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10 Dec, 2020 16:59

Turkish soldiers take lap of honour at Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh victory parade as Erdogan directs fiery warning at Armenia

Boots were polished and medals pinned for a triumphant march through Azerbaijan’s capital on Thursday to celebrate the country’s claim to victory over Armenia in the brief but bloody Nagorno-Karabakh war.

However, what will attract more international attention is the fact that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the ceremony, along with a contingent of his country’s troops. 

Turkey has been a staunch supporter of Baku throughout the conflict, and offered manpower and equipment to turn the tide of the war in its favour. 

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Azerbaijani officials paid tribute to the country’s soldiers, 2,700 of whom it says were killed in fighting over the disputed province, which had previously been governed by a pro-Armenian administration. As many as 150 rocket launchers, missile defence systems and other pieces of military hardware were on show in an event designed to flaunt the country’s military prowess. 

In a fiery speech, Erdogan warned Armenia that it should not seek to overturn the result of the ceasefire settlement that put swathes of land in Nagorno-Karabakh back under Baku’s control. According to him, Armenians must “come to their senses” and, “if the Armenian people can learn from the Karabakh war, a new era will begin in the region.”  

Armenia’s government this week claimed Azerbaijan had orchestrated a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the province. It says that in 1915, around 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire as part of a genocide, which Turkey continues to officially deny. Erdogan’s presence is likely to press on that historical wound. Istanbul had previously been coy about its role in the conflict, denying responsibility for a number of strategic wins struck against Armenia.

However, participating in Thursday’s parade will likely be interpreted as a sign that Turkey chalks the war up as a win. The settlement, which has frozen hostilities and seen the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the region, has not been as popular in Armenia. At the same time, in the capital, Yerevan, demonstrators fought hand-to-hand with security forces as they attempted to break into the office of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as he held a cabinet meeting. Thousands have taken to the streets since his government signed the Moscow-brokered accord.

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