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Russian, Turkish Leaders Again Discuss Karabakh


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

Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced serious concern about the ongoing war over Nagorno-Karabakh and what he called a growing involvement of “terrorists from the Middle East” in it when he spoke with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.

A statement by the Kremlin said Putin and Erdogan discussed the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Karabakh during the phone conversation.

“The Russian side expressed deep concern over continuing hostilities [in and around Karabakh] as well as the increasingly large-scale involvement of terrorists from the Middle East in the armed clashes,” the statement said.

It added that Putin briefed Erdogan on his contacts with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and efforts to “promptly achieve a ceasefire and de-escalation of the crisis.”

Erdogan called Putin shortly after Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov of Russia and Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey again spoke by phone. They too discussed international efforts to stop the Karabakh hostilities.

“The ministers emphasized the absence of alternatives to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the need for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of a negotiating process within existing mechanisms of the OSCE Minsk Group,” read a statement released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“They particularly noted the inadmissibility of internationalization of the crisis and involvement of foreign militants in it,” it said.

Turkey has strongly backed Azerbaijan’s military operations since the outbreak of the war in and around Karabakh on September 27. It has rebuffed calls for an immediate halt to the hostilities repeatedly made by the United States, Russia and France, saying that Baku has a legitimate right to restore control over Karabakh by military means.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip has accused the three world powers co-heading the Minsk Group of supplying weapons to Armenia. Russian officials have rejected Erdogan’s allegations.

For their part, the U.S. and especially France have criticized Turkey’s role in the ongoing military conflict. The French government said last week that Ankara’s “dangerous provocations” are hampering the mediators’ efforts to stop the fighting and restart Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.

Turkish leaders have also called for Ankara’s involvement in the peace process that has long been mediated by the U.S., Russia and France. A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated on Tuesday that this cannot happen without Armenia’s consent.

Armenia has always ruled out any Turkish mediation. It maintains that Turkey is directly involved in the Karabakh war by providing weapons and Turkish military personnel to Azerbaijan.

Yerevan has also accused Ankara of recruiting Islamist fighters in Syria and sending them to fight in Karabakh on the Azerbaijani side. These claims have been echoed by France and, implicitly, by Russia. The Turkish and Azerbaijani governments deny them.

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