In the past few years, Turkey’s unprecedentedly aggressive foreign policy has affected all States within Ankara’s area of interest. The renewed conflict in Karabakh region was viewed by Turkish President Recep Erdogan as a new goal for his imperialist ambitions. And that’s why the sovereign State of Armenia came under Turkish attack.
On 27th September Turkish-backed Azerbaijan launched a military operation to regain control of the disputed territories of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on his Twitter account confirmed Ankara’s readiness to support Baku and fight for its interests, thus protecting “two countries, one nation” principle. He also called on Armenia to immediately withdraw its troops from the “occupied” Karabakh territories.
At the same time, media and social networks started spreading information about the deploying of Turkish military equipment and mercenaries from Syria and Libya in Azerbaijan.
Even before the outbreak of clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan, on 19th September local Syrian sources informed that Turkey began recruiting volunteers in Afrin in northern Syria for their further dispatch to the conflict zone. Mercenaries were reportedly taken to a training camp in the Turkish town of Gaziantep, from where they were transported to the Azeri capital Baku under the guise of Turkish soldiers.
According to Flightradar24, Turkish aircraft took off from Mitiga Airport in Libya’s Tripoli and landed in Baku. Military experts suppose that the aircraft moved a batch of pro-Turkish mercenaries to participate in fighting against Armenian armed forces.
The further activity of Syrian mercenaries can be tracked through regional networks and social media. Reports said that more than dozens of fighters, mostly from pro-Turkish Syrian factions Ahrar al-Sharqiyah and Hamza Division, were killed during clashes in Karabakh.
According to the British newspaper Guardian, Syrian mercenaries weren’t meant to participate in the conflict as a combat force but were “signed up to work as border guards in Azerbaijan”.
Despite the excuses of the Turkish authorities and the statements made by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on non-interference of the Turkish party in the Karabakh conflict, there is a lot of evidence proving Ankara’s direct interference. The latest example of Turkey’s aggressive policy was the shooting down of Sukhoi SU-25 aircraft belonging to the Armenian Air Force by Turkish F-16 fighter jet. Additionally, Ankara intensified its support for Baku with sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles “Bayraktar”.
Erdogan’s real goals in the Karabakh conflict remain unclear, especially given the fact that Turkish intervention could trigger Russian involvement and further escalation. Probably if the opposing sides won’t take practical steps towards a peaceful solution and won’t prevent foreign interference, the world can witness a new long-lasting conflict and more civilian casualties.
Ahmad al-Khaled is a freelance journalist with a primary focus on the involvement of foreign actors in the Syrian conflict and its consequences on both regional and global levels.
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