on the Armenia-Azerbaijani border. Armenia’s Foreign Ministry stressed that Ankara has no place in the conflict settlement process and should stay true the provisions of its membership in the OSCE Minsk Group.
The announcement of the military drill comes two days after the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs issued an announcement calling for military de-escalation and urging the sides to refrain from military threats.
However, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has lambasted the Minsk Group Co-Chairs by calling their efforts “meaningless” and threatening to end the Karabakh conflict settlement talks.
For his part, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavorv urged his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu last week to exercise restraint in Ankara’s statements regarding the tensions on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.