Yesterday (5 October) Azerbaijan and Turkey held joint live fire tactical exercises in Azerbaijan's western exclave, Nakhchivan. These drills, which are expected to last until 8 October, are the second round of the “Indestructible Brotherhood 2021” exercises, with similar exercises conducted in late September.
The Turkish Ministry of Defence stated that the purpose of the exercises is to “develop friendship, cooperation and coordination between the Turkish and Azerbaijani Land Forces, to share knowledge and experience and to improve interoperability”.
Joint military exercises between Azerbaijan and Turkey are a regularly frequent occurrence; close military co-operation means they often hold war games and training exercises together, both in bilateral and multilateral formats (such as the “Three Brothers” training with Pakistan). However, the current drills have to be taken in the wider context of Baku’s deteriorating relationship with Tehran. Both the timing, and the location – Nakhchivan sits on the border with both Iran and Armenia – of these exercises have led many to view them as a direct response to Iran’s decision to hold war games on its border with Azerbaijan last week.
In a further sign of growing tension between the two neighbours, Azerbaijan announced that it has shut down a mosque in Baku with ties to Iran’s supreme leader, supposedly for Covid-19 safety reasons, and Iran closed off its airspace to Azerbaijan’s military yesterday. The Armenian news agency Hetq has reported that a Baku-Nakhchivan-Baku civilian flight of the Azerbaijani carrier 'AZAL' today (6 October) used Armenian airspace for the first time since 2014.