The 15 July failed coup in Turkey changed the country’s foreign policy priorities. Since then, the country has redefined its relations with a number of countries based on how they responded to the coup attempt, and whether they cooperated with Ankara in apprehending the penetrators, the FETÖ. Given that 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of official diplomatic relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan, and that the two countries have had steady and mutually supportive policies throughout this time, this paper examines whether the post-15 July environment has led to changes in the relationship. Specifically, the paper analyzes Azerbaijan’s response to the ‘fight on FETÖ’, and the development of relations following the coup attempt. Our assessment of the post-15 July political developments suggests that bilateral relations have affirmed the path dependency of the two countries. The attempted coup and its consequences have not had any kind of negative impact on relations; on the contrary, the support Azerbaijan showed to Turkey in the ‘fight on FETÖ’ has deepened mutual trust, thereby further strengthening the path dependent solidarity and cooperation.

Keywords: Turkey, Azerbaijan, military coup, solidarity, ally, partnership

Azerbaijan recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of official diplomatic relations with Turkey. For the majority of this time, the two countries have enjoyed a steady and supportive relationship, with some exceptions, such as Turkey’s attempt at a rapprochement with Armenia in 2008. This concluded with the signing of two protocols in 2009 aiming to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the Turkey-Armenia border. Azerbaijan felt betrayed by this initiative, given the implications for Turkey’s support on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, which was not included in the protocols. However, Turkey soon regained Baku’s trust, persuaded by Azerbaijan’s calls to refrain from harming its national cause and facilitating Armenia’s illegal occupation of Azerbaijan territories in Nagorno-Karabakh – also noting that Yerevan was already far from being ready to reach a possible compromise on the 1915 events. This single example, taken from a close relationship spanning two and a half decades, clearly represents Azerbaijan’s influence over and importance for Turkey. The relationship works both ways: Azerbaijan joined Turkey’s fight against FETÖ (Fetullah Terrorist Organization) as early as April 2014, demonstrating the significance of the bilateral relationship for Baku. Nevertheless, and as expected, this path dependency in bilateral relations continued after the 15 July coup attempt; the heads of two countries came together several times and launched several new projects as well as finalizing many others, including the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway route in late October 2017. This paper, at this juncture, further examines the current state of affairs regarding the path dependent bilateral expectations, solidarity, and cooperation, with a specific focus on the ways in which Turkey’s response to the coup-attempt and its perpetrators has influenced its foreign policy.

Fight against FETÖ, 15 July, and Turkey-Azerbaijan relations Azerbaijan was the first external location in which the Gülen movement opened its institutions, of course with the support and guarantees that Turkey provided to the Azerbaijani authorities. For years, the movement was considered as means to build cultural and transnational ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Despite local concerns about the movement’s activities in Azerbaijan, Turkey’s formal and informal backing made the movement a trusted organization which was given several incentives that resulted in the establishment of Gülenist universities and several education institutions throughout the country. With exactly the same motivation, as soon as Turkey declared the Gülen movement as an existential threat, Azerbaijan took action. Following Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit to Azerbaijan in early April 20141, official Baku arrested several ‘home-grown’ Gülenists. Upon the orders of President İlham Aliyev, eight Turkish citizens who were senior members of the movement were deported. They included the CEO of the Çağ Öğretim İşletmeleri (the company that owned the Gülen movement’s schools and university in Azerbaijan), the rector of Qafqaz University, and a top businessman affiliated with the movement.2 As the first international destination of the movement, Azerbaijan also became the first country to support Turkey in its war against the Gülen movement (also known as FETÖ) beyond national borders.

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How to Cite:

TABAK, H. & TUFEKCI, O. (2017), Turkey-Azerbaijan relations after 15 July: Expectations, Solidarity and Cooperation. Caucasus International, 17(2): 83–96.