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Turkey eyes economic gains in backing Azerbaijan against Armenia

Turkey and Azerbaijan often describe their relationship as “one nation, two states,” but their economic exchanges have remained relatively small despite their close political and ethnic bonds.
Men walk on a street of the village of Djojugh Marjanli in Azerbaijan's Jabrayil district which is said was damaged in shelling during the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, October 6, 2020. (Photo by TOFIK BABAYEV / AFP) (Photo by TOFIK BABAYEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Turkey has openly thrown its weight behind Azerbaijan in the Azeri-Armenian flare-up over the long-disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, in what is widely believed to be an attempt to extract concessions from Russia, the “big boss” of the region, in simultaneous conflicts in Libya and Syria. On the other side of the coin, however, Ankara hopes to gain influence over the energy resources of Azerbaijan, with which it has close political and ethnic bonds.

Azerbaijan’s oil and natural gas potential has yet to be fully developed and utilized. Moscow has traditionally steered the country’s energy wealth, both before and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Russia has maintained partnerships with Azerbaijan in various fields, chief among them energy and defense. The Russian energy giants Gazprom, Lukoil and Transneft operate in Baku and Russians wield influence in Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy company SOCAR, which, in turn, holds a nearly 10% stake in the Russian oil refinery Antipinsky. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is purportedly keen to gain influence in the Caucasus, but will Moscow allow a rival player in its backyard?

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