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Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan launch ‘Three Brothers’ joint military exercises

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As part of their tripartite military cooperation, Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan began eight-day joint military drills on Sept. 12.

The “Three Brothers — 2021” exercises are being held in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku with the aim of “further strengthening the existing ties” between the three armies and helping them find new ways to fight terrorism in the region, according to an official readout.

Lt. Gen. Hikmat Mirzayev, Azerbaijan’s special forces commander, said during the opening ceremony that cooperation between the three countries was at “the highest level” and that important measures were being taken to further strengthen relations to ensure the security of the region and its people.

Experts say this new format for military cooperation adds a new layer to the political ties that date back to 2017, when Azerbaijan’s then-Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov held the first trilateral meeting with his Turkish and Pakistani counterparts in Baku.

Pakistan and Turkey provided support to Azerbaijan during the 44-day-long Second Karabakh War last September in which Azerbaijan fought against Armenian armed forces until the conclusion of a Russia-brokered truce in November.

Following Turkey, Pakistan was the second country to recognize Azerbaijan as an independent state on Dec. 12, 1991.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute, said: “The regional trio is important in the sense that they will add a military component to the political ties.”

“It is interesting to gather Pakistan as a nuclear power, Turkey as one of the largest and most powerful militaries within NATO, and Azerbaijan as a rising regional military power largely thanks to Turkish and Israeli contributions to the defense industry,” he added.

The joint exercises also aim to increase military experiences and share professional know-how between the military staff of the three countries.

According to Cagaptay, Turkey’s national security experts consider Pakistan as being among Turkey’s closest allies traditionally.

“Turkey is now deepening its defense ties with two of the five countries — US, Korea, Israel, Azerbaijan, Pakistan — that are considered its traditional allies. Pakistan brings strategic depth to this alliance,” he said.

Cagaptay also underlined that this move is part of Ankara’s attempts to seek strategic autonomy and look for allies beyond NATO through comprehensive strategic alliances that can provide flexible and timely reactions vis-à-vis geopolitical and military developments.

The cooperation between Pakistan and Turkey gained more importance amid the ongoing developments in Afghanistan and the potential refugee influx after the Taliban’s takeover.

In July, Turkish, Azerbaijani and Pakistani parliament speakers signed the Baku Declaration to boost trilateral cooperation.

In the declaration, the parties supported each other’s territorial integrity and underlined their respective priorities, with overt support to Azerbaijan in its moves on Karabakh, to Pakistan in its conflict over Jammu and Kashmir, and to Turkey in the settlement of Cyprus, Aegean and East Mediterranean disputes.

In August, Turkish Aerospace Industries signed a contract with Pakistan’s National Engineering and Science Commission to jointly produce Anka military drones and transfer technology between the two companies.

Erol Bural, head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Defense Against Terrorism and Radicalization, said that joint drilling by the special forces units of three countries is of utmost importance because it is a sign that they may conduct joint operations in the future.

“The choice of the venue for the joint military drills is also significant and can be considered as a message of solidarity between these three countries — that they see each other as brothers — directed at Armenia following the Second Karabakh War,” he said.

Bural also added that using real weaponry during the joint exercises is also essential.

“It helps the military exercise to generate outcomes that are close to real war conditions and to test the newly developed ammunition on the ground,” he said.

Military analysts underline that the exercises can also lead to cooperation in producing military technology.

The August visit of Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi to Turkey to attend the launching ceremony of the MILGEM project’s first corvette ship built in Turkey for the Pakistan Navy also boosted military cooperation, which would help Pakistan’s defense capabilities increase the country’s role in South Asia.

MILGEM corvettes, fitted with modern weaponry and sensors, can be hidden from radar. They are 99 meters long with a displacement capacity of about 24,00 tons and can move at a speed of 29 nautical miles.

The delivery of the corvettes dates back to a bilateral deal that was signed in 2018. Delivery of all ships that will be among Pakistan’s most modern vessels is due to be completed by 2025.

