Turkey Steps Up Support for Nakhchivan

BAKU (Eurasia)—Longtime Azerbaijani ally Turkey appears to be taking on a larger role in supporting the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, an Azerbaijani exclave sandwiched between Armenia and Iran. The first steps in this intensified cooperation are taking shape just months after plans for rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia went into cold storage.

Turkey, which shares an 11-kilometer border with the exclave, has long acted to provide support to ensure that the isolated exclave of 400,000 people survived. Both Ankara and Baku cite the 1921 Treaty of Kars, which defined Nakhchivan as part of Azerbaijan, as the basis for this support.

Today, that relationship has become less about Nakhchivan’s immediate survival, and more about long-term, strategic projects for the exclave, which shares a 246-kilometer-long border with Armenia.

The new role centers on the critical Azerbaijani-Turkish energy ties as well as on transportation access to Istanbul.

Under a July 17 contract between the Turkish government and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic, Turkey will transport 500 mullion cubic meters of Azerbaijani natural gas to Nakhchivan each year transit-free. SOCAR will finance construction of a new, 50-kilometer-long pipeline from the Turkish town of Igdir, near Erzurum, to provide the gas.

As reported by state news agency, AzerTAJ, SOCAR President Rovnag Abdullayev said that work on the pipeline will begin in August, with a launch slotted for the end of 2011.

Nakhchivan currently relies on gas shuttled via Iran, which charges a 15-percent transit fee for about 300 million cubic meters per year. The Turkey pipeline deal “will allow [Baku] to almost double the gas supplies to Nakhchivan for lower prices,” commented energy expert Ilham Shaban.

With stronger energy ties, come better transportation options for trade as well. In late June, Turkish Airlines’ discount subsidiary, Anadolu Jet, started offering direct flights from Nakhchivan to Istanbul three times a week for about $175. In July, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz promised that the number of flights to Istanbul would increase still further, Azerbaijani news sources reported.

Air travel is currently the only option for reaching Nakhchivan from the rest of Azerbaijan, but plans also exist to restore the land connection to Azerbaijan with Turkey’s help.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Transportation has opened a tender for a feasibility study on connecting the planned Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad to Nakhchivan via Igdir, a ministry spokesperson said. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad has a planned finish date of mid-2011; work on the Nakhchivan offshoot would begin subsequently, the head of the ministry’s Department of Transportation Policy and Economy, Sadraddin Mammadov, stated in May, ANS TV reported.

Both the flights and the promised rail link could make a critical economic difference for Nakhchivan’s population, commented one freelance journalist based in Nakhchivan.

“Common trade is the only way to earn a living for many residents,” said Elman Abbasov, who is no relation to this EurasiaNet.org reporter. “People take cigarettes and alcohol, which are cheaper in Nakhchivan than in Turkey, and bring back money or various goods.” Many Nakhchivan families also depend on remittances from relatives who have gone to Turkey for work, he added.

Most Azerbaijanis take Turkey’s support for Nakhchivan as a matter of course, but the latest assistance projects were preceded with a clear message to Yerevan from Turkey.

Six days after Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan froze the reconciliation process with Turkey on April 22, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu underlined that the territory’s security is “one of Turkey’s foreign policy priorities.” The comments coincided with an April 28 visit to Ankara by Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Parliamentary Chairperson Vasif Talybov.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan went still further, noting that “Nakhchivan is exposed to various threats from the Armenian state.”

“Therefore, military cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan and the NAR [Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic] is one of the major components of our relations,” Erdogan said.

Azerbaijan maintains a base in Nakhchivan that has received heavy Turkish support in the past, but no official information is available about the current scope of military cooperation between the two countries in the exclave.

Political analyst Rasim Musabekov, though, does not see “anything new” in the plans for Turkey’s increased presence in Nakhchivan.

“Now Azerbaijan is much stronger economically and the cooperation has moved to a higher level — to the construction of a new pipeline and new railroad. There is an international airport in Nakhchivan now and thus, there is a flight to Istanbul. It is a natural process,” he said.

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12 Comments

  1. Berge Jololian said:

    On March 16, 1921 in Moscow, the Treaty on “Friendship and Brotherhood” between Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey was signed, defining the Armenian sector of the Soviet-Turkish border. The territory of Soviet Armenia included Nagorno Karabakh and Nakhichevan.

    After “sovietisation” of Armenia Pravda (Truth) newspaper (issue No 273) published a letter by Joseph Stalin, then People’s Commissar of Nationalities, starting with a greeting “Long Live Soviet Armenia!”: “On December 1, Soviet Azerbaijan, of its own free will, gave up the debated provinces and declared the transfer of Zangezur, Nakhichevan, and Nagorno Karabakh to Soviet Armenia.”

    The Moscow Treaty was signed only 4 months after recognizing Nagorno Karabakh and Nakhichevan as parts of Soviet Armenia. However, due to Turkey’s insistence that issue was reconsidered by the very same Moscow treaty, and, as a result, two Armenian lands were handed over to Soviet Azerbaijan by Bolsheviks.

    In December 1973, according to Soviet-Turkish agreement, authorized representatives of three Transcaucasian countries had to sign a point “on invariability of borders””.

    Gurgen Nalbandyan represented Armenia in Turkey. On behalf of Soviet Armenia he refused to sign that provision “on invariability of borders” despite the Soviet leadership’s pressure.

    • Ed said:

      Berge, the trouble is most people either don’t know or don’t care. Agreements on paper must be backed by the steel of swords, otherwise they are worthless pieces of paper – this is the lesson of the history. We Armenians need to understand that law comes after power. If you have no power, you have no rights – especially if you are Armenian….

  2. Hovanes Gambaryan said:

    The article cites population of Nakhivhevan at 40,000. Is that correct or should it be 400,000?

  3. Dave said:

    I am sick and tired of hearing how supposedly isolated Nakhichevan is (eg. “the isolated exclave ..’).

    Look at a map. The Azeris in Nakhichevan can easily communicate with the rest of Azerbaijan by simply going south through Iran and then northeast across the Iranian border into Azerbaijan proper. Azeris have been weeping and moaning for a long time that Nakhichevan is as isolated as Karabagh is. Baloney.

    Karabagh is completely surrounded by Azerbaijan, which is why Armenia needs to maintain corridors to Karabagh. Nakhichevan, on the other hand, has easy access to both Turkey and Iran all the time.
    The people in Nakhichevan are not suffering at all. Remember too, that if the Azeri – Armenian border opens, and the Armenian – Turkish border does NOT, then Turkey will still have direct access across Armenia just as if the Turkish border with Armenia opened, by this route:
    Turkey – Nakhichevan-Meghri(Armenia)-Azerbaijan.

  4. Azada said:

    What armenians are thinking when claiming land from Turkey (Kars, Igdir, even Erzurum)? It was clear that Turkey will take the necessary measures to protect its lands. If the war resumes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, I won’t be surprised if Turkey will act immediately to occupy the lands between Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan.

    The above article says the same. Just read between the lines: “Air travel is currently the only option for reaching Nakhchivan from the rest of Azerbaijan, but plans also exist to restore the land connection to Azerbaijan with Turkey’s help.”

    • Arman said:

      And what do you think will happen then? Read between the lines of your own comment….if Turkey tries to attack Armenia and finish the job it left half done during WWI, you think Armenians will not respond? Don’t be silly….even Armenians learn to not be defenseless again.

      • Aruke said:

        Arman, read between between the lines of your response: “even Armenians learn to not be defenseless again”. Even? Do you think Armenians are slow learners?

        If you are talking about full scale war, you should not ignore difference in numbers. How strong is today’s Armenia against Turkey?

  5. sylva-md-poetry said:

    How can Angels Kill the Devils,
    Where is our god
    Who-He likes Devils
    Let us find another godess…
    and not calling one god (ours and theirs)
    Who was born from a devil.

  6. ceyhun said:

    in turkey nobody no politician have any interest to make war with a small country like armenia.
    in real now turkish people people feel close to armenians as much as the azeris. If armenians find a way to solve their problem with azerbaijan. it would be big relief to Turkey

    • Aruke said:

      you are wrong, my friend. Turks were never as close to Armenians, as to Azeris. and I dont think they will ever be. Afterall, Azerbaijanis are Turks, too.

  7. Aruke said:

    Turkey government knows that, the only way Azerbaijan and Armenia can solve their problem is War. No matter how hard Europe and USA pushes Turkey to normalize relations with Armenia, in a most likely War, Turkey will support his own Turkic nation in Azerbaijan. That is for sure.

  8. ArdeVast Atheian said:

    Those who are not familiar with the history of the region do not know that Nakhichevan was never ever a part of Azerbaijan. Nakhichevan was always a part of Armenia. Nakhichevan was part of Armenia until it was separated from it by Turkey. The current Nakhichevan therefore was strictly a creation of Turkey. That’s how a region so peculiarly separated from Azerbaijan and so vicariously on the Turkish border, got to be a part of Azerbaijan.
    Those who saw the movie ‘Reds’ with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton, will remember how the Bolshevik commissars of that decade in Moscow were so precarious in their tenure and eager to win over Turkish good will after the triumphant Turkish campaign on its eastern front in 1921 against the Bolshevik forces, that they gave away Artsakh and Nakhichevan which were part of the Republic of Armenia at the time, to Azerbaijan upon demand from Turkey in the treaties of Kars and of Moscow of the same year.

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