France accuses Turkey of sending Syrian mercenaries to Nagorno-Karabakh

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PARIS / MOSCOW (Reuters) – France on Thursday accused Turkey of sending Syrian mercenaries to fight in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and said it was working with Russia to achieve a ceasefire between the ‘Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces.

Turkey has denied sending mercenaries to participate in the conflict.

France, Russia and the United States are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) Minsk Group, created in 1992 to negotiate a peaceful resolution on the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in the Caucasus of the South.

The group has yet to meet or send a joint statement since new clashes began on Sunday over the mountainous enclave that lies inside Azerbaijan but is administered by ethnic Armenians. and which erupted during a 1991-94 war.

“President (Emmanuel) Macron and (Vladimir) Putin have agreed on the need for a joint effort to achieve a ceasefire within the Minsk framework,” Macron’s office said in a statement after the two leaders spoke by telephone.

“They also expressed their concern about the sending of Syrian mercenaries by Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh.”

The French Presidency provided no evidence to support the accusation of mercenaries and the Kremlin statement made no mention of the accusation.

Macron, who has been in a war of words with Turkish President Tayyep Erdogan for months, said Wednesday that Ankara was acting in a “warlike” manner.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Syrian and Libyan fighters from illegal armed groups were being sent to the Nagorno-Karabakh regions.

Russia has a military base in Armenia and regards it as a strategic partner. The French population comprises around 600,000 people of Armenian origin.

Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said on Monday that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan and that they were fighting there, a claim denied by an aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the Turkish government.

Additional reporting by Darya Korsunskaya and Katya Golubkova and Maxim Rodionov in Moscow and Elisabeth Pineau in Paris, edited by Timothy Heritage

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