Several Telegram channels have reported that about 500 Turkish-backed troops previously stationed in Syria, namely fighters belonging to the Sultan Murad Division, the Free Syrian Army and Hamzat, have been deployed to Azerbaijan.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta’s sources note that this information is pending confirmation, however, it is likely to be genuine. Baku held a protest several days earlier, calling on Turkey “to save Azerbaijan from the Armenians and the Russians.”
They called on the government to place a Turkish military base on the territory of Azerbaijan and take revenge for the July clashes on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Turkish TV showed footage from the demonstration, which later was picked up by several Russian media outlets.
There is no official response from Moscow regarding this matter, and it is unclear whether Baku had allowed this protest to take place. Igor Dimitriev, an expert on the region, said on his Telegram channel that “the Turks have de facto built a military base in Azerbaijan.”
“There are rumors going around claiming that after the drills [large-scale Azerbaijani-Turkish drills held in July-August 2020 – newspaper], Turkey left some of its troops in Azerbaijan, including F-16 jets with personnel in addition to a unit of Turkish drones,” the expert said.
Telman Abilov, who heads the Azerbaijani organization “Military Lawyers” thinks that an escalation of tensions on the border with Armenia may be related to gas shipments.
“The escalation took place right after Turkey had reduced its purchase of Russian gas to a minimum. At the same time, Ankara has diversified its energy sources, namely by buying Azeri gas.
On the other hand, Azerbaijani gas is set to enter the southern European market, where it will compete with Russian gas,” he said. Dimitriev wrote on Telegram that there is an opinion held by some Azerbaijanis that “the Russian-Armenian invasion seeks to undermine the construction of a transport corridor between the Caspian and Black Seas.”
Military commentator Shamil Gareev told the paper that Moscow is likely to be concerned with Turkey’s expanded presence in the Middle East more than with the gas corridor, as Turkey is a NATO state with the second largest army in the alliance.
“The real possibility of a Turkish base appearing there, as well as Syrian militants backed by Turkey, are increasing tensions and fail to contribute to the peaceful regulation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.