PARIS/MOSCOW – France accused Turkey on Thursday of sending Syrian mercenaries to fight in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and said it was working with Russia to reach a ceasefire between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces.
Turkey has denied sending mercenaries to take part in the conflict.
France, Russia and the United States are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, set up in 1992 to mediate a peaceful resolution over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in the South Caucasus.
The group has yet to meet or send a joint statement since new clashes began on Sunday over the mountainous enclave which is inside Azerbaijan but is administered by ethnic Armenians and broke away in a 1991-94 war.
“President (Emmanuel) Macron and (Vladimir) Putin agreed on the need for a joint effort to reach a ceasefire in the framework of Minsk,” Macron’s office said in a statement after the two leaders spoke by telephone.
“They also shared their concern regarding the sending of Syrian mercenaries by Turkey to Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The French presidency provided no evidence to support the accusation about the mercenaries and the Kremlin statement made no mention of the accusation.
Macron, who has been in a war of words with Turkish President Tayyep Erdogan for months, said on Wednesday Ankara was acting in a “warlike” manner.
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday Syrian and Libyan fighters from illegal armed groups were being sent to the Nagorno-Karabakh regions.
Russia has a military base in Armenia and considers it to be a strategic partner. France’s population includes about 600,000 people of Armenian origin.
Armenia’s ambassador to Moscow said on Monday that Turkey had sent around 4,000 fighters from northern Syria to Azerbaijan and that they were fighting there, an assertion denied by an aide to Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and Turkey’s government.