Macron fears Turkey is sending mercenaries to help Azerbaijan in territory row

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Emmanuel Macron, Yellow Vest Protest, Tax Cuts, France
French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed concern about Turkey allegedly sending Syrian mercenaries to support Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia.

The fighting between the two countries centres around the disputed mountain region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Mr Macron’s office said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the issue and both “share concern about the sending of Syrian mercenaries by Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh”.

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

The renewed fighting in the Caucasus Mountains, at the crossroads between Russia, Turkey and Iran, has killed dozens of people since Sunday and raised concerns of a broader conflict. Heavy fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces continued for a fourth straight day on Wednesday in a flare-up of a decades-old conflict.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concerns over reports about “militants from illegal armed groups, in particular from Syria, Libya” being sent to the conflict zone in Nagorno-Karabakh.

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

Mr Macron said he and Mr Putin called for restraint and agreed upon the need for a joint effort towards a ceasefire, as part of international mediation efforts for Nagorno-Karabakh led by Russia, France and the US since a 1994 truce ended a war there.

The president of Azerbaijan said Armenia’s withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh was the sole condition to end fighting over the separatist territory. Armenian officials alleged Turkey’s involvement in the renewed conflict, which Turkey has denied.

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