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Russian Military Concerned About ‘Middle Eastern Terrorists’ In Karabakh


AZERBAIJAN -- Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev meets with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Baku, August 25, 2020

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu expressed concern over the deployment of members of Middle Eastern “terrorist groups” to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

The TASS news agency quoted a ministry spokesperson as saying that Shoigu’s conversation with Hulusi Akar was part of the Russian military’s “active participation” in Moscow’s efforts to “stabilize the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

“The purpose of this work is … an immediate end to hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and the conflicting parties’ switch to negotiations that will normalize the situation in the region,” said the official.

“The Russian Defense Ministry is especially alarmed by incoming reports about the deployment to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone of militants from terrorist groups in the Middle East,” the official said, adding that Shoigu “communicated these concerns” to Akar on Monday.

Russia implicitly accused Turkey of sending “terrorists and mercenaries” from Syria and Libya to fight in Karabakh on Azerbaijan’s side shortly after the outbreak of the ongoing war on September 27. It demanded their immediate withdrawal from the region.

The Russian foreign intelligence chief, Sergei Naryshkin, warned on October 6 that the region could become a “launch pad” for Islamist militants to enter Russia.

Iran has echoed the Russian concerns, with President Hassan Rouhani discussing “the presence of some terrorist groups” in an October 10 phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

French President Emmanuel Macron has gone farther, saying that at least 300 “Syrian fighters from jihadist groups” were flown from Turkey to Azerbaijan ahead of the war and many more of them could be on their way.

Both Ankara and Baku strongly deny the presence of Syrian Islamist militants in the Azerbaijani army ranks.

The Turkish Defense Ministry did not mention the issue in a statement on Akar’s phone conversation with Shoigu. It said the Turkish defense minister told Shoigu that Armenian forces must immediately be removed from Azerbaijan’s “occupied lands.”

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