Putin, Erdogan Discuss Karabakh Fighting

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul in Feb. 2020
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul in Feb. 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul in Feb. 2020

  • Erdogan tells Putin Turkey wants ‘permanent solution’ to Armenian’s ‘occupation’
  • Turkey bans delivery of 100 tons of U.S. humanitarian aid to Armenia through its airspace
  • Washington Post talks to relatives of Turkey-backed Syrian jihadists fighting for Azerbaijan

President Vladimir Putin of Russia expressed his country’s ongoing concerns about the deployment of mercenaries to the Karabakh conflict zone in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A Kremlin statement that noted the conversation took place “at the initiative of the Turkish side,” said that Putin urged Erdogan to help stop the hostilities after discussing the Karabakh conflict in “great detail.”

Putin stressed “the urgent need for joint efforts to quickly stop the bloodshed and switch to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem,” reported the Kremlin. He also expressed hope that Turkey “will make a constructive contribution to the de-escalation of the conflict.”

Reportedly the two leaders confirmed the importance the ceasefire reached in Moscow on Saturday, as well as the need for the two sides to comply with the agreement’s provisions. They also called for the resumption of Karabakh conflict settlement talks.

Erdogan told Putin that Turkey wants a “permanent solution” that would end Armenian “occupation” of Azerbaijani lands, according to the Turkish president’s office, reported RFE/RL.

According to the Kremlin-issued readout of the call, Putin expressed “serious concern over the participation in the hostilities of militants from Middle Eastern region.”

Speaking in Ankara earlier on Wednesday, Erdogan denied reports that Turkey recruited and Syrian fighters to fight alongside Azerbaijan, saying, “they have work in their own country, they won’t go there.”

However, on Monday, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu discussed the issue of mercenaries with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar when they spoke by phone on Monday.

The issue of mercenaries fighting alongside Azerbaijani forces was confirmed during the first week of hostilities by French President Francois Macron, who used the term “jihadists” to describe the militant fighters. Russia’s foreign intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin, corroborated the presence of the fighters last week and warned that the region could become a “launch pad” for Islamist militants to enter Russia. A Pentagon official also spoke of the fighters in an interview with Sky News.

Official Moscow’s concerns about foreign fighters was echoed Wednesday by Valentina Matviyenko, Chairwoman of the Russia’s Federation Council who said infiltration of terrorists from different countries to Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone is a serious threat for the region, adding that the internationalization of that conflict is inadmissible, TASS reported.

“Though it’s being denied, the Russian and French intelligence agencies, and many others have announced that. They have recorded the participation of mercenary groups and terrorists from other countries in the military operations in Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone,” she said.

Matviyenko said that this is a serious issue and is a grave threat not only for Armenia and Azerbaijan, but for the entire region, which can lead to a great catastrophe.

Mahmoud Najjar was a Syrian mercenary who was killed fighting alongside Azeri forces. This family photo was provided to the Washington Post

Mahmoud Najjar was a Syrian mercenary who was killed fighting alongside Azeri forces. This family photo was provided to the Washington Post

A Washington Post reporter caught up with the families of Syrian mercenaries deployed to Azerbaijan. They confirmed that their relatives were recruited by Turkish-backed militias in Syria.

“Families gathered around a refrigerated truck at a Syrian-Turkish border post, waiting earlier this month for the drivers to dispense their awful cargo: the bodies of 52 Syrian men, killed in a war 600 miles away,” reported the Washington Post in an article published on Wednesday.

“The dead were mercenaries, recruited by Turkish-backed militias in Syria to fight on behalf of Azerbaijan against Armenia, relatives said. They were deployed as shock troops, to claw back scraps of territory in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh enclave,” added the Post.

“They went to break the borders,” a cousin of Mahmoud Najjar, a 38-year-old Syrian fighter said in a telephone interview with the Washington Post.

“Turkey has denied sending Syrian fighters to aid Azerbaijan, its longtime ally. But relatives of two fighters — Najjar and his nephew — said in interviews that monthly salaries were promised by the Turkish-supported militias and that the fighters flew to Azerbaijan from southern Turkey,” reported the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Turkey has banned the delivery of 100 tons of US humanitarian aid to Armenia through its airspace, Armenia’s High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs Zareh Sinanyan said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

“During these days nearly 700 tons of humanitarian aid have been delivered to Armenia from various counties—Russia, the U.S., France, Ukraine, European countries, Javakhk, Tbilisi—and this assistance is ongoing,” explained Sinanyan.

“There are another 100 tons of humanitarian aid, ready to be delivered from the USA, but Turkey has banned delivery of even humanitarian aid through its airspace, as a result of which that flight is being delayed,’’ Sinanyan said.

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