22.12.2023 Author: Seth Ferris

Looking for Emerging Fault Lines: Ankara and Baku OVER the Plight of Palestinians, IF ANY?

Looking for Emerging Fault Lines: Ankara and Baku OVER the Plight of Palestinians, IF ANY?

What I would find most interesting is if any fault lines emerge between Ankara and Baku because of their varying approaches to Israel. It is unlikely, I’d guess, as Turkish-Azerbaijani ties run quite broad and deep, indeed, they often describe themselves as “two countries, one people”.  Nonetheless, there are definitely double standards, especially when it comes to who Azerbaijan supports openly, and the position that Turkey has taken, the latter being anti-Zionist, so in today’s language, pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli.

… is Baku’s attitude pro-Israel …?

Yes, and no, and this comes down to a delicate balancing act. Firstly, how far can Turkey go in supporting the Palestinians, and in championing their rights, and will it try to influence Azerbaijan to do the same? It should be clear that “Baku’s failure to openly denounce the Israeli assault on Gaza exposes a contradiction in its own narrative on occupation and professed pan-Islamic solidarity”.

Turkey, Azerbaijan’s closest cousin, had until recently very cozy relations with Israel. But all has appeared to sour over the Israeli reaction to a terrorist act, one that is deeply rooted in oppression of the Palestinian people, and their legitimate efforts to claim their full-fledged nation state status.

But more is going on, and the shifting of opposing religious doctrines are bringing Muslims closer to closing ranks and Azerbaijan, at least in theory, SHOULD be part of the moving sands.  For instance, as reported by NPR, it is worth noting that Sunni and Shia armed groups, which frequently clash in armed conflict, now find uncommon unity thanks to the Israel-Hamas war.

Pie in the Sky

But for the most part, it is all about a pie-in-the-sky, and the rhetoric is more like reading brochures from a tourist agency advertising for Israeli-Azeri package tours, The Sky is the Limit: The Azerbaijan-Israel-Türkiye Trio and the Greater Middle East 

There is a dearth of published information, and real insight as to the possible implications can be summed up in the title of one recent article, “Azerbaijan walks fine line as Turkey-Israel relations deteriorate.” 

Three of its neighbors, Russia, Iran, and – most importantly – its key ally Turkey, are vocal supporters of the Palestinian cause. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel are at their zenith. 

Even Iran-backed Shia and their opposing Sunni militants are apparently coming closer in cooperation, and this is between groups which differ strongly in ideology.  Now they are united by opposition to Israel and the U.S., but still, there are divides, and that was intentional, staring with the divide and turn against policy of separate peace, with Egypt and Jordan having signed peace treaties with Israel.

However, to save face, and perhaps not to be inundated with more Palestinians, Jordan’s King Abdullah says the “world should condemn any attempt to forcibly expel Palestinians from Gaza”.

It comes as no surprise that some officials have said that “the forcible expulsion of Palestinians would amount to a declaration of war and prompt Jordan to suspend its peace treaty with Israel.”

My impression is that most countries, especially the Turkish brotherhood countries; are happy with the current Azeri-Turkish situation, and they will be looking to expand their joint influence in the region.

However, with the American way of economic warfare in place, this may be short-lived, as Israel is to be supported, right or wrong, even in the face of what comes as close to the legal definition of genocide and ethnic cleansing as you can get.

Diverse Groups, Common Cause

Although Palestinians include Shia Muslims, Christians, Druze and other denominations, the vast majority are Sunni Muslims, and their Shia co-believers in Islam have found a common cause.

At the same time, for Azerbaijan to be pro-Turkey is not a problem, is to be expected, as this is how they were able to win in Nagorno-Karabakh, and reestablish their territorial integrity, albeit conducting a “Beggar-thy-neighbor policy” in the process, for those countries that are not with the program, and not only in economic terms.

The larger question then is how they are dealing with that. Also, why and how Azerbaijan is able to freely develop such strong relations with Israel, and at the same time claim it is part of the Muslim world and should, at least in theory, be willing to close ranks over Israel.

There are just too many questions, but first to get the eyes adjusted. It is an understatement to read what is officially written about Türkiye’s relations with Azerbaijan as “being multifaceted and at a strategic level”, and that sums up more than meets the eye. It is something more of a co-dependency, in terms of regional energy security and military balance.

But in terms of larger economic policies, in the face of a new Economic Cold War, some differences of policy over Israel and Palestine do not matter. It is ironic now that Netanyahu is now demanding for Moscow to sever ties with Tehran, blaming them for causing all the problems in Israel. Given the strategic relationship between Russia and Iran, this is surely a “dreams are free” moment for the Israeli Prime Minister.

Getting back to Azerbaijan and Turkey, the marriage of convenience is most stable, besides some calls from the wider Muslim world that Azerbaijan should take sides with Palestine, and of course, distractors will say that this is “likely influenced by Tehran.”

So I guess after Ukraine, like Afghanistan, a new war is needed, a wider war in the Middle East, Onward Christian Soldiers: Lebanon, Syria and Iran, for starters, drag Turkey into it as well, for good measure.

Let us not forget that the Israelis, backed by the Americans, kept the Iranian air force flying during the Iran-Iraq war, so there will be enough weapons and spare parts to keep the pending regional war on schedule—at least before the US elections. The nations of the Middle East are old enough to know the fact that “The enemy of my enemy is a problem for later, but for now, they might be useful”, the question is, what will Azerbaijan, a major supplier of energy to Israel, in exchange for weapons which it so successfully used against Armenia, do if it’s “Muslim brothers” put their collective feet down and demand they take sides?


Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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