By Ignacio Ortega
Moscow, Sep 29 (efe-epa).- First Syria, then Libya and now the South Caucasus. Russia and Turkey have once again backed opposing sides in a regional conflict after deadly clashes broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The two former Soviet nations are neighbors, located in the geopolitically complicated Caucasus region along with Georgia and a smattering of partially-recognized states. The Caucasus is sandwiched by Russia to the north and Turkey and Iran to the south.
The Russian Federation has a military base in Armenia but Turkey is one of Azerbaijan’s closest allies.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “It is unacceptable that the Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding regions, which are Azerbaijani territories, are still occupied despite all of the resolutions adopted.”
Hostilities over the disputed territory, which is ethnically Armenian and under the control of Yerevan-backed separatists, began just three days later.
The regional capital, Stepanakert, was struck by Azerbaijani shelling, triggering fears of a potentially large-scale conflict in the South Caucasus region.
Although internationally-recognized as part of Azerbaijani territory, Nagorno-Karabakh has been in the hands of Armenian separatists since the end of another deadly war in 1994.
The wider Caucasus region has been the Kremlin’s geopolitical backyard since Russia’s successful role in the deterioration of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, but Turkey has held onto its own ambitions in the region flagged by the Black Sea to the west and the Caspian Sea to the east.