Assad accuses Turkey of instigating Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The hostilities have killed hundreds of people since late September.

al-monitor Ethnic Armenian volunteers and reservists ride in a bus Oct. 6, 2020, on Armenian territory toward the Nagorno-Karabakh front line to fight with Azeri troops during the ongoing military conflict over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

Oct 6, 2020

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is to blame for the deadliest round of fighting in decades between Armenian and Azerbaijan. 

Hundreds are dead following recent clashes between the two former Soviet republics in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, a contested territory officially part of Azerbaijan but run by ethnic Armenians backed by Yerevan. The fighting is the deadliest since a yearslong war that killed 30,000 people ended in a Russian-brokered truce in 1994. 

NATO member Turkey, which also backs the Syrian opposition seeking to overthrow Assad, has offered Azerbaijan its support at both the negotiating table and on the battlefield. 

In an interview with the Russian news agency Sputnik, the Syrian president said Erdogan “was the main instigator and initiator of the recent conflict that has been going on in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia. So, I would sum up his behavior as dangerous, for different reasons."

In response to allegations that Turkey had sent Syrian mercenaries to fight in the South Caucasus conflict, Assad said, “We definitely can confirm it.”

“Not because we have evidence, but sometimes if you don't have evidence you have indicators,” Assad added. 

Syria’s main ally Russia, which has a military pact with Armenia, has warned that thousands of foreign militants from “terrorist organizations” are participating in the Nagorno-Karabakh clashes. Turkey has denied deploying any mercenaries to assist the Azerbaijani military. 

In what he condemned as a “red line,” French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that intelligence reports indicated some 300 Turkish-allied Syrian fighters had traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh through Gaziantep in southeastern Turkey. Separately, the Pentagon has accused Ankara of sending thousands of Syrian fighters to fight on behalf of the internationally recognized, Turkey-backed government in Libya.

Turkey has dismissed calls from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, which is co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States, for an immediate cease-fire. The last round of Minsk Group-mediated peace talks broke down in 2010. 

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