Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, relations between Turkey and Russia improved significantly and the two countries came to rank among each other’s largest trade partners. Russia became Turkey’s largest provider of energy, while many Turkish companies began to operate in Russia.
However of late the due to the vested interests the two countries have had strained relations because of their involvement in Syria, Libya and now the dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Armenia occupied the territories of Nagorno-Karabakh region from Azerbaijan during the turmoil of the early 90s. Back then the Azerbaijan Army was only newly formed and lacked the leadership, training, equipment and manpower necessary to put up a successful defence of the country. Fighting broke out but Azerbaijan failed to hold on to its territories of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two sides agreed to an uneasy ceasefire with pressure from the Minsk group comprised of France, US and Russia.
Russia and France continued to assist Armenia wherever possible while Azerbaijan drew closer to Turkey due to their cultural and linguistic connections.
However Russia sold armaments to both Armenia and Azerbaijan during the last 30 years to enhance their military capabilities. In recent times Russia provided defence credits to Armenia enabling its forces to purchase sophisticated military hardware. Azerbaijan too armed itself with highly capable military equipment from Turkey and Israel at the same time.
In the past week the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out once again. This created some unthinkable quagmires in geopolitics almost unimaginable previously.
Now these countries support:
Armenia: Russia, France, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE.
Azerbaijan: Turkey, Israel and much of the Muslim world including Bangladesh and Pakistan.
This conflict also exposes the growing limitations of traditional global powers. It has been almost one week since the region erupted in clashes however Russia has not been able to contact the Azerbaijan leadership. It is quite apparent that Azerbaijan lost its faith on Russia’s ability to fairly mediate an acceptable solution.
For Azerbaijan the only acceptable outcome is one in which all territories of Nagorno-Karabakh region are returned to its control and that Armenian forces who are inside Azerbaijan’s internationally recognised territory leave at once.
On the other hand Armenia wants to expand its territories by occupying the neighbouring country of Azerbaijan. Armenia has a powerful diaspora in the US and Europe who are helping the country.
Without such option Azerbaijan is drawing closer to Turkey and moreover it has realised that organisations such as the United Nations may not be helpful for it to regain its lost territories.
One thing must be very clear is that the Nagorno-Karabakh region is not disputed territory. It is a region within Azerbaijan that has been illegally occupied by a neighbouring country.
As such under international law Azerbaijan is well within its rights to retake its territories from a foreign occupier.
As Bangladeshis we know all too well that after independence India employed the Shanti Bahini rebels in the Chittagong Hill Tracts to take our territories in hopes of opening up the sea route for land locked North East India. Fortunately the Bangladesh Army and government did not cede an inch of territory to its foes even burdened with unthinkable rebuilding after the war.
The territorial integrity of every nation must be respected. If not then countries will withdraw in to medieval era of occupation practices and many more Armenia’s will emerge to occupy neighbouring countries.
Countries such as France and Russia must act more responsibly by upholding international law and sovereignty of nations. While they have not done so in the past it appears smaller nations such as Azerbaijan are teaching them a taste of their own medicine.