What does Erdogan’s ‘cold’ have to do with Nagorno-Karabakh?

What sort of peace talks could Armenia and Azerbaijan usefully have had?
The ‘tatik-papik’ or grandmother and grandfather sculpture hewn from volcanic rock in Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo by IsaaK Alexandre KaRslian, Unsplash

On October 5, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was expected to discuss the crisis in the South Caucasus with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Germany, France and other members of the European Union (EU) in Granada, Spain.

But then, he begged off, with some sections of the Turkish media reporting he had a cold.

Other sources said he was rather too busy.

Meanwhile, there were indications from Azerbaijan that France and Germany hadn’t been keen for Mr Erdogan to attend. Spain had invited Mr Erdogan to the European Political Community meeting.

Whatever the reason, Mr Erdogan stayed away from Granada. And his absence had a slight domino effect with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev also announcing said that he too would be skipping the event. Omer Celik, spokesperson for Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, said Mr Aliyev had showed his solidarity with the Turkish leader and “we appreciate Azerbaijan’s decision”.

What does any of this mean a fortnight or so after Azerbaijan took back full control of the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region?

The territory, which is within Azerbaijan territory and internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, was governed as an autonomous state by its Armenian majority. But with the Azeris taking control, the Armenians have left en masse.

Prospects for peace talks were always gloomy. Azerbaijan already had the hump because France had said it would send weapons to Armenia and post a military attache to Kapan, a city close to the Iranian border that Baku has its eye on.

But what sort of peace talks could Armenia and Azerbaijan usefully have had anyway? The only one that would make any sense is if Azerbaijan were to implore Armenians to return, reassuring them by words and clear sight of a valid process that their lives, property and rights will be safe.

But that’s if Azerbaijan really wants the Armenians back. It continues to say the Armenians shouldn’t leave but the Armenians don’t believe it.

Politics, like the humans who do it, is an emotional and fraught business.

Also read:

Armenian exodus and the pains of history