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Turkey sends Syrian mercenaries into Azerbaijan

By Marwa Mahmoud

Turkey has reportedly sent Syrian mercenaries to Azerbaijan, opening a new chapter in its war with Armenia.

Between 700 and 1,000 Syrian fighters from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) were preparing to go to Azerbaijan last week, according to two SNA sources interviewed in Turkish-occupied Syria by the Reuters news agency.

At least 500 Syrian fighters had already gone to Azerbaijan before them, the SNA and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an NGO, also told British newspaper The Guardian.

A Turkish private security firm was paying them $1,500 a month, moving them across the border into Turkey, then flying them to Azerbaijan, Syrian sources said.

The reports came out after Armenia’s ambassador to Russia, Vardan Toganyan, said on Monday there were 4,000 Syrian fighters in Azerbaijan, as well as Turkish military advisors, and weapons systems.

He spoke amid a second day of warfare over the Armenia-controlled Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbaijan, which erupted on Sunday and which has claimed dozens of lives on both sides.

The Armenian ambassador threatened to invoke a defence pact with Russia under the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.

“We believe that if the need arise, we will request Russia [for additional military assistance] … As of today” Toganyan said.

EU leaders are to discuss Turkey relations at a special summit on Thursday and Friday, amid calls by Cyprus to impose sanctions.

Erdoğan’s accused them of a “colonialist mentality” and “imperialist expansionism” in the eastern Mediterranean in his Istanbul speech, auguring badly for an amicable solution.

“Ottoman peace has now been replaced by a brutal order in which humanity is shelved for oil, natural gas, and profit,” the Turkish president said.