Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a telephone conversation with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, expressed "serious concern" over the involvement of militants from the Middle East.
The telephone conversation between Putin and Erdogan took place at the initiative of the Turkish side. The main topic of discussion was the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. "Hopefully Turkey, as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, will make a constructive contribution to the de-escalation of the conflict," the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.
The Russian president told Erdogan that he was "seriously concerned about the involvement of militants from the Middle East region in the military operations."
Other topics included the situation in Libya, Syria and the fight against the COVID-19. "There is a mutual interest in cooperation in the fight against coronavirus pandemic, including cooperation in the development and production of vaccines," the Kremlin press service said.
Armenia claims that Turkey is providing support to Azerbaijan in the conflict. Ankara has sent its military specialists, mercenaries and equipment, in particular F-16 fighter jets to Azerbaijan. Baku and Ankara deny these claims.
Human rights activists and media have repeatedly reported that mercenaries from the Middle East are present in the conflict zone in Karabakh. In early October, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that both Turkey and the Armenian diaspora were recruiting mercenaries from armed groups in Syria. The reports were confirmed by sources from the BBC, The Guardian and some Syrian media outlets. In mid-October, The Wall Street Journal reported that the recruitment of mercenaries continues. According to the newspaper, hundreds of militants have been sent to Nagorno-Karabakh .
Russian officials have repeatedly stated that militants from Syria are involved in the fighting in Karabakh. On October 6, Sergei Naryshkin, director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), called the conflict in Karabakh "a magnet for militants from various international terrorist structures." According to the SVR, militants from al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups are moving to the region. France has also reported the presence of mercenaries in Karabakh, with President Emmanuel Macron saying that militants with links to the terrorist organization Islamic State were present in the conflict zone.