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Oween Barranzuela

Iki devlet, Tek millet : An analysis of Turkish-Azerbaijani relations from Turkey

- What is the reason for such close relations between Türkiye and Azerbaijan?

Iki devlet, Tek millet : An analysis of Turkish-Azerbaijani relations from Turkey

2020 will be remembered, in addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, for being a year in which one of the Frozen conflicts (frozen conflicts) of international relations became an uncontrollable erupting volcano. Azerbaijan and Armenia relived the Nagorno Karabagh War in the Caucasus for 44 long and bloody days.

On November 9, the political leaders of both States signed a Peace Agreement announcing a complete halt to military actions in the conflict zones. For now, it seems that the period of peace has returned with said agreement, however, it has left a bitter taste on the Armenian side, where the feeling of defeat of the population has been reflected in the protests in its capital city.

The clear winner is Azerbaijan, the Azerbaijanis took to the streets to celebrate not only with national flags and chants, but also with something in particular: Turkish flags. But why? Where do these special relationships come from that motivate the population to raise the flag of another state in style?

İki devlet, Tek Millet, translated into Spanish as 'Two States, One Nation' is a motto widely used in the celebrations of both countries, as well as in the speech of their political authorities. This motto, originally attributed to the former president of Azerbaijan Haydar Aliyey, forms the main basis for understanding the relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Azerbaijan is not a country like any other in the face of Turkish foreign policy and that has been demonstrated throughout history. The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was established in 1918, years later it came under Soviet control. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the restoration of Azerbaijan's independence in 1991, Turkey became the first country to recognize Azeri sovereignty.

In the formation of its independence, Azerbaijan had two strategic alternatives: to take the model of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the objective of integrating the Muslim community of Asia or to follow the model of Turkey, bringing the country closer to Europe. In the end, it opted for the latter model thus forming a secular regime with democratic governance. Although they share religious connections with Iran (Azerbaijan is the second country with the largest population of Shiites, after Iran), the linguistic and cultural similarities with Turkey were of greater importance. [1]

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey together with İlham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, signing a protocol allowing the removal of visa restrictions for citizens of both states. Source []( -cavusoglu-duyurdu-azerbaycanla-vizeler-kalkiyor-3588987)

Since then relations have gone from strength to strength. The fact that they recognize their 'Turkic' origin has made the communication channels between the two more flexible. In the 90's, the bilateral rapprochement began in the best way; Turkish businessmen, who had the great advantage of understanding the Azeri language, were the first to invest in the young Azerbaijani economy. (2)

An event to highlight is the Armenian attack on Azeri territories in 1986, starting the Alto Karabakh War. Turkey reacted strongly against Armenia by closing the borders and starting a freeze on diplomatic relations that will last until a brief rapprochement in 2009.

The late former Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Özal has a lot of credit on this point, he actively promoted Turkey's role in the region, prioritizing ties between 'sister nations'.[2] During his participation in the Chiefs' Summit of Turkic States held in Ankara in 1992 emphasized the need to establish a common market among member states, the then President of Azerbaijan Abulfeyz Elchibey welcomed such suggestions.

These last two decades have witnessed the consolidation of bilateral relations between Baku and Ankara. Traditionally, analysts attribute this rapprochement and state interdependence to historical and cultural factors. But why doesn't Turkey have the same closeness to Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan? After all, both also share cultural and linguistic ties (their languages are mutually intelligible). What other factors define Turkish-Azerbaijani relations?

Military Alliance

Military aid has been an essential component in the development of Turkey-Azerbaijan relations. With the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Bloc, Turkish foreign policy was renewed, abandoning relations centralized in Moscow and directing its new vision to the nascent Turkic republics in Central Asia.

In this context, with the signing of Cooperation Agreements for military training, Turkey was part of the modernization of the Azeri army; provided free military education and training, as well as allowed the exchange of personnel and the sending of students to Turkey to be educated in military schools in 2000. This military support raised the tension and uncertainty of what could happen in the future in the region, since during that period Armenia controlled the territory of Karabağ. [3]

One of the most remembered events during the government of Heydar Aliyev, who ruled from 1993 to 2003, was the demonstration of Turkish warplanes in Baku. The General Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces was present with 10 combat planes operating in the Azeri skies on August 24, 2001.[4] During those days there was fear of the start of clashes between Iran and Azerbaijan, for such For this reason, this act is considered as a symbolic message to the entire region: Turkey would fully support Azerbaijan in case it is attacked.

The military ties continued with the current president of the Caucasian country, İlham Aliyev, who together with the former president of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, signed the Strategic Association and Mutual Assistance Agreement in 2010. In said document, they define the bases of their bilateral relations, emphasizing cooperation. in matters of security and military cooperation. Both parties ratify their commitment to assume the responsibility of protecting the integrity of the territory and sovereignty of both, not participating in alliances that could represent a danger to what was agreed.

