Islamist militants operating in Syria and Iraq could flock to Azerbaijan in case of a major escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian claimed on Friday.
“There are large numbers of militants of radical Islamist groups in Syria, and they realize that they have no place in Syria and Iraq anymore,” Pashinian told Russian journalists in Yerevan. “According to our information, they are now looking for a new place where they can move.”
“If a new escalation starts in our region, that would be a good excuse for them to go to, say, Azerbaijan,” he claimed. “For them, that’s a very convenient point from which they could extend their operations towards Iran, Russia, the South Caucasus and Central Asia.”
A war in Karabakh, Pashinian went on, could therefore spill over into neighboring countries. He said he hopes Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan realize this.
According to the Sputnik news agency, Pashinian also stated that Moscow is capable of preventing renewed large-scale fighting in Karabakh. “I’m sure that Russia has all the leverage to prevent an escalation in the Karabakh region,” he said. “And I can’t believe that Russia will not use that leverage when necessary.”
Together with the United States and France, Russia has been spearheading international efforts to broker the conflict’s resolution. As recently as on April 15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hosted a fresh meeting of his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in Moscow.
It was the latest in a series of high-level Armenian-Azerbaijani negotiations held since September 2018. Public statements made by the conflicting parties and the international mediators in recent months have raised some hopes for progress in the protracted peace process.
“We will not be rushing the process, but we will not be putting the brakes on it either because the conflict is there and I don’t think it’s right to forget about it,” said Pashinian.