The Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov and the Armenian ambassador in Moscow, Vartan Toghanian, “exchanged thoughts in the context of the continuing escalation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.”
“They emphasized the unacceptability of the deployment to the region of militants of illegal armed groups from a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries and the necessity of their immediate withdrawal from there,” the ministry said in a short statement.
Russia implicitly accused Turkey of recruiting “terrorists and mercenaries” from Syria and Libya for the Azerbaijani army shortly after the outbreak of the ongoing war over Karabakh on September 27. 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.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign and defense ministers have raised the matter with their Turkish counterparts in phone calls reported in recent weeks.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Russian “military experts” and other officials are serious dealing with “this issue.” She did not elaborate.
“I can assure you that very active work is being done in a non-public manner,” Zakharova told reporters. “This is a really serious problem for us.”
Ankara strongly denies sending members of Turkish-backed groups to fight in Karabakh on Azerbaijan’s side. Baku also denies the presence of such mercenaries in the Azerbaijani army ranks.
Multiple reports by Western media have quoted members of Islamist rebel groups in areas of northern Syria under Turkish control as saying over the past month that they are deploying to Azerbaijan in coordination with the Turkish government.