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ENERGYAzerbaijan Becomes Turkey’s Top Gas Supplier

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Azerbaijan has become Turkey’s major gas supplier and this could have major geopolitical ramifications for the region. But it also fits into Turkey’s efforts of the past several years to diminish its dependence on Russian gas. Hence Ankara’s particularly harsh position regarding the recent Armenia-Azerbaijan fighting in the Tovuz region where regional gas, oil and railway infrastructure runs.

From January-May of this year, Turkey imported 4 527,39 cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas (from Shah Deniz field). This is some 20,4 percent more in comparison to the same period of 2019. On the other hand, in May 2020 the import from Russia diminished by almost 62% compared to the same month in 2019. In May 2020, Azerbaijan officially became Turkey’s top gas supplier.

Overall this is a continuation of the trend from 2019 when Azerbaijan’s share in Turkey’s gas supplies reached 21.2 percent, which is some 6.23 percent more compared to the same period of 2018.

This became possible after the launch of TANAP in late 2019. The $6,5 bln. project is essentially a part of the $40 billion Southern Gas Corridor with a number of pipelines connecting Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to the vast European market. TANAP has the capacity to transport up to 16 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Caspian gas per year: 10 bcm go to Europe and 6 bcm to the Turkish market. Potentially, the TANAP could have a capacity of up to 31 bcm.

Previously it was reported that the capacity of TANAP would reach a cap of 6 bcm of natural gas by the end of June. To reach this milestone the volume went up gradually, first reaching 11,3 million cubic meters (m3) (July 2019). Moreover, this July the highest volume of 17 million m3 was recorded.

This happens at the time when Russian gas flows to Turkey are at a low point. Repair works were announced, which further contributes to the decrease of the Russian gas potential in Turkey. As a result, the $7.8 billion, 930 km TurkStream pipeline, built across the Black Sea and inaugurated in early 2020, is superseded by Azerbaijan, as a major gas supplier. The trend is self-revealing. In 2017, Gazprom exported 52 percent of Turkey’s total gas imports, in 2018 the figure stood at 47 percent and in 2019 at just 33 percent (15.9 bcm).

For example, in March, Turkey received nearly 924 million m3 of Azeri gas, which maked up 23,45 percent of the total volume of gas supplies to Turkey. Azerbaijan also pushed Iran, which together with Russia, are now Turkey’s second and third largest gas providers.

The decrease of Russian gas flows is also caused by the Turkish national company BOTAŞ increasing imports from Algeria and Nigeria. For Gazprom it also becomes increasingly difficult to compete with large LNG supplies that Turkey imports from the US. A look at the dynamics of LNG imports reveals an interesting trend – over the past 10 years the share of LNG steadily increases in Turkey. In 2013-2019 period, the share of LNG in Turkish gas imports rose from 6.1 bcm to 12.7 bcm.

Geopolitics of gas supplies

The decline of Russian gas supplies means Turkey would have space for geopolitical manoeuvres in an increasingly unstable period of time when Russian influence grows along Turkey’s borders. Moreover, Ankara might gain even greater leverage as various contracts guaranteeing gas flows from Russia expire in coming years and extensive talks will likely be held.

Indeed, geopolitics might be at play behind Turkey’s moves and aspirations to diminish dependence on Russia as BOTAS, the company which oversees the country’s gas import, is a state-run enterprise. This means that what happens in Syria or elsewhere easily influences the calculus of Turkey’s gas industry.

And there are reasons to worry for Turkey as Russia’s military influence in Syria and the Black Sea grows, and differences over the Libyan conflict abound. It is thus natural for Turkey to look at different ways to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. This creates a perfect opportunity for Azerbaijan to enhance its position as the region’s major gas supplier and thus further solidify its relations with Turkey. Turkey, on the other hand, is interested in an unhindered flow of Azerbaijani gas and, as other regional or global powers, is willing to defend its gas supply chain politically and, if necessary, even use a limited military force.

Perhaps this could explain Turkey’s statements regarding the recent uptick of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The violence took place along the Tovuz district of Azerbaijan. Surprisingly, the region is far distanced from Nagorno Karabakh, which is usually a centre for either large-scale fighting (as in 2016) or daily small-scale disturbances along the contact line. What relates the fighting in Tovuz to the geopolitics of gas supplies is the fact that the region is a vital land corridor for regional transport and energy export routes. This includes the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, the South Caucasus natural gas pipeline (SCP) and the Baku–Tbilisi–Kars (BTK) railway. This is the infrastructure which connects Azerbaijan to the West and represents a larger trans-Eurasian East-West corridor that has been championed by the West since the end of the Soviet Union. But more importantly, as argued above, the corridor allows Ankara to seek a partial alternative to the dependence on Russian gas. Therefore, any military moves near those strategic routes could invite Turkish action.

This could also explain why Ankara was especially vocal in its support for Baku during and after the Tovuz fighting. For example, Turkey’s defence industry chief stated the country was ready to help its eastern ally. Moreover, Turkey and Azerbaijan held military drills right after the end of the fighting. The exercises involved the land and air forces in multiple locations such as Baku, Nakhchivan, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh. The signal was clear: increased Turkish military cooperation with Azerbaijan might follow if threat to the infrastructure is not neutralized.

In the end, the clashes did not damage Azerbaijan’s energy and transport infrastructure, but both Baku and Ankara saw how vulnerable they could be. Both easily recall the Georgia-Russia war of 2008 when SCP, BTC and the Baku–Supsa oil pipeline were effectively shut down because of the ongoing military operations and general uncertainty in the South Caucasus.

As Turkey aims to transform itself into the region’s energy hub rather than serving only as a transit country, its relations with Azerbaijan will likely further solidify. Azerbaijani gas will continue to play a vital role in this emerging Turkish strategy. Moreover, both will seek deeper military cooperation to defend its critical infrastructure. Perhaps, this could serve as a necessary impulse for the Trilateral format of Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan to expand their cooperation. Much will also depend on Russian gas supplies, but as the gas supply trend of recent years and regional geopolitical developments indicate, Turkey will continue decreasing its dependence on Russian import.

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Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to have flared up

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(CNN)Long-simmering tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan appear to have flared up in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, with both sides accusing each other of attacking civilians amid reports of casualties.

The neighboring former Soviet republics have long been at odds over the territory — which is situated within the borders of Azerbaijan — and fought a war over it that finished in 1994.
Despite the conflict ending with a Russian-brokered ceasefire, military skirmishes between the two sides are not uncommon.
While Armenia said it was responding to missile attacks launched by its neighbor Sunday, Azerbaijan blamed Armenia for the clashes.
In response to the alleged firing of projectiles by Azerbaijan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan tweeted that his country had “shot down 2 helicopters & 3 UAVs, destroyed 3 tanks.”
Arayik Harutyunyan, leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, a de facto independent Armenian state not recognized internationally which controls Nagorno-Karabakh, said the region had lost positions to Azerbaijan.
“We have lost some positions. Mostly in the direction of Talysh and in the southern parts,” Harutyunyan said during a press conference Sunday.
As a result of the escalating tensions, the Armenian government has decided to impose martial law and to order “general mobilization,” Pashinyan said in a later tweet.
Azerbaijan’s parliament on Sunday voted to impose martial law, effective as of midnight (4 p.m. ET), and President Ilham Aliyev approved the decision.
Armenia earlier claimed that its neighbor had targeted civilians in peaceful areas, including in Stepanakert, the region’s capital.
Artak Beglaryan, an Artsakh official Artsakh, said in a tweet that a mother and child had been killed.
Beglaryan also said dozens of people had been wounded and large infrastructural damage had been caused, adding: “Azerbaijan is intentionally targeting civilian objects.”
However, Azerbaijan suggested Armenia was accountable for the latest flare-up between the two countries.
Hikmet Hajiyev, assistant of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the presidential administration, tweeted Sunday: “There are reports of dead and wounded among civilians and military servicemen. Extensive damage has been inflicted on many homes and civilian infrastructure.”
Accusing Armenia of “an act of aggression and use of force,” Hajiyev added that the “political-military leadership of Armenia bears full responsibility.”
At least five people in one family were killed as a result of artillery shelling by Armenian armed forces on Sunday, according to Azerbaijan’s state news agency APA, which cited the Azerbaijani prosecutor general’s office.
So far, 19 civilians have been injured and hospitalized following the clashes, APA reported.
At least 14 civilians were injured in villages along the border due to artillery and tank fire from the breakaway Armenian enclave, according to state media Azertac. CNN has been unable to independently verify claims by either side.
“Currently, the Azerbaijan Army is taking retaliatory actions and our troops fully control the operational situation,” Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement Sunday.
But Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: “We strongly condemn the aggression of the military-political leadership of Azerbaijan.”
“The military political leadership of Azerbaijan bears full responsibility for the consequences of their aggression,” the statement added.
Fighting between the two sides has been increasing in recent months.
In 2016, dozens of soldiers from both countries died during clashes. Two years earlier, then-UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to “commit themselves to immediate de-escalation and continuing dialogue” after reports of violence and casualties along the border.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is governed by a majority group of ethnic Armenians.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced support for Azerbaijan on Sunday, claiming that Armenia is “the biggest threat to peace and security in the region.”
“The Turkish nation continues to stand by its Azerbaijani brothers and sisters with all its means, as it has always done,” Erdogan said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the escalation in a phone call with Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan, according to statements from the Kremlin and from the Armenian Prime Minister’s Office.
The Kremlin statement said Putin expressed concern at the clashes, saying, “It was noted that it is important now to take all necessary efforts to prevent a military escalation of the confrontation, and most importantly, to stop military operations.”
The United States said it was “alarmed” by reports of military action between Armenia and Azerbaijan and urged both sides to cease hostilities immediately, according to a statement from US State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan Clash Over Disputed Region

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Fighting erupted Sunday between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics that have clashed over control of a disputed territory for three decades, raising fear of a new full-blown war in the South Caucasus.

Armenia declared martial law and military mobilization after accusing Azerbaijan of launching a missile and artillery attack on the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan blamed Armenia for triggering the fighting, calling it an act of aggression. Both sides reported civilian deaths and injuries, without…

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Tanks Ablaze As Azerbaijani Forces Attack Armenian Troops In Disputed Nagorno-Karabakh

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On Sunday morning, Azerbaijani artillery, rockets, drones and combat aircraft began a series of attacks on Armenian positions in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, just two months after clashes in July left at least seventeen dead. The shelling and air strikes were apparently followed by ground attacks.

The new round of fighting has reportedly resulted in civilian deaths and the destruction of multiple armored vehicles and combat aircraft. Both sides accuse the other of inventing the losses. Armenia has declared martial law and is mobilizing its reservists.

The conflict also threatens to involve regional powers Russia and Turkey in support of the opposing nations.

The website of Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense claims it was “striking enemy command posts…along the length of the entire front” in retaliation for Armenian artillery fire. The attack, which began around 8 a.m. local time, extended to the Nagorno-Karabakh capital of Stepanakert and reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least two civilians: a girl and a woman.

Screen capture of video released by Armenian Defense Ministry purportedly showing an Azerbaijani T-72 tank being struck by a mine or anti-tank fire.

A spokeswoman for the Armenian Defense Ministry claimed its forces shot down four Azerbaijani helicopters and 15 drones, and destroyed ten tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

It also released multiple videos appearing to show at least five tanks hitting mines or being struck by munitions, as well as several lighter vehicles apparently being destroyed.

A tank struck by a munition may not necessarily be destroyed. However, one video appears to show ammunition stores cooking off internally inside a tank, resulting in horrific jets of flame leaping from the turret. Another video shows a very tightly grouped unit of tanks being hit by shellfire—a significant tactical error.

Photo released by Nagorno-Karabakh armed forces purportedly to show destruction of an Azerbaijani armored fighting vehicle (AFV) on September 27, 2020.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Defense responded by stating the Armenian claims were “false and disinformation,” conceding only the loss of one Azerbaijani helicopter, the crew of which reportedly survived.

In turn, the Azerbaijani military claimed to have destroyed twelve Armenian 2K33 Osa (SA-8) short-range air defense systems. It released a video appearing to show three being knocked out by drone strikes.

Azerbaijan’s military also claims to have captured a half-dozen villages in territory formerly controlled by Armenian forces. Armenia denied the loss of territory.

Three Decades Of War

The two small Central Asian nations—Armenia counts nearly 3 million citizens and Azerbaijan, over 10 million—have been locked in conflict for 32 years over the fate of the ethnically diverse Nagorno-Kabarakh region, which has an Armenian majority but which was administratively designated an autonomous region in Azerbaijan during Soviet rule. Violent clashes over the region’s status began in 1988, before the Soviet Union’s dissolution.

Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh War. Military actions in Shelli village. Photo ITAR-TASS / Sergei Mamontov; Alexander Nemyonov (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)

Full-scale warfare ended in 1994 after 30,000 deaths and atrocities committed by both sides. Today, Armenian forces back a de facto Nagorno-Karabakh (or Artsakh) Republic which is not recognized by Baku. But Armenian and Azerbaijani forces never stopped skirmishing over the heavily fortified border, even escalating to a brief but intense border war in 2016.

Armenian forces well-entrenched in mountainous terrain have historically prevailed in most skirmishes with Azerbaijan. However, Azerbaijan has over three times the population and can draw on substantial oil wealth—and in the last decade Baku has used it to purchase billions of dollars in advanced military systems.

Israeli drones in particular seemed to have facilitated some Azeri tactical successes, and also conveniently provide drone strike footage which can be used to support narratives of military success.

The unmanned combat aerial vehicle Harop is presented at Israel’s IAI Chalet at the International Paris Airshow at Le Bourget on June 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP via Getty Images)

Looming over the region is Russia, which is supplying powerful weapons like TOS-1 thermobaric rocket artillery to both sides of the conflict despite its alliance with Armenia. Other potent hardware Moscow has sold to the belligerents include T-90 tanks and Mi-35M armored helicopter gunships for Azerbaijan, and Iskander-E ballistic missiles which Armenia could use to strike Azerbaijan’s oil industry.

At the same time, Russia is involved in the OSCE’s Minsk Group alongside France and the United States, which is attempting to mediate a peaceful resolution to the long-running Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey, meanwhile, has openly supported Azerbaijan, and its recent offensive against Armenia, which it Erdogan described Sunday as “an obstacle to peace.” The Turkish leader has in the past invoked shared Muslim faith and ethnic affinity with Azerbaijan. Erdogan also appears increasingly drawn to foreign adventures in places like Libya and Syria in a bid to reclaim the former regional influence of the Ottoman Empire.

There are unconfirmed claims that Turkey may have recruited and airlifted refugee fighters from Syria to support Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, but Ankara denies the allegations.

There are also indications that Turkey may have supported Azerbaijan’s offensive with its own very capable drone forces, possibly performing surveillance flights or even air strikes using precision munitions.

The July Clashes

The current attack was preceded by hostilities begun on July 12 on the northern end of the Armenian-Azerbaijan border, ostensibly after Armenian forces opened fired on an Azerbaijani UAZ jeep heading towards their position. (Azerbaijan claims the Armenian forces opened fire unprovoked.)

Fighting rapidly escalated to involve mortar and heavy artillery bombardments, armored vehicles, and combat and surveillance drones. Azerbaijan employed Israeli Spike-NLOS loitering precision strike missiles against Armenian positions and targeted the Armenian internet with a wave of cyberattacks. Armenia deployed Su-30SM jet fighters on air patrols and domestically built X-55 drones on reconnaissance missions. Both sides claimed to have destroyed well over a dozen drones.

Perhaps most consequentially, on July 14 over 30,000 nationalist protestors gathered in Baku calling for an escalation in the conflict. The protests eventually took on anti-government tone, leading to the storming of the parliament before being broken up.

Fighting petered off a week later, by which time twelve Azerbaijanis were killed, including a Major General and a 76-year-old civilian. The Armenian side lost five dead and one mortally wounded soldier.

Senior U.S. officials barely made any note of the crisis. Paul Stronski wrote for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that “the administration of President Donald Trump has yet to issue a policy on the South Caucasus region, creating a vacuum that other powers—including Iran and Russia—appear eager to fill. The lack of senior level response to the latest violence shows once again that Washington does not see the Caucasus as a priority.”

Given the distractions of the U.S. presidential campaign, U.S. diplomatic disengagement seems likely to continue.

In an article in Foreign Policy magazine, Neil Hauer notes that Azerbaijani governments were toppled twice in the 1990s due to military failures in the conflict with Armenia. Thus the escalation of the protests on July 14 were likely particularly alarming for autocrat Ilham Aliyev, who has ruled Azerbaijan since 2003.

Therefore, the current Azerbaijani offensive may be a bid by Aliyev to stabilize his government by seeking to satisfy nationalistic demands for military escalation and victory, while diverting attention away from domestic problems including economic recession brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and collapsing oil prices.

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – JUNE 20: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev at Konstantin Palace June 20, 2016 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia gathered in Saint Petersburg to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflct. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Moscow, in turn, may pressure Baku to deescalate as the attack weakens the credibility of the military deterrence Russia provides Armenia. Reportedly, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov has already had telephone conversations both with Armenian foreign minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Whether the new offensive can deliver military success, real or perceived, for Aliyev’s government and to what degree the fighting may escalate remains to be seen.

Whatever the case, the renewed fighting is a blow to hopes for peace in the region and the civilian communities exposed to deadly heavy artillery and drone strikes.

Article updated 8:40 AM EST on Sunday with new claims, links and videos pertaining to losses in the conflict.

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