ANKARA: Turkiye is using “all means,” including military training and modernization, to support its close ally Azerbaijan but it did not play a direct role in Baku’s military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, a Turkish Defense Ministry official said on Thursday.
Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive to take back control of its breakaway Karabakh region on Tuesday. It later announced a ceasefire that would disarm the ethnic Armenian separatists who had held much of the region — regarded internationally as part of Azerbaijan — since the 1990s.
NATO ally Turkiye publicly threw its support behind Azerbaijan’s “steps to preserve its territorial integrity” but it had been unclear whether Ankara played any active role in the 24-hour military operation.
“It was Azerbaijan army’s own operation, there was no direct involvement of Turkiye,” a Turkish Defense Ministry official said on Thursday.
“Turkiye’s cooperation with Azerbaijan in military training and army modernization has been underway for a long time. The Azerbaijani army’s success in the latest operation clearly shows the level they achieved,” the official said.
He also said a joint Turkish-Russian monitoring center was still operating and was reporting on any ceasefire violations.
Turkiye, which has close linguistic, cultural and economic ties with Azerbaijan, supports efforts by Baku and Yerevan to build peaceful relations, the official added.
In a phone call late on Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed Ankara’s support to his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev.
“President Erdogan reiterated Turkiye’s heartfelt support for Azerbaijan,” the presidency said in a statement.
President Aliyev trumpeted victory in a televised address to the nation, saying his country’s military had restored its sovereignty in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh and the Azerbaijan government met for talks on Thursday to discuss the future of the breakaway region that Azerbaijan claims to fully control following this week’s military offensive. Azerbaijan’s state news agency said the talks had ended but provided no details on whether an agreement was reached.
Nagorno-Karabakh authorities and the news agency earlier said the talks between regional leaders and Azerbaijan’s government would focus on Nagorno-Karabakh’s “reintegration” into Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh human rights ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan said at least 200 people, including 10 civilians, were killed and more than 400 others were wounded in the fighting.
French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Aliyev and “condemned Azerbaijan’s decision to use force ... at the risk of worsening the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh and compromising ongoing efforts to achieve a fair and lasting peace,” the French presidential office said.
Macron “stressed the need to respect” the ceasefire and “to provide guarantees on the rights and security of the people of Karabakh, in line with international law.”
Azerbaijan presidential aide Hikmet Hajjiyev said the government was “ready to listen to the Armenian population of Karabakh regarding their humanitarian needs.”