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Why Does Azerbaijan Prefer to Keep its Border Only Partially Open to Turkey?

Turkey’s decision to introduce or tighten its visa regime on Feb. 1 is a blow to Georgia’s strategic plan, which is known under the conventional name “Caucasus — a common home”. The Turkish parliament delegation that visited Turkey explained that the new law applies to all foreigners, which might be a small consolation. Especially since this move will not affect another neighbor — Azerbaijan, reports Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

According to the new law, beginning on Feb. 1, foreigners will be able to stay in Turkey up to 90 days for a period of 180 days — that is, they must leave the country after 90 days and can only return after an additional 90 days has passed. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the appropriate bodies were unable to say anything about the laws applied to Azerbaijani citizens in Turkey — it appears they will remain welcome guests in Turkey even after Feb. 1, according to the late president of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev’s axiom “Two states, but one people.”

The publication recalls that Baku, however, has not dared to introduce a visa-free regime for citizens of Turkey, answering Ankara’s many reminders with vague promises. Officially, Azerbaijan refrains from completely opening its border to Turkey for fear of an actual war with Armenia. But then a question arises: why does Azerbaijan have a visa-free regime with Georgia which has much more cordial relations with Armenia, and hence the probability of an invasion of Armenia’s supposed subversive groups into Azerbaijan is higher from Georgia than from Turkey? Therefore, a more plausible version is that Baku prefers to keep the Azerbaijan-Turkey border only partially open because it fears the great risk of Ankara’s increasing influence on the population of Azerbaijan and the region in general. “It’s enough that the Nakhchivan exclave has a very transparent border with Turkey,” said the paper’s source in Baku.

Ankara’s decision has baffled Tbilisi, which has declared a policy of maximum openness with its neighbors. The subtlety of the situation also lies in the fact that the first nation to support Mikhail Saakashvili’s policy of maximum transparency of borders with its neighbors was Armenia, which in the edited version of Georgia’s National Security Strategy published late last year appears only as a neighborly state while Turkey and Azerbaijan are included in the list of strategic partners. And if Georgia succeeds in agreeing on a common customs regime with Turkey and even begins implementing this scheme, then it would appear that the case with Baku wouldn’t have shifted from observance of the visa-free regime.