Turkey and Azerbaijan have launched joint military drills as the two nations expand defense ties in the wake of last year's war against Armenian forces over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The "Unshakable Brotherhood" exercise running from October 5 to October 8 comes amid heightened tensions between Baku and Tehran, with Iran launching rare war games along its border with Azerbaijan in recent days.
Azerbaijan and Iran have long been at loggerheads over Tehran's backing of Armenia, but normally friendly relations began to deteriorate following joint military drills that Azerbaijani troops conducted alongside their Turkish and Pakistani counterparts last month.
Azerbaijan’s restrictions on Iranian truck drivers' access to Armenia and the detention of two drivers, as well as Azerbaijan's ties to Iran's archenemy Israel are also fueling a spiraling standoff between the two neighbors.
NATO member Turkey threw its weight behind Azerbaijan in its victory against ethnic Armenian forces in a six-week war last fall over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The war ended following a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreement reached on November 9.
Since the war, defense ties have been deepening between the Turkic allies.
The Turkish Defense Ministry said the drills in Azerbaijan's Naxcivan exclave -- which is sandwiched between Turkey, Armenia, and Iran – include mechanized, commando, aviation, and drones.
There have been several skirmishes between Armenia and Azerbaijan along the Naxcivan border in recent months, leaving several soldiers on both sides killed or wounded.
"The purpose of the exercise is to develop friendship, cooperation, and coordination between the Turkish and Azerbaijani land forces, and share knowledge and experience to improve interoperability," the Turkish Defense Ministry said.
The military exercises come amid a flurry of Russian-mediated diplomacy between Baku and Yerevan, and even hints at reviving efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia as part of a broader regional peace effort in which Iran seeks to preserve its interests.