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Putin, Erdogan Discuss Karabakh


RUSSIA -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan arrive for a news conference following their talks in Moscow, March 5, 2020

President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s concerns about the reported deployment of Middle Eastern mercenaries in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and urged Turkey to help stop hostilities there in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Kremlin said the two leaders discussed the Karabakh conflict in detail during the conversation that took place “at the initiative of the Turkish side.”

It cited Putin as stressing “the urgent need for joint efforts to quickly stop the bloodshed and switch to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh problem.” He also expressed hope that Turkey “will make a constructive contribution to the de-escalation of the conflict,” said the statement.

The statement said both Putin and Erdogan “confirmed the importance” of the conflicting parties’ compliance with an Armenian-Azerbaijani humanitarian ceasefire agreement brokered by Moscow on October 10. They also called for the resumption of Karabakh peace talks, it added.

Erdogan’s office said the Turkish leader told Putin that his country wants a “permanent solution” that would end Armenian “occupation” of Azerbaijani lands.

Fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces has continued despite the ceasefire agreement, with each side accusing the other of violating it.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian charged on Tuesday that Azerbaijan is continuing military operations along the Karabakh “line of contact” under Turkish pressure. He again accused Turkey of instigating the war and deploying Turkish military personnel and Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan for that purpose.

According to the Kremlin’s readout of the phone call, Putin expressed “serious concern over the participation in the hostilities of militants from Middle Eastern region.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu raised the matter with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar when they spoke by phone on Monday.

Speaking in Ankara earlier on Wednesday, Erdogan denied reports that Turkey recruited and sent allied Syrian fighters to fight in Karabakh on the Azerbaijani side. “They have work in their own country, they won’t go there,” he claimed.

Moscow implicitly accused Ankara of recruiting “terrorists and mercenaries” from Syria and Libya for the Azerbaijani army 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.

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