Azerbaijan: No Turkish Military Bases Here
The Azerbaijani government was forced to deny Turkish press reports that Turkey was establishing a military base in the country.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed an agreement "confirming the protocols on the transfer of buildings and structures in the military cantonment Gyzyl Shryag and the terminal at the military airfield in Zainalabdin Tagiyev to the use of the armed forces of the Turkish republic," Azerbaijani media reported on Thursday.
From that legalese, some Turkish media oversimplified the news. "Turkey to establish military base in Azerbaijan," the state Anadolu Agency wrote in its headline. "Azerbaijan signs protocol allowing Turkey to establish military base," the state-run Daily Sabah wrote.
Azerbaijan's constitution, however, forbids the establishment of any foreign military base in the country, and government officials quickly clarified. "Press reports about the creation of a military base of any country do not have any basis and do not correspond to reality," Deputy Defense Minister Ramiz Tahirov told the AzerTaj news agency.
What exactly constitutes a "base" isn't always clear, but this is a largely bureaucratic move, explained Jasur Mammadov Sumerinli, director of the Caspian Defense Studies Institute, in an email interview with The Bug Pit. Around 60-70 Turkish soldiers are stationed in Azerbaijan, largely as trainers for various branches of the Azerbaijani security services, Sumerinli said.
The buildings are also used for Turkish air force personnel and aircraft ferrying Azerbaijani troops to peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Tahirov said.
Another Azerbaijani military analyst, Uzeir Jafarov, told the news site Caucasian Knot that the new protocol gives diplomatic status to the structures that Turkey had been using in Azerbaijan:
In fact Turkish soldiers have used the airfield terminal in the village of Zainalabdin Tagiyev for basing and supply of military aircraft participating in joint exercises. And in the town Gyzyl Shryag Turkish soldiers -- trainers, officers, participants in exercises -- lived in one of the residences. There were also ancillary buildings. Now the diplomatic status of these objects have been strengthened and Azerbaijani officials, for example, can't enter without the appropriate permission from the Turkish side. That is, its status is similar to that of military attaches.