“We are seriously concerned about this development that not only escalates tensions in the conflict zone but also creates long-term security threats for all countries in the region,” read a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“We urge the leaders of the interested states to take effective measures to prevent the use of foreign terrorists and mercenaries in the conflict, and we call for their immediate withdrawal from the region,” said the statement.
Although the statement did not name those countries, the warning seemed primarily addressed to Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey.
Western media as well as Syrian opposition sources have reported in recent days that Turkey is recruiting Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters and sending them to support Azerbaijan in the escalating conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Reuters news agency quoted two fighters from Islamist rebel groups in areas of northern Syria under Turkish control as saying in late September that they are deploying to Azerbaijan in coordination with Ankara.
According to Reuters, both men said they were told by their Syrian brigade commanders they will earn around $1,500 a month. One of them claimed that nearly 1,000 Syrians are set to be sent to Azerbaijan.
Citing unnamed “reliable sources,” the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the first group of 300 Syrian mercenaries was flown to Azerbaijan on September 24, three days before the outbreak of fierce fighting along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh.
Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have flatly denied those reports. But Armenia has described them as credible, saying that Islamist militants from the Middle East are participating in the hostilities in Karabakh.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian expressed serious concern over the “recruitment of foreign terrorist combatants by Turkey, their transfer to Azerbaijan and involvement in hostilities” when he spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.
The phone call took place shortly before the Russian Foreign Ministry issued the statement saying that “militants from illegal armed units are being moved to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone from Syria and Libya.”