Baku denies accusations of Yerevan using fighters from Syria, but Armenia’s claims are backed up by international media reports
ISTANBUL – Armenia and Azerbaijan blame each other for using fighters from Syria in the conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh.
Analysts warn that the use of foreign fighters could lead to a serious escalation of the conflict with wider regional implications.
Armenian Ambassador to Moscow Vardan Toganyan accused Turkey of sending about 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to reinforce Azerbaijani forces that are trying to regain control of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Dozens of people have died and hundreds have been injured since clashes began on Sunday..
Azerbaijan denies Armenia’s accusations of using Syrian fighters.
“We believe that such statements are complete nonsense and unfounded information,” said Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan, Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev.
“Why would Azerbaijan involve someone else to solve its problem in Azerbaijan? We have enough of our own military personnel. This is part of [Armenian] propaganda, ”he added..
However, Yerevan’s statements are backed up by reports from Reuters and other international media, which published interviews with Syrian rebels who said they were heading to Azerbaijan in coordination with Ankara..
One of the rebels interviewed by Reuters said that about a thousand Syrian fighters have already been sent to Azerbaijan..
“Based on the fact that Turkey used the same Syrian battalions in Libya, I believe these reports are credible,” said analyst Atilla Yesilada of Global Source Partners. “Thousands [Syrian rebels] were sent to Libya, they were paid about $ 1,200 a month.”.
However, Zaur Gasimov, an expert on Turkish-Russian relations at the University of Bonn, doubted that Turkey could take such a dangerous step..
“Russia and Iran will not tolerate this, in addition, it seems that Azerbaijan does not need it at this initial stage of the war,” he said..
Moscow and Tehran view the Syrian rebels as terrorists because of their links to jihadist groups. According to Gasimov, in a situation where Russia and Iran border on a conflict zone, any appearance of fighters from Syria will be considered a serious threat..
“Moscow will not tolerate infiltration of Sunni mercenaries into areas near its borders, as they fear that they may then infiltrate mainly Sunni Dagestan and Chechnya. The same applies to Iran, which is closely following the situation, ”Gasimov said..
Why are Armenia and Azerbaijan fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh? | Start Here
At the same time, some analysts suggest that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may try to exploit Russian concerns..
“I don’t think [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Erdogan are as close as they used to be,” Yesilada said. “Erdogan wants Putin to know that he can harm him, and perhaps wants to use the Azerbaijani issue to get some concessions in Syria.”.
Meanwhile, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian issued a stern warning to the international community on Wednesday.
“Imagine that the Caucasus will become another Syria,” Sargsyan told CNBC. “The international community must understand that if it does not intervene now, the Caucasus will become another huge problem.”.