Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan of being the main instigator in the deadliest fighting between Armenian and Azeri forces for more than 25 years.
In an interview published yesterday that is likely to exacerbate international frictions over the clashes in the South Caucasus region, al-Assad also said militants from Syria were being deployed to the conflict area.
Turkey has denied involvement in the fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountain enclave that belongs to Azerbaijan under international law, but is governed by ethnic Armenians, and has dismissed accusations that it sent mercenaries to the area.
Photo: EPA-EFE / Armenian Defense Ministry Press Service
“He [Erdogan] ... was the main instigator and the initiator of the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia,” al-Assad told Russian news agency RIA.
Reiterating accusations first leveled by French President Emmanuel Macron that Turkey has sent Syrian militants to fight in the conflict, al-Assad said: “Damascus can confirm this.”
He did not appear to provide any evidence for his allegations.
Ankara did not immediately respond, but has described similar accusations as part of attempts by Armenia to create “dark propaganda” about Turkey.
The fighting that broke out on Sunday last week has increased concern that a wider conflict could be triggered, dragging in Turkey, which has expressed solidarity with Azerbaijan, and Russia, which has a defense pact with Armenia.
Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu was due to hold talks with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in Baku yesterday.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have accused each other of starting the fighting; both deny targeting civilians.
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