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?