During the Azerbaijani-Armenian escalation in July, reports already surfaced that Turkey was deploying its Syrian proxies to support Azerbaijani forces in their standoff against Armenia. Then, Syrian sources also reported about a potential 6-month long contract for Turkish-funded militants. The monthly salary of one Turkish mercenary in the combat zone was reported to be 2,500 USD.
Local activists even claimed that Turkish intelligence was in talks with al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham to recruit a 300-man strong special forces unit that would be deployed in Azerbaijan carry out special operations on the border with Armenia.
Turkey is a long-term strategic ally of Azerbaijan and its leadership has repeatedly declared its readiness to support Baku by all kinds of measures, including military ones, in the event of a full-scale escalation in the region. Nonetheless, the July clashes ended without turning into a new regional war and Turkish and Azerbaijani authorities rushed to denounce reports about the potential usage of Syrian militants against Armenia as fake news.
Turkey has already been actively using its Syrian proxies, often linked with al-Qaeda, in Middle East conflicts. In particular, thousands Syrian militants were sent to Libya to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. Therefore, the deployment of pro-Turkish militant groups in Azerbaijan is not so unlikely a scenario as Ankara and Baku prefer to claim.
In Greater Idlib, the Russian Aerospace Forces continue their airstrike diplomacy pounding Turkish-funded terrorists across the region. On September 20 and September 21, this diplomatic campaign was also supported by the Syrian Army that struck terrorist positions in northern Lattakia and south of the M4 highway in southern Idlib.
The US-led coalition and affiliated organizations have been increasing their business activities connected with the seized Syrian oil infrastructure. According to Syrian state media, just on September 20, at least 30 tanker trucks filled with oil from the US-controlled fields left Syria through the al-Walid area on the border with Iraq. The development of the seized oil reserves and export of the extracted oil is being conducted by the US company Delta Crescent Energy. The company operates in coordination with US-backed Kurdish armed groups, which are currently known under the brand of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
In public statements, the SDF leadership often uses loud words about patriotism and the need to serve to interests of the Syrian people. However, in practice, the patriotic intentions of the Kurdish leaders are limited to more practical things like the looting of Syrian oil resources in coordination with the Washington establishment.
At least 16 military members and several civilians were killed on Sunday in the heaviest clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 2016, reigniting concern about stability in the South Caucasus, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.
The clashes between the two former Soviet republics, which fought a war in the 1990s, were the latest flare-up of a long-running conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region that is inside Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.
Nagorno-Karabakh said 16 of its servicemen had been killed and more than 100 wounded after Azerbaijan launched an air and artillery attack early on Sunday. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh declared martial law and mobilised the male population.
Azerbaijan, which also declared martial law, said its forces responded to Armenian shelling and that five members of one family had been killed by Armenian shelling.
It also said its forces had seized control of up to seven villages. Nagorno-Karabakh initially denied that but later acknowledged losing “some positions” and said it had suffered a number of civilian casualties, without giving details.
The clashes prompted a flurry of diplomacy to reduce the new tensions in a decades-old conflict between majority Christian Armenia and mainly Muslim Azerbaijan, with Russia calling for an immediate ceasefire and another regional power, Turkey, saying it would support Azerbaijan.
President Donald Trump said on Sunday the United States would seek to end the violence.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a mountainous and heavily-forested patch of land that sits inside the territory of ex-Soviet Azerbaijan.
Under international law, Nagorno-Karabakh is recognised as part of Azerbaijan. But the ethnic Armenians who make up the vast majority of the population reject Azeri rule. They have been running their own affairs, with support from Armenia, since Azerbaijan’s troops were pushed out in a war in the 1990s.
Long-standing ethnic tensions in the region between Christian Armenians and their mainly Muslim neighbours flared in Nagorno-Karabakh in the late 1980s. Hostilities this year have been the worst since 2016, when intense fighting killed dozens and threatened to escalate into all-out war.
Such a conflict could drag in the big regional powers, Russia and Turkey. Moscow has a defence alliance with Armenia, while Ankara backs its ethnic Turkic kin in Azerbaijan.
n the 1980s, the territory was within the borders of the then-Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, though most decisions were made in Moscow.
As the Soviet Union began to break up, it became apparent that Nagorno-Karabakh would come under the direct rule of the Azeri government. The ethnic Armenians did not accept that.
Sectarian conflict erupted, escalating into war in 1991 between Azerbaijan’s troops and Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia. Thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
Authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence that year but it was not widely recognised internationally, leaving the ethnic Armenian administration there in a state of legal limbo and under blockade from Azerbaijan’s government.
By 1994, when an internationally brokered ceasefire was agreed, ethnic Armenians controlled almost all of Nagorno-Karabakh, plus some surrounding Azeri districts that gave them a buffer zone and land bridge connecting their region to Armenia.
Azerbaijan vowed to take back control over the territory, using military force if necessary.
International efforts over the years to find a lasting peace settlement, involving France, the United States and Russia as mediators, have failed to clinch a deal.
President Donald Trump said on Sunday that the United States would seek to stop violence which has ignited between Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics which fought a war in the 1990s.
“We’re looking at it very strongly,” the president said in a Sunday evening press briefing. “We have a lot of good relationships in that area. We’ll see if we can stop it.”
The violence left at least 16 military and several civilians dead on Sunday in the heaviest clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 2016, reviving concerns about stability in the South Caucasus, a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets.