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Azerbaijan bought $77m worth of arms from Turkey a month before fighting

Export data shows Turkish arms sales to Azerbaijan rose sixfold in first nine months of 2020
Turkish arms sold to Azerbaijan include drones, rocket launchers, ammunition and other weapons that arrived after July 2020 (Reuters)

Azerbaijan bought $77m worth of arms from Turkey a month before fighting broke out in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with Turkish arms sales to Baku increasing sixfold this year, according to export data. 

Data compiled by the Turkish Exports Assembly, which groups more than 95,000 exporting companies in 61 sectors, shows that Azerbaijan bought $123m worth of defence and aviation equipment from Turkey in the first nine months of 2020, the Reuters news agency reported.

Turkish arms sold to Azerbaijan included drones, rocket launchers, ammunition and other weapons that arrived after July, when border clashes that broke out between Armenian and Azeri forces prompted Turkey and Azerbaijan to conduct joint military exercises.

Last week, Turkish officials told Middle East Eye that Turkey deliberately kept F-16 warplanes in Azerbaijan as a "deterrent against Armenian attacks". 

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"Azerbaijan clearly turned to Turkey for help... and wasted no time realising that the threat would grow," Istanbul-based defence analyst Turan Oguz told Reuters on Wednesday. 

"Ankara is very determined in providing Baku with its needs," he said. "The strong defence cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey is getting stronger by the day."

Ankara has openly backed Azerbaijan in the recent escalation between Armenian and Azeri forces. 

Late last month, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey would support Azerbaijan "with all our means".

Ankara, which wants a role in ceasefire talks, says it is not directly involved in the fighting. Still, Azeri officials have touted their use of Turkish armed drones that have spearheaded Ankara's military operations in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

In September, Azerbaijan jumped to the top of the list of Turkish arms buyers, followed by Oman and the United States with $63m each, the export data shows.