Turkish arms sales to Azerbaijan surged before Nagorno-Karabakh fighting

Turkey’s military exports to its ally Azerbaijan have risen six-fold this year, with sales of drones and other military equipment rising to $77 million last month alone before fighting broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to exports data, Reuters reports.

The figures compiled by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly, which groups more than 95,000 exporting companies in 61 sectors, show Azerbaijan bought $123 million in defense and aviation equipment from Turkey in the first nine months of 2020.

Most of the purchases of drones, rocket launchers, ammunition and other weapons arrived were after July, when border clashes between Armenian and Azeri forces prompted Turkey and Azerbaijan to conduct joint military exercises.

Sales jumped from $278,880 in the month of July to $36 million in the month of August, and $77.1 million in just September, the data showed. Military sales to Azerbaijan in the first nine months of 2019 totaled $20.7 million.

“Azerbaijan clearly turned to Turkey for help … and wasted no time realizing that the threat would grow,” said Istanbul-based defence analyst Turan Oguz.

“Ankara is very determined in providing Baku with its needs,” he said. “The strong defense cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey is getting stronger by the day.”

Ankara, which wants a role in ceasefire talks, says it is not directly involved in the fighting. But Azerbaijani officials have touted their use of Turkish armed drones, which have spearheaded Ankara’s military operations in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The surge in arms sales reflects Turkey’s growing cross-border influence in the region, and is one measure of how quickly Azerbaijan embraced Ankara before the flare-up of the decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

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