Article 1 specifies the following:

The parties, as neighboring and sister states, shall cooperate closely with each other to strengthen and protect their independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of their borders; that when the territorial integrity, sovereignty and inviolability of the borders of any of the parties is threatened or is considered to be under threat, the parties will hold urgent consultations on the measures that can be taken to eliminate these threats or dangers.'' \ [5]

Undoubtedly, this treaty represents the highest point of progress in the military relations of the states concerned.

Energy Cooperation

Energy is not only a factor of production but also a determinant in the growth and economic development of States, it influences each of their movements when establishing alliances.

The natural resources of the territory of Azerbaijan have probably been the most important element throughout its history. Under Soviet control, it was subjected to exploitation to satisfy the domestic needs of Moscow, which led the commercial monopoly in this region. With the collapse of the USSR, the diversification of its commercial routes began, among which Iran was not considered an option, much less Armenia, due to the latent danger of war. These new routes had the primary objective of transporting energy resources to the European market, and for that, Turkey, a country located between Europe and Asia, could not be a better alternative.

"The project of the century"

The key project that raised Azerbaijan-Turkey relations to higher levels is Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Oil Pipeline, dubbed by the Turkish political sphere as the project of the century. Construction began in 2003 and entered into operation three years later. It is one of the most important projects in the region that has contributed to maintaining strong and continuous cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey, together with Georgia. With an extension of 1,768 kilometers, it starts from Baku, and ends at Ceyhan, off the Turkish Mediterranean coast. It is the second largest oil pipeline in the world.

Between the three; Azerbaijan is the supplying country with its considerable amount of oil resources, Georgia is the transportation partner with its geographical location, while Turkey is the gateway to global markets and international partners. [6] The BTC project has primarily helped Turkey transform its role from simply being a place where some of the world's great pipelines are located, to becoming a regional energy hub.[7] It has a capacity of 1 million barrels per day, taking this data into account, this pipeline serves as relief from the constant cargo traffic of the Turkish Straits (Türk Boğazları) .

According to data from BOTAŞ International, until last year it was possible to transport close to 3.5 billion barrels, with 2010 being the year in which the highest crude load was exported with 286 million barrels.

*Map of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline, source : *

This process of energy cooperation started with the BTC Pipeline, continued with the inauguration of the Trans-Anatolia Natural Gas Pipeline project (Trans-Anadolu Doğalgaz Boru Hattı) at the end of 2019. This new pipeline is part of the Corridor of Gas del Sur (CGS), the flagship project of the European Commission that seeks to reduce the dependency of the old continent on Russian gas.

TANAP has improved trade relations between the two countries; In March 2020, Azerbaijan became the largest exporter of natural gas to Turkey, surpassing Russia and Iran, who have historically been the main suppliers to the Turkish market. [8] Ankara and Baku have shown mutual support not only openly politically but also in the commercial sector. Both projects have geopolitically strengthened the interdependence between the two states.

The brotherly discourse constantly used by Azerbaijan and Turkey has caused in many cases an incomplete understanding of what the core of their bilateral relations really consists of.

The 'Turkish' factor is of great importance, both are historically linked; they supported each other during their respective periods of independence and jointly have not established diplomatic relations for a long time with Armenia.

However, behind that there is also the desire to see their own national interests fulfilled, both have seen in the development of their bilateral relations the perfect opportunity to be able to benefit each other.

Undoubtedly, this case revolves around the win-win strategy: Azerbaijan has found in Turkey the perfect ally and a key route to open its natural resources to international trade. Not only that, it also has security of its territorial sovereignty (especially after the end of the war against Armenia). On the other hand, Turkey gains a political and military presence, acquires an increasingly relevant role in the region, and reaffirms its regional leadership in Western Asia and the Islamic world.


    [1] Ismailzade, F. (2007). TURKEY-AZERBAIJAN: THE HONEYMOON IS OVER.

    [2] Idem.

    [3] Aydın, M. (2013), “Kafkasya ve Orta Asya’yla İlişkiler”, (ed. Baskın Oran), Türk Dış Politikası Cilt II 1980-2001.

    [4] Vefa Babayeva, Haydar Aliyev Dönemi Türkiye –Azerbaycan İlişkileri, Yüksek Lisan Tezi, 76-80.

    [5] Türkiye Cumhuriyeti ile Azerbaycan Cumhuriyeti Arasında Stratejik Ortaklık ve Karşılıklı Yardım Anlaşmasının Onaylanmasının Uygun Bulunduğuna Dair Kanun Tasarısı ile Dışişleri Komisyonu Raporu.

    [6] Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey: An Example of a Successful Regional Cooperation. Mitat Çelikpala and Cavid Veliyev, 13-15.

    [7] ROBERTS, J. (2010). Turkey as a Regional Energy Hub. Insight Turkey, 12(3), 39-48. from

    [8] Azerbaycan’ın Türkiye’ye doğal gaz sevkıyatında liderliği ne anlam taşıyor? Uzmanlar yorumluyor

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Barranzuela, Oween. “Iki devlet, Tek millet : Un análisis de las relaciones Turco-Azerís desde Turquía.” CEMERI, 12 sept. 2022,