In the News
Turkey keen on more defence production with Azerbaijan
October 13, 2011
News.Az reprints from APA an interview with Turkey's national defence minister, Ismet Yilmaz.
Minister, we would like to know your opinion about the current state of Turkish-Azerbaijani military relations and their development.
First of all I want to start with congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s independence. I am pleased to see that Azerbaijan has done much in every sphere in the past 20 years. Turkey and Azerbaijan have a comprehensive military partnership based on long years and mutual confidence. Our relations, which started after Azerbaijan regained its independence, have developed with education, training and other programs. We continue making efforts to unite our potential in the defence industry. We can see that the relevant bodies of the two countries have a shared demand and desire.
Cooperation between our countries in the defence industry was established with agreements signed on 11 August 1992 and on 10 June 1996. I think that the “Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Assistance” signed last year marked a turning point in our military relations. The strength of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces will be the biggest guarantor of regional peace. As the Turkish proverb says: “If you want peace, prepare for war.” The presence of factors threatening stability in the South Caucasus poses a serious threat to Azerbaijan’s independence and regional peace. Approximately 5,000 Azerbaijanis have received military education in Turkey to date. A lot of Azerbaijanis are still studying at military schools in Turkey. We will continue making efforts to develop strategic relations which are improving, based on the brotherly relations between the two countries.
Azerbaijan is marking the 20th anniversary of its independence. Turkey has supported Azerbaijan in all spheres, particularly in the military sphere in the past 20 years. What has been achieved in military cooperation and the defence industry? What do you see in the future?
I am glad that Azerbaijan has achieved much in all spheres, including the military, in the past 20 years. Azerbaijan has got one of the strongest armies in the region with increased opportunities and abilities. This is a source of pride not only for the Azerbaijani people, but also for the Turkish people.
On the other hand, partnership with Azerbaijan in the defence industry is developing. These relations are realized by companies and state organizations in accordance with international agreements. The mutual visits of a number of defence industry delegations have played an important role in the development of relations.
The agreement signed on 20 September 2000 determined the legal framework of the development of cooperation in the defence industry. The ASELSAN-Baku company, which was established in 1998, plays an important role in meeting most hardware requirements of the Azerbaijani Army. But I can say that our cooperation in the defence industry is in the initial stage. This cooperation must be enhanced. Great development has recently been seen in the defence industry of Turkey. Projects on communication systems, armoured vehicles, missiles, national shipbuilding and the production of helicopters must be realized in line with NATO standards.
What issues will be on the agenda during your visit to Azerbaijan? Can Turkey offer anything new to improve cooperation in the defence industry?
We look forward to comprehensive and long-lasting joint cooperation with Azerbaijan. No doubt, the improvements in the defence industries of Turkey and Azerbaijan will ensure the development of our cooperation. In the light of the development in our defence industry we see the future very differently. We have got strong relations with Azerbaijan in all spheres. It is one of our most important plans to improve these relations in the defence industry as well. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the situation in the region is one of the issues that will be discussed during the visit. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict caused the exile of hundreds of thousands Azerbaijanis from their homes and the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani lands. This is a fact. This problem creates a great obstacle to security, stability and development in the region.
The settlement of the conflict on the basis of international law and decisions of international organizations will ensure peace in the region. One of Turkey's targets is sustainable peace in the region and confidence between people. Turkey continues its active position on the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and renders every diplomatic and political support to Azerbaijan in international organizations. Turkey takes every opportunity to support Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Our president and prime minister have also said this during their visits. We closely watch the activity of the Minsk Group. We hope that the activity of the co-chair countries - the US, France and Russia - will be accelerated in the near future. Following the peace process carefully and setting a deadline is significant for both Azerbaijan and Armenia because only the two parties can put an end to this conflict.
Turkey has recently carried out major projects on unmanned aircraft, on the Atak helicopter, Milli Tank and Milgem warship. What are the targets of Turkey’s defence industry concerning the Caucasus and Turkic republics?
As you know, Turkey is a neighbour of the most unstable regions of the world. Turkey is a country at the centre of the Middle East, Balkans and of course the Caucasus with its unstable situation, which potentially can influence the whole of Eurasia. We see that Azerbaijan is not so different. Though Azerbaijan is a strong state, it experiences the possible influence of instability in the South Caucasus. So, it is important that our countries, located in an environment with close conflict risks, have their defence industries. The defence industry is a strategic sector.
It is one of our major plans to meet our military needs with national resources. Turkey has launched a number of national projects in this sphere. We have national communication and command-control systems. I can say that we have reached a good level in the area of unmanned aircraft. We can see that interest in this technology is increasing in the world. On the other hand, the ships built by our national companies within the framework of the Milgem project are operating. Serious achievements have been made in the Atak helicopter project. The first prototype of the helicopter started test flights in August. Of course, it is important to use this achievement not only in our country, but also in Azerbaijan and the Central Asian republics. We do not regard this issue only as commercial. The development of the defence capacity of Azerbaijan and all brotherly states is very important for our strategic unity.
The “Agreement on Strategic Cooperation and Mutual Assistance” between Azerbaijan and Turkey was ratified early in 2011. The agreement envisages high-level cooperation and prioritizes military issues, particularly the defence industry. How can Azerbaijan participate in Turkey's projects as part of this agreement?
I would like to remind you that Turkey was the first country to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence, which was declared on 18 October 1991. Diplomatic relations were established with a protocol signed on 14 January 1992. After that date we saw the sustainable development of relations between the two countries in all spheres on the basis of history and culture. Our relations reached the level of strategic partnership as a result of this development.
The “Agreement on Strategic Cooperation and Mutual Assistance” is a very significant agreement. Azerbaijan and Turkey envisage strengthening political, defence, economic, commercial, cultural and other relations. Turkey remains Azerbaijan’s most significant ally in the region. I think that this agreement is valuable in the further development of our alliance. We will continue our work towards meeting all the requirements and desires of our countries in military cooperation with Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan’s National Agency for Mine Action, ANAMA, took part in a tender for mine-clearance on the Turkey-Syria border. According to some reports, work has started to establish a humanitarian mine-clearance centre attached to the Turkish Defence Ministry, like in Azerbaijan. What can you tell us about this project? How do you assess interstate cooperation in mine-clearance?
The mine-clearance of all border areas is a significant target for Turkey. Mine-clearance operations have been started on the Turkey-Syria border. Azerbaijan's National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) also took part in the tender. I would like to remind you that Turkey joined mine-clearance operations in Saloglu region near Ganja as a lead country, carried out as part of cooperation with NATO. The success of ANAMA, which carried out and finished mine-clearing operations here, is estimable. The completion of this project is an indicator of the distance come by Azerbaijan in the field of unexploded ordnance and mine clearance. Turkey’s national activities in mine-clearance are also continuing. We are also ready for international cooperation in this sphere.
What is Ankara's view of the establishment of a Turkey-Azerbaijan or Turkey-Azerbaijan-Georgia military union? What role could such a union play in the maintenance of stability in the region and at the same time in the integration of Azerbaijani and Georgian armed forces with NATO standards?
We aim to develop our military and defence relations with Azerbaijan. The education of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in accordance with NATO standards, weapons and maintenance is very important for the region’s stability. Turkey supports Azerbaijan’s relations with NATO and other Western organizations. We think that Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation within Partnership for Peace is profitable and that this cooperation is significant from the point of view of Azerbaijan’s economic and political interests.