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HomeGeopolitical CompassWest & Centeral AsiaHas Turkey Outfoxed China in Azerbaijan to become a Rising Eurasian power?

Has Turkey Outfoxed China in Azerbaijan to become a Rising Eurasian power?

Author: Michaël Tanchum

Affiliation: University of Navarra, Spain

Date/Place: January 19, 2021/ Istanbul, Turkey

Organization/Publisher: The Turkey Analyst, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 1,700


Keywords: Turkey, China, Central Asia, Azerbaijan, Eurasia, 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war


Drawing from the successes of Azerbaijan in its second Nagorno-Karabakh war over its lands occupied by Armenia and the symbolic win for Turkey, the author sees the spread of Ankara’s influence in Central Asian republics – all of whom represent scattered Turkic tribes — thus putting an obstacle in China’s global outreach in the region through its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). To glue together the five sister republics which were once under the now deceased USSR, Turkey has helped form the Turkic Council and has been pushing closer cooperation, trade, and people-to-people contacts. It touches China’s raw-nerve – the Uighurs in Xinjiang region which opens Beijing’s markets to the central Asian region. In this piece, the author believes Turkey has prevailed over Beijing amid Ankara’s gradual fine-tuning of its criticism of China over Uighur abuses. Beijing helped build a rail network through Kazakhstan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, breaking Russia’s hegemony over transportation routes to European markets. The author argues that the lack of support from Turkey’s Western allies after the failed coup attempt in 2016 has pushed Ankara closer to Beijing. He explains how Ankara’s position viz-a-viz the Uighur issue transformed, and how Beijing relaxed its control over its relations with Ankara, expanding economic relations. The author explains how post Nagorno-Karabakh war, Turkey’s geopolitical importance has improved not only against Russian threats but also Turkey’s lack of direct connectivity with Central Asia has now changed. In coming times, the role of the Istanbul-based Turkic Council is expected to get prominence with the expanding access of Turkey’s military, diplomatic and economic power in the region. The successes in Nagorno-Karabakh saw several Central Asian republics coming directly to Ankara for various military and other defense related engagements. Turkey has transformed its role in the region from transit state to one of the principal agenda-setters of Eurasian connectivity, thus giving Ankara a principled position to “hold the balance of power between Russia and China in the Eurasian architecture.”

By: Riyaz ul Khaliq, Non-Resident CIGA Research Associate



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