ANKARA—Ankara has neither confirmed nor denied claims that Turkey’s intelligence agency prevented an Azeri military attack ordered by Azeri president Ilham Aliyev on Nagorno-Karabakh immediately before Turkey and Armenia signed historic protocols last year, reported the Turkish daily, Hurriyet.
The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) has also not released any statement concerning the allegations, which were first published in one of Azerbaijan’s most influential opposition newspapers, Yeni Musavat.
The Azeri report appeared on the front page of daily Hurriyet on Tuesday with a headline that said MIT had thwarted a Karabakh war.
The Turkish government did, however, voice support for dialogue between the South Caucasus rivals. “We are in favor of the resolution of problems through dialogue,” Foreign Ministry sources told Hurriyet on Tuesday.
“By averting the Azerbaijani operation, Turkey prevented the normalization process with Armenia from being undermined and its own dignity from being harmed. The essence and the secret of the relationship taking shape between Turkey and Azerbaijan depends on this matter,” the Azeri newspaper wrote.
“Had Azerbaijan begun a military operation during that period, the Armenian initiative of the [ruling Justice and Development Party] AKP would have entirely collapsed,” Yeni Musavat added. According to the paper, the alleged military operation took place about one year before Turkey and Armenia signed deals in October 2009 in Zurich, Switzerland, to establish diplomatic relations.
The Azeri newspaper also claimed that options for military operations were reviewed. “The reception of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic’s Parliament Speaker Vasif Talibov at the highest level in Turkey could be a part of Ankara’s plan to stop Azerbaijan,” it said.
Turkish diplomatic sources said the high-level welcome of the Nakhchivan official was only natural because Turkey is a guarantor country for Nakhchivan’s status under Azerbarijani rule according to a highly contentious 1921 treaty.
Dr. Burcu Gultekin Punsmann, a senior foreign-policy analyst at the Turkish think tank TEPAV, also declined to comment on the veracity of the facts.
“I would, however, doubt that [Azeri] President [Ilham] Aliyev could have seriously considered undertaking such a hazardous action,” she said. “I can’t try to assess a military outcome of a new Azeri-Armenian war over Nagorno-Karabakh; the worst thing in such a situation is always to underestimate the enemy.”
“What I know is that this war would be disastrous for the whole region,” she added, referring to the five-day August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia that highlighted the disruptive potential of renewed conflict anywhere in the South Caucasus.
“Beyond a doubt, Azerbaijan is the country that has benefited the most from the return of stability to the South Caucasus region in the second half of the 1990s,” Punsmann said. “With the resumption of war, energy investment projects will stop overnight. There will be no winner of this war.”