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Myanmar opposition welcomes ASEAN’s junta snub, wants summit invite

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Myanmar’s shadow government, formed by opponents of ruling military, welcomed on Monday the exclusion of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming regional summit, but said it should be the legitimate representative.

However, the opposition said it would accept inviting a truly neutral alternative Myanmar representative, as decided over the weekend by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

ASEAN will invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to its Oct. 26-28 summit, in an unprecedented snub to the military leaders behind a Feb. 1 coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.

The opposition National Unity Government (NUG), which has been outlawed by the military, said the non-political figure who attends the summit must not be a representative of the junta in disguise.

“ASEAN excluding Min Aung Hlaing is an important step, but we request that they recognize us as the proper representative,” said its spokesman Dr. Sasa.

The decision was an unusually bold step for the consensus-driven bloc, which traditionally favors a policy of engagement and non-interference.

Brunei, ASEAN’s current chair, issued a statement citing a lack of progress made on a roadmap that the junta had agreed to with ASEAN in April to restore peace in Myanmar.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government blamed “foreign intervention” for the decision which it said was against the objectives of ASEAN, the ASEAN Charter and its principles.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which ended a decade of tentative democracy and economic reform. Thousands of its opponents have been arrested, including San Suu Kyi.

Security forces have killed more than 1,100 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an activist group that has tracked the arrests and killings. The military has called its opponents “terrorists.”

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Landslides, floods kill at least 25 in southwest India

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At least 25 people have died in landslides and floods triggered by heavy rains in southwestern India, officials said Sunday, as rescuers scoured for survivors in muddy debris and the military flew in emergency supplies.

Residents were cut off in parts of the coastal state of Kerala as the rains, which started to intensify from late Friday, swelled rivers and flooded roads.

Some 11 bodies have been found so far in Idukki district and another 14 in Kottayam district, officials told AFP, after the areas were hit by landslides and flash floods.

Thousands of people have been evacuated and at least 100 relief camps have been set up, Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Sunday.

The army, navy and airforce are assisting with flood relief and rescue operations. Officials could not say how many people were missing.

“It was my livelihood. Everything is gone,” a distraught man told Kerala news channel Manorama TV in Koottickal town in Kottayam, which was hit by a landslide.

“The hill broke off near us. There has been a lot of damage and loss. The house has gone. Children have gone,” a woman from Koottickal added.

Video shared on social media showed buses and cars submerged in floodwaters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences and said authorities were working to help those who were affected or hit by the deluge.

The India Meteorological Department said the heavy rains, caused by a low pressure area over the southeastern Arabian Sea and Kerala, were expected to ease on Monday.

In northern India, some states including the Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are forecast to experience “heavy to very heavy rainfall” in the next two to three days, the weather bureau said.

The northern weather system would be caused by a low pressure area over Afghanistan and its surroundings interacting with strong winds from the Bay of Bengal, it added.

In 2018, nearly 500 people were killed in Kerala when it was ravaged by the worst floods to hit the state in almost a century.

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Date set for Iran nuclear talks

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Talks aimed at reviving the collapsed Iran nuclear deal will resume this week, two Iranian members of parliament said on Sunday.

After a private meeting with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, MP Ahmad Alirezabeigui said “talks with the 4+1 Group will restart on Thursday in Brussels.” Another Iranian MP, Behrouz Mohebbi Najmabadi, said negotiations would resume “this week.”

The 4+1 Group consists of four UN Security Council permanent members — Britain, China, France and Russia — and Germany. They began negotiations with Iran in Vienna in April over reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the agreement with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions.

That deal collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions, and Iran responded by breaching the deal’s restrictions on its enrichment of uranium.

Trump’s successor Joe Biden is keen to revive the deal and the US is taking part indirectly in the Vienna talks. However, discussions have been suspended since June in a stalemate over who concedes first — Iran by complying with the agreement, or the US by lifting sanctions. US allies in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, are also concerned that the agreement fails to address wider issues such as Iran’s ballistic missiles and its malign regional activities.

EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said at the weekend he was ready to meet Iranian leaders. “The goal remains to resume negotiations in Vienna as quickly as possible,” his spokesman said.

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