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Turkey will send military support to Nagorno-Karabakh if Azerbaijan requests it: foreign minister

Turkey and Azerbaijan have close cultural and linguistic ties [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 September, 2020

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Ankara has denied accusations it is already involved in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia but has said it will send military support if Baku requests it.
Turkey will support Azerbaijan in the reignited conflict with Armenia if Baku requests aid, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.

Ankara will do "what is necessary" if Azerbaijan requests support amid the flare-up in violence between Turkish ally Azerbaijan and rival Armenia this week, Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Turkey has rejected allegations it has already gotten involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as the neighbouring rivals renew fighting over a disputed parcel of land.

International media outlets including Reuters and The Guardian have reported that hundreds of Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have been flown out to Azerbaijan to aid in the conflict. Ankara has fiercely denied the reports, which mirror its shipping of Syrian mercenaries to fight in Libya.

Seperately, Armenia has accused the Turkish military of shooting down one of its jets, resulting in the death of a pilot. Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have denied the allegation.

If Turkey granted military support to Azerbaijan, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would become the fourth military conflict in which Ankara is currently involved. Turkish forces are currently deployed in Syria and Libya, as well as in operation against Kurdish rebels in Turkey and Iraq.

Fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces entered its fourth day on Wednesday, nearly two decades after the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute first erupted into a full-scale war.

The conflict began after ethnic Armenian residents of the then-autonomous Nagorno-Karabakh oblast demanded it become a part of what was then Soviet Armenia. Around 90 percent of the mountainous region's population is estimated to be ethnic Armenian. 

Since 1988, the de-facto independent Republic of Artsakh has governed Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas; the region is internationally considered part of Azerbaijan. 

Read more: Armenia and Azerbaijan: a decades-long bloody rivalry

Both ethnic Armenian fighters and Azerbaijani forces have been accused of rights abuses and war crimes, including incidents of alleged ethnic cleansing.

Clashes broke out on Sunday, with more than 80 fighters confirmed dead by the Armenian-led Artsakh defence ministry. Azerbaijan has reported at least 11 civilians killed, without mentioning military casualties.
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Clear details and casualty counts are hard to ascertain amid the current fighting, with both sides refuting accounts and accusations by the other. 

Reports also indicate as many as 25 Syrian mercenaries have been killed since Sunday, with at least two reported dead by Syrian journalist Hussein Akoush.

The Turkish foreign minister said on Wednesday Ankara would "stand by" Azerbaijan no matter what.

"Diplomacy hasn't worked for the past 30 years," Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu.

"If Armenia hadn't enjoyed support today from other countries, from the West, Russia, it wouldn't be able to muster up this courage," he added, condemning the international community for not calling on Armenian forces to stop their "occupation" of Azerbaijan.

In particular, Cavusoglu singled out France, saying that its solidarity with Armenia was tantamount the support of occupation.

France, alongside Russia, Germany and the United States, has called for an immediate ceasefire to hostilities in the region. Both sides have rejected calls for negotiations.

Turkey is a key ally of Azerbaijan due to the country's close cultural and linguistic ties but has no diplomatic relations with Armenia.

Ankara rejects Yerevan's characterisation of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide.

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