Previously, Aliyev Had Called Turkey’s Leaders “Liar, Cheat and Betrayer”

Azeri president Ilham Aliyev and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan pictured at the December 10 parade (Photo: Office of the President of Azerbaijan)

Last week, when Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev held a victory parade in Baku, he expressed his appreciation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who attended the ceremonies. Tens of thousands of Azeris turned up in the streets singing Turkey’s praises and waving Turkish and Azeri flags. The two presidents uttered lavish words for one another and repeated their catchphrase, “one people, two states.”

Even though the Turkish military and its advanced drones played a decisive role in the recent Artsakh War, both Aliyev and Erdogan repeatedly lied about Turkey’s involvement in the war, just as they lied about the transfer of Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan to fight against the Armenian troops. The successful Azeri/Turkish/mercenary war cemented the influence of Turkey over Azerbaijan and its policies. Many commentators have described this situation as the occupation of Azerbaijan by Turkey. This is the first time that the Turkish military has reached the shores of the Caspian Sea since the Ottoman army seized Baku 100 years ago. This reality is reinforced by the November 9, 2020 agreement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, which provides for a route across Armenia linking Azerbaijan proper with Nakhichevan, thereby allowing Turkey access to Azerbaijan and the chance of going beyond to connect with other Turkic republics, thus realizing the age-old dream of Pan-Turanism.

But the Azeri-Turkish relations have not always been this warm and jovial. In 2009, when Armenia and Turkey were negotiating the protocols to open their mutual border, Azerbaijan was furious that Turkey would consider making such an move with Armenia while ignoring the interests of Azerbaijan.

Wikileaks revealed a “secret” cable dispatched by the US Embassy in Baku to the Department of State reporting on the over one-hour long meeting held on April 3, 2009 with Pres. Aliyev, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, Matthew Bryza (the US co-chair of the Minsk Group of negotiators on the Artsakh conflict) and US Ambassador to Azerbaijan Anne Derse. The cable was titled, “Pres. Aliyev Reasonable on Nagorno-Karabagh Options, Still Furious with Turkey.”

In the summary paragraph, the cable stated that “Aliyev hid none of his outrage at Turkey’s apparent disregard for Azerbaijan’s interests, and the intensity of his display seemed calculated to underscore the seriousness of the repercussions for Turkey if Azerbaijan’s interests in NK [Nagorno Karabagh] are sacrificed for the sake of the Armenian accord.”

Under the subtitle, “Resentment at Ankara’s Betrayal,” the cable stated that “Aliyev responded with a lengthy and bitter indictment of Turkey as a ‘liar, cheat and betrayer’ of Azerbaijan. Noting that the consequences of the current volatile situation in the region are unpredictable, he complained that Azerbaijan had quietly supported the recent improvement in Turkish-Armenian relations, including President Sargsian’s ‘football diplomacy,’ never dreaming that Turkey ‘would cheat us’ by delinking progress on NK from that process. [Turkish] President Gul had promised that there would be no doors or borders opened for Armenia without progress on NK, Aliyev asserted. ‘He lied, I no longer trust him.’”

The cable then stated: “Aliyev noted that when he met Prime Minister Erdogan in Davos this January [2009], Erdogan had said nothing about the steps Turkey was contemplating with Armenia… After Davos, Erdogan had sent Foreign Minister Babacan to Baku to explain what was occurring with Armenia with respect to re-establishing relations. ‘Babacan asked for my support, saying we should try to make progress ‘in parallel’ on NK,’ but without linkage, Aliyev said incredulously. Aliyev told Babacan Azerbaijan would not support Turkey’s steps with Armenia without progress on NK and outlined ‘all the possible consequences for Turkey and this region’ if Turkey pursued this course. The Turks asked that Aliyev keep the conversation confidential. Aliyev agreed, he said, but shortly thereafter, RFE/RL’s [Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] Armenian Service reported that NK was ‘no longer an obstacle’ to improvement in Turkish-Armenian relations. This had sparked a press campaign in Azerbaijan which continues to this day, Aliyev added.”

According to the cable: “Aliyev said he had twice sent Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov to Turkey to outline for the Turks what they would win and what they would lose from normalization without resolution or progress on NK, and to propose a joint Turkish-Azerbaijani statement on the matter. Azimov returned without results, and Azerbaijan now confronts ‘the reality’ that Turkey will initial, sign and ratify an agreement with Armenia to open the border and establish diplomatic relations.”

The cable continued: “Azerbaijan also can no longer maintain its posture of ‘patient silence’ about the Turkish-Armenia process, Aliyev said.  He noted that given Erdogan’s political weakness going into the recent Turkish elections, Azerbaijan had refrained from public statements to avoid impact on the vote. But ‘silence was a sign of friendship the Turks do not deserve.’ Turkey is manipulating public opinion, portraying Azerbaijan as acquiescent in its process with Armenia, so Azerbaijan must now clarify, publicly, its position.”

Furthermore, “Turkey is about to commit ‘a serious historical mistake that will never be forgotten,’ Aliyev asserted. ‘Our relations will never be the same. We are not one nation and we never will be. Our relations will be damaged, it will be a disaster on all issues, security, economy, energy,’ Aliyev continued. ‘Turkey has to decide what it will gain and what it will lose. It will lose Azerbaijan, certainly; Central Asia as well, and end Turkic solidarity,’ he continued. There will be consequences for Georgia if Turkey and Azerbaijan split. Energy negotiations will end. ‘They did everything to ruin energy cooperation,’ Aliyev said heatedly. He added later that Turkey underestimates the degree to which Azerbaijan can influence its domestic politics. Azerbaijan has never interfered in Turkish internal politics before, ‘but this is a matter of national concern,’ he warned.” Aliyev added that he felt “personally betrayed” by Gul and Erdogan.

Aliyev concluded his remarks to US officials with a warning to Turkey, “noting that when the Azerbaijanis had asked the Turks point blank whether they had agreed to normalize with Armenia and open the border without progress on NK, the Turks ‘had not responded,’ Aliyev exploded. ‘Silence means yes…they did it! They will be on the black list always.’”

Following this meeting, Aliyev continued pressuring and threatening Erdogan and Turkey so it would not ratify the Armenia-Turkey protocols. Erdogan was forced to add a new condition to the protocols, seeking the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Artsakh which was unacceptable to Armenia. Eventually, the protocols fell apart as neither Armenia nor Turkey proceeded to ratify them by their respective parliaments.

Aliyev was successful in preventing a rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey. Now that Aliyev and Turkey have solved most of the Artsakh issue militarily, they have resumed their love fest creating an existential threat to both Artsakh and Armenia.

One hopes that new unexpected developments could revive the old feud between Aliyev and Erdogan, undermining their current close relations.

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

4 Comments

  1. In order to revive a feud there has to be a reason. At the moment, the Azeris are highly indebted to Turkey. Turkish contractors are vying for the rebuilding activity in the 7 districts after the demining operation which is likely to further cement ties between the two countries.

  2. Another timely piece… had 10 years to action this but decided not to. “One hopes” doesn’t really cut it now – does it, Harut? I guess keep hoping.

  3. This is wishful thinking at the most. Why would Aliyev and Erdogan feud? The Azeri gas goes through Turkey, Azeris won the war through Turkish technology, basically, these are 2 nations speaking the same language, Russia accepts the result and is in agreement. To write a detailed article and finish it with this conclusion is too far fetched. To put a Wikileaks document from 10 years ago and wishing it to repeat is a very low probability.

    • Here is the cable that the author mentioned (but for some reason neglected to post): https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09BAKU270_a.html?fbclid=IwAR076BNX9549d60jVsOiYicukDXbHcjNl69nkDJC2Zk3q35BBP_YscSFLtI

      It says that Aliyev was willing not to oppose the opening of the Turkey-Armenia border, if Armenia agreed to four minor parts of the Madrid Principles that did not even involve land concessions! How on earth did Armenia squander this opportunity?!

      In terms of driving a new wedge between Turkey and Azerbaijan, there are many ways it could happen.

      The most obvious candidate is a conflict between Israel and the Sunni Arab states, on the one hand, and Iran and Qatar, on the other. Azerbaijan and Turkey will find themselves on opposite sides of that conflict.

      Another candidate is if Erdogan resumes his hostile policy towards Israel.

      A third candidate is if increased Turkish influence in Azerbaijan brings with it increased Islamism, and threatens the secularity on which the Azerbaijani leadership prides itself.

      A fourth candidate is if Turkey takes increasingly provocative steps against Russia (such as in Ukraine/the Donbass), which Azerbaijan will feel pressure to oppose in order not to antagonize the Russian troops on its territory.

      A fifth candidate is if Armenia offers something to Turkey that Turkey needs, such as electricity exports to the perpetually blacked out regions in Anatolia, or maybe that stupid Nakhichevan corridor, and leverages such offers to establish relations with Turkey.

      The question for Armenian leadership is what can it do to contribute to the above events, and will it be prepared to benefit from them if or when they happen. But for that the country needs smart and creative diplomats, and needs to strengthen its economy. Broadly speaking, Azerbaijan will get weaker in the near- to medium-term as the oil runs out. Armenia needs to strengthen itself over the same period. If Armenia plays its cards right, its geopolitical position can be substantially improved by 2040. That doesn’t mean Artsakh will ever become independent – in all likelihood Artsakh is gone. What it means is that Armenia’s existence will become much less precarious, and there will be fewer situations where the interests of Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and the West all align against Armenia, which is exactly what happened here.

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