The Turkish Ministry of Defense announced that it will hold joint military exercises with Azerbaijan this week in Nakhchivan.
“The Unwavering Brotherhood-2021 drill will take place with the participation of Turkey and Azerbaijan in Nakhchivan between October 5-8,” Major Pınar Kara, the spokesperson of Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense, said in a televised announcement.
“The purpose of the exercise is to develop friendship, cooperation and coordination between the land forces of Turkey and Azerbaijan,” the ministry spokesperson further said.
The announcement came as Iran’s army announced last week that it was holding drills in the northwest of the country. The military drills, which took place in an undisclosed location near the Azerbaijan-Iran border, sparked criticisms by Baku.
Iran is wary of Israel’s links to Azerbaijan, the latter of which is a major exporter of oil to the Middle Eastern country. Israel, for its part, is a major military supplier of Azerbaijan through drones and other high-tech weapons that helped Baku tip the military balance in its favor in last year’s conflict with Armenian occupation forces in the Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has expressed concern over Tehran’s military exercise and mobilization near his country for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago. Tensions between the two countries have also been alleviated over Azerbaijan’s imposition of a road tax on Iranian trucks traveling to Armenia through the liberated Karabakh region.
In this regard, Baku has underlined that its policy is quite normal because Karabakh is part of Azerbaijani sovereignty and any transportation related to trade activities across that region should be subject to customs. Also, Azerbaijani authorities have been concerned that Iranian trucks might also carry military equipment, which could end up at the hands of Armenian forces, who were occupying the Karabakh region since 1994, resulting in the internal displacement of more than 700,000 people.
In an interview, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev expressed his surprise towards the Iranian military drills. President Aliyev also announced that this was not the first time that Iranian trucks illegally traveled to the Karabakh region, as the illegal crossings were conducted repeatedly during the occupation period and following the conflict, despite official calls on Iran to put an end to the practice.