A New Step in Turkey-Azerbaijan Relations: The Shusha Declaration

Karabakh was occupied by Armenia nearly 30 years ago, by violating of both the Constitution of the Soviet Union (Article 78) and international law. Azerbaijan tried to solve this unlawfulness through peaceful means such as the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). However, Armenia’s unwillingness to implement the resolutions of the United Nations (UN) and the fact that it used the negotiations within the framework of the Minsk Group as a tool to prolong the occupation revealed that the occupation of Karabakh cannot be ended by peaceful methods.

Moreover, despite its troubled economy and weak military power, Armenia displayed an uncompromising attitude and increased the tension in the region by continuing its attacks at various times. As a matter of fact, the last attacks of Armenia on September 27, 2020, turned into war as a result of Azerbaijan’s counterattack and the beginning of Second Karabakh War. Thus, hot conflicts occured in Karabakh, which is a frozen conflict zone. Due to the superiority and achievements of the Azerbaijan Army during the war, Armenia had to sit at the negotiation table. With the agreement signed on November 10, 2020, Armenian forces which are occupying powers withdrew from the region and paved the way for stability in the South Caucasus.

While Armenia seeks international support for its arguments and policies during the occupation process; Nikol Pashinyan, the last Prime Minister of that period, decided to move the so-called state parliament building in Khankendi to Shusha. As it will be remembered, this development caused significant reactions both in Azerbaijan and in the Turkish World. Because Shusha, the cultural capital of the Caucasus, is one of the outstanding cities for both Turkish history and Azerbaijan. For this reason, the liberation of Shusha from occupation was greeted with great enthusiasm in the Turkish World, especially in Azerbaijan.

It is possible to say that Turkey played a critical role during the Second Karabakh War, in which Azerbaijan was victorious. In particular, an unmanned combat aerial vehicle known SİHA exported to Baku have been a key factor in the neutralization of the Armenian Army. Turkey’s support has also contributed greatly to the development of relations on the Ankara-Baku line. As a reflection of this, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also attended the Victory Parade held in Azadlık Square. The main message given to the world at the ceremony is that the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is now ensured and this is realized with the slogan of “One Nation, Two States”.

While Turkey-Azerbaijan relations deepen in every field; Erdoğan who had attended NATO’s 2021 Brussels Summit, departed for Azerbaijan to attend the Azerbaijan National Liberation Day ceremonies celebrated on June 15, 2021, at the invitation of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. Erdogan’s visit to Karabakh, which was liberated from occupation, is of great importance for Turkey-Azerbaijan relations. The most meaningful stop of the aforementioned visit was Shusha.

Considering the messages given over Shusha, it is possible to say that the talks between Erdogan and Aliyev will open the door to a new era in Turkey-Azerbaijan relations. In this context, the Shusha Declaration signed by the leaders is quite remarkable.

During the signing ceremony, Erdogan announced that a consulate general would be opened in Shusha. This step once again declares to the whole world that Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan and clearly demonstrates the importance that Ankara attaches to the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

In addition, Erdoğan stated that they will further strengthen relations in the defence industry with moves such as technology transfer and joint production, and stated that necessary measures will be taken together so that Azerbaijan does not experience a similar disaster again. In this direction, Erdoğan also emphasized that we determined a new roadmap in bilateral relations with the Shusha Declaration.

Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, stated that the relations were risen in the highest level thanks to the signed declaration. Aliyev said that the declaration is a valuable document of cooperation as well as a guarantee for future relations. Aliyev drew attention to the relations in the field of defence and the Zangezur Corridor; underlined that this corridor will definitely be implemented.

The Shusha Declaration determines the new course of rapprochement between the two countries. This route is primarily shaped within the framework of security and defence. In the declaration, coordinated action of the armed forces within the framework of acting together for the protection of common interests, helping each other on issues based on national interests such as sovereignty and territorial integrity, making joint efforts to solve security problems in order to ensure stability and peace at the regional and global level, consultation in cases of attack and threat, and meeting defence needs come forward. Moreover, joint efforts in the modernization of the armed forces and increasing the interoperability of armies were also mentioned. In addition, raising awareness of joint struggle in areas such as financing of terrorist organizations, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime and drug trafficking was also included in the declaration.

The most significant feature of the relations on the Ankara-Baku line is that the cooperation is not against any actor; to contribute to regional and global peace and stability. In this context, the declaration signed by the parties emphasizes the UN Charter and states that the door to cooperation with third countries is open. In fact, in various speeches, it was announced that extend a hand of friendship to Armenia, which occupied Karabakh. Undoubtedly, with these discourses, it is aimed to consolidate the stability and security in the Caucasus. In other words, it is aimed to establish lasting peace by normalizing relations with the states of the region.

Another point emphasized in the declaration is the reference to the Turkish World. In the declaration, which expressed the desire to intensify activities for the integration of the Turkic World, it is indicated that the activities carried out within the scope of The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council), Turkic Academy, International Organization of Turkic Culture (TÜRKSOY) and the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic Speaking States (TurkPA) must be developed in order to strengthen solidarity.

On the other hand, the declaration also draws attention to transportation corridors. At this point, the first issue that comes to mind is the Zangezur Corridor. It is desired to intensify the transportation-communication relations between the two countries by opening the aforementioned corridor and accelerating the construction of the Nakhchivan-Kars railway. Thus, cooperation will be possible to increase the competitiveness of the East-West/Central Corridor and it will be possible to implement the Trans-Caspian Corridor.

In addition to all these, objectives such as strengthening economic relations, diversifying exports, establishing joint production areas and establishing the necessary mechanisms for free movement were asserted in the declaration. Again, among the significant issues in the declaration, expectations such as opening the archives regarding the 1915 Events, supporting the researches carried out by historians, strengthening inter-parliamentary relations and developing the relations between the Turkish-Azerbaijani diasporas in various countries of the world were stated.

All this is proof that Turkey and Azerbaijan have common strategic goals. As a matter of fact, as can be understood from the information above, Turkey and Azerbaijan will be an important bridge between the East and the West. Shusha will also turn into an notable step on this route due to its historical mission and geopolitical position. It can be said that the Shusha Declaration, which will give a significant momentum to the relations on the Ankara-Baku line, will serve regional and global security. This situation is not only for two countries; will contribute to all regional states. For this reason, the emphasis on Armenia made during the signing ceremony is also very important. Armenia’s holding the hand of friendship extended by Turkey and Azerbaijan will reflect positively on both Armenia and the Caucasus.

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Emrah KAYA
ANKASAM Dış Politika Uzmanı

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