Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed Azerbaijan's capture of Nagorno-Karabakh during a visit to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan on Monday.
Erdogan met with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in a show of support just days after Baku seized the separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has a majority Armenian population, in a lightning military operation.
"The window of opportunity has opened to settle the situation in the region," Erdogan said. "This opportunity must not be missed."
He was accompanied on his trip by the head of Turkey's Defense Industry Agency, Haluk Gorgun.
Erdogan and Aliyev discuss Nagorno-Karabakh
Although the visit was officially organized to launch the construction of a gas pipeline, the two presidents also discussed Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev claimed he would protect the rights of ethnic Armenians in the enclave.
"Their rights will be guaranteed by the Azerbaijani state," he said during the meeting with Erdogan.
Thousands of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh began flowing into Armenia on Monday in fear of expulsion or revenge from authoritarian Azerbaijan.
Why is Nakhchivan important?
Nakhchivan a landlocked, autonomous exclave of Azerbaijan that is embroiled another regional dispute. It is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by a stirp of Armenian territory known as the Zangezur corridor.
From 1995 until 2022 Nakhchivan was ruled by Vasif Talibov, who established an authoritarian local regime where he was accused of corruption and violent crackdowns on the opposition. He is related to the Aliyev family by marriage.
Armenia has embargoed Nakhchivan for many years and all roads and railways between the two parts of Azerbaijan were destroyed during fighting in the 1990s.
Erdogan and Aliyev are expected to call for new land connection to be opened between Nakhchivan and the rest of Azerbaijan.
This would reconnect the exclave with the mainland and give Turkey a strategic land route to the rest of the Turkic world.
Russia, which has had peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2020, has in principle said such a corridor would be feasible.
Russia welcomes meeting
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Armenia forged a security partnership with Russia, while Azerbaijan grew close to Turkey, with which it shares cultural and linguistic ties.
Erdogan's visit to Azerbaijan comes as Armenia claims that its own security partner, Russia, did not offer enough support. Moscow "categorically" denied the claims.
Russia welcomed news of the meeting between Erdogan and Aliyev on Monday.
"We always hope that all meetings held by the president of Azerbaijan, including those with the Turkish president, will serve to normalize life in Nagorno-Karabakh after what happened," said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
zc/fb (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)