Turkey deploys Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan - reports

Syrian fighters have been sent by Turkey to Azerbaijan in its ongoing conflict with Armenia, according to several reports and statements by Russia, France and Armenia.

French President Emmanuel Macron, as the latest country weighing in on the subject, said on Thursday that Turkey had been deploying Syrian mercenaries to Nagorno-Karabakh to support Azerbaijan.

"According to the confirmed information we have, Syrian fighters affiliated with jihadist groups passed through Gaziantep and joined the front in Karabakh," Macron said. 

The French president, who has been in a war of words with his Turkish counterpart for months, said on Wednesday that Turkey was acting in a “warlike” manner.

Lindsey Snell, an investigative journalist, was first to report the deployment of members of Turkish-backed self-proclaimed Syrian National Army, via her tweet message the umbrella organisation of rebel groups previously known as the Free Syrian Army.

"From Hamza Division source. Supposedly these Hamza men arrived in Baku today via Ankara," Snell said on Twitter on Sept. 22.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday promised Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan and called Armenia “the biggest threat to peace in the region”. 

“The Turkish people stand with their Azeri brothers with all our means, as always,” he said on Twitter.

Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said on Sept. 27 that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan and that they were fighting there, an assertion denied by an aide to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

Armenia also said Turkish military experts were fighting alongside Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and that Turkey had provided drones and warplanes.

“Rumours of militants from Syria allegedly being redeployed to Azerbaijan is another provocation by the Armenian side and complete nonsense,” Khikmet Gadzhiev, one of Aliyev's aides, said.

Turkey also vehemently denied the reports and labelled them as "dark propaganda" against the country.

On Sept. 28, two Syrian rebels told Reuters that Turkey was sending them to support Azerbaijan.

Days after the statements, reports surfaced that Syrians had been among those killed in clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

On Wednesday, the Guardian reported that at least three Syrian fighters were killed in skirmishes in Nagorno-Karabakh, confirming the reports of foreign involvement in the conflict.

The arrival of foreign fighters has introduced a new layer of complexity into the battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and increased fears it may spiral into a wider regional conflict.

The fighting, which raged for a fifth day on Thursday, have killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, according to statements by Yerevan and Baku. The conflict has threatened to widen as both sides accused each other of targeting border areas outside Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian officials said Turkey was also deploying F-16 fighter jets in the conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” by the deployment of Syrian and Libyan militiamen to the Nagorno-Karabakh region

Russia's foreign ministry said today that Syrian and Libyan fighters from illegal armed groups were being sent to the region and Moscow called on the countries involved to prevent the use of 'foreign terrorists and mercenaries' in the conflict.