The role of Turkey in regional conflicts, and the use of mercenaries to do Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s dirty little wars, is under the spotlight again as clashes continue between Azerbaijan and Armenia for the seventh day.
The world has called on both countries for a ceasefire to avoid a wider war in the region. On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin called on both sides to “immediately de-escalate tensions”. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also voiced his “extreme concern” and urged the two countries to “return to meaningful negotiations without delay.”
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict more than nine years ago, Turkey has been sheltering, training and arming extremist groups, some of which committed the worst atrocities in the conflict. In addition to Syria and Libya, Turkey launched a major offensive in Iraq’s northern territory few months ago on the pretext of fighting Kurdish groups
The contested mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but it has been under de facto Armenian control since the early 1990s. The territory declared independence from Azerbaijan in 1991.
Turkey has voiced its strong support for Azerbaijan in the latest round of fighting, supplying arms, drones and fighter jets, despite strong objections from the European Union and official complaints from Yerevan.
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However, and most disturbingly, reports from different sources now indicate that the Erdogan’s government has deployed Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside the Azerbaijani army. The Armenian Foreign Ministry confirmed that “Turkey is recruiting and transporