Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called Turkey the “main instigator” of the Azerbaijan-Armenia military conflict, saying Damascus can confirm that Ankara is sending Takfiri militants from northern Syria to operate in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Assad said in an exclusive interview with Russia’s Sputnik news agency published on Thursday that his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan was “waging wars in different parts of the world in order to divert public opinion at home from his actions, especially after his scandalous relations with Daesh in Syria.”
Assad added that the Takfiri Daesh terror group “used to sell Syrian oil through Turkey under the umbrella of the US Air Force.”
The Syrian leader also criticized Erdogan as “the main instigator and initiator” of the ongoing deadly clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh, stating that Ankara had also deployed Takfiri militants to his Arab country as well as Libya in North Africa.
“Let’s be blunt and clear. Erdogan has supported terrorists in Syria, and has been doing so in Libya. He was the main initiator and instigator of the recent conflict that has been going on in Nagorno-Karabakh between Azerbaijan and Armenia. I would, therefore, view his behavior as dangerous for various reasons,” Assad said.
Assad said Damascus can “definitely” confirm the deployment “not because we have evidence, but sometimes if you don’t have evidence you have indicators. Turkey used terrorists coming from different countries in Syria.”
“They used the same method in Libya; they used Syrian terrorists in Libya, maybe with other nationalities. So, it’s self-evident and very probable that they are using that method in Nagorno-Karabakh because as I said earlier, they are the ones who started this problem, this conflict; they encouraged this conflict. They want to achieve something and they’re going to use the same method,” the Syrian president added.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on October 3 that at least 64 Turkish-backed Syrian militants had been killed in clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The Britain-based war monitor said they were among the 1,200 combatants from pro-Ankara Takfiri groups that Turkey has sent to fight on the Azerbaijani side.
At least 36 of them have been killed in clashes in the past 48 hours alone, the Observatory added, increasing a previous toll of 28 to 64.
Late last month, British daily newspaper The Guardian, citing three men living in the last militant-controlled corner of northern Syria, reported that Takfiris had signed up to work for a private Turkish security company as border guards in Azerbaijan.
They added that the militants expected to travel over the border to Turkey before being flown to Azerbaijan.
Reuters news agency, citing the account of two unnamed Syrian militants, also reported on September 28 that they were deploying to Azerbaijan to fight in the ongoing clashes with Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Previously active in Turkish-controlled territory in northern Syria, the extremists said their transport and deployment was coordinated with Turkey.
Armenia’s Ambassador to Moscow Vardan Toghanyan likewise said last month that Turkey had sent around 4,000 Syrian militants who were active on the Azerbaijani side in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan has strongly denied claims that any Syrian militants were among its ranks.
Hikmat Hajiyev, a foreign policy aide to Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, called the claims “complete nonsense” and an Armenian “provocation,” noting, “Our armed forces have more than enough personnel and reserve forces.”
Azerbaijan’s Embassy in London also dismissed SOHR’s report on Tuesday.