France fears Turkey will send mercenaries to the Caucasus

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PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed concern that Turkey has sent Syrian mercenaries to support Azerbaijan in its renewed conflict with Armenia over the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Macron’s office said in a statement Thursday that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the issue on a phone call Wednesday evening, and both “shared their concerns over Turkey’s sending Syrian mercenaries to the country. Nagorno-Karabakh ”. Macron’s office did not provide additional information on the mercenaries.

Turkey has publicly supported Azerbaijan in the conflict and said it will provide assistance if needed, but has denied sending foreign mercenaries or weapons to the region.

The resumption of fighting in the Caucasus Mountains, at the crossroads between Russia, Turkey and Iran, has killed dozens of people since Sunday and raised fears of a wider conflict. Heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continued Wednesday for a fourth consecutive day in an upsurge in decades-old conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday expressed concern over reports that “militants from illegal armed groups, especially from Syria and Libya” were being sent to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.

The ministry did not specify which country may have sent the fighters or which country the fighters may have arrived in, but urged in a statement “the leaders of the states concerned to take effective measures to prevent the use terrorists and foreign mercenaries in the conflict. . “

Macron said he and Putin called for restraint and agreed on the need for a joint ceasefire effort, as part of the Russian-led international mediation efforts for Nagorno-Karabakh , France and the United States since a 1994 truce ended a war there.

The Azerbaijani president said that Armenia’s withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh was the only condition for ending the fighting in the separatist territory. Armenian officials alleged Turkey’s involvement in the resumption of conflict, which Turkey has denied.

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