ANKARA, Sept 21 (Reuters) – Turkey is using “all means”, including military training and modernisation, to support its close ally Azerbaijan but it did not play a direct role in Baku’s military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, a Turkish defence ministry official said on Thursday.
Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive to take back control of its breakaway Karabakh region on Tuesday. It later announced a ceasefire that would disarm the ethnic Armenian separatists who had held much of the region – regarded internationally as part of Azerbaijan – since the 1990s.
NATO ally Turkey publicly threw its support behind Azerbaijan’s “steps to preserve its territorial integrity” but it had been unclear whether Ankara played any active role in the 24-hour military operation.
“It was Azerbaijan army’s own operation, there was no direct involvement of Turkey,” a Turkish defence ministry official told reporters on Thursday.
“Turkey’s cooperation with Azerbaijan in military training and army modernisation has been underway for a long time. The Azerbaijani army’s success in the latest operation clearly shows the level they achieved,” the official said.
He also said a joint Turkish-Russian monitoring centre was still operating and was reporting on any ceasefire violations.
Turkey, which has close linguistic, cultural and economic ties with Azerbaijan, supports efforts by Baku and Yerevan to build peaceful relations, the official added.
In a phone call late on Wednesday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed Ankara’s support to his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev.
“President Erdogan reiterated Turkey’s heartfelt support for Azerbaijan,” the presidency said in a statement.
Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever, Editing by Ece Toksabay and Gareth Jones
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