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Syria’s Assad Also Accuses Turkey Of Sending ‘Terrorists’ To Karabakh


SYRIA -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaking during an interview with Russia Today in Damascus, March 5, 2020

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday joined Armenia and France in accusing Turkey of sending Syrian rebel fighters to fight in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone on Azerbaijan’s side.

Assad also blamed Ankara and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in particular for the war in Karabakh that erupted on September 27.

“They [the Turks] are the ones who started this conflict,” he told the Russian RIA Novosti news agency. “They encouraged this conflict.”

“We can say for sure that they have been using terrorists of Syrian and other nationalities in Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said.

In recent weeks Western media and Syrian opposition sources have quoted members of Islamist rebel groups in areas of northern Syria under Turkish control as saying that they are deploying to Azerbaijan in coordination with the Turkish government. Most of them have given financial reasons for agreeing to participate in hostilities in and around Karabakh.

Armenia has seized upon those reports and presented its own purported evidence of Syrian mercenaries recruited by Ankara.

France has also alleged such deployment, with President Emmanuel Macron saying that at least 300 “Syrian fighters from jihadist groups” were flown from Turkey to Azerbaijan ahead of the flare-up of violence in Karabakh.

Russia has similarly expressed serious concern over the reported presence of Middle Eastern “terrorists and mercenaries” in the Karabakh conflict zone and demanded their “immediate withdrawal from the region.”

Asked to comment on the reports, Assad said: “Definitely we can confirm it. Not because we have evidence. Sometimes if you don’t have evidence you have indications.”

“Turkey used those terrorists coming from different countries in Syria. They used the same method in Libya. They used Syrian terrorists in Libya, maybe with other nationalities,” he told RIA Novosti.

“So it’s self-evident and very much probable that they are using them in Nagorno-Karabakh,” added the Syrian leader.

Assad’s regime has been at odds with Ankara but strongly backed by Moscow throughout the Syrian civil war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on Assad’s statements later in the day. “We attentively familiarize ourselves with all statements by heads of state,” he said.

Both Ankara and Baku deny using Turkey’s proxy fighters against Karabakh Armenian forces.

Visiting Baku on Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reaffirmed Ankara’s strong support for Azerbaijani military operations along the Armenian-Azerbaijani “line of contact” around Karabakh.

“Turkey and the Turkish people are ready to provide any assistance to Azerbaijan in any sphere if need be,” Cavusoglu was reported to say at a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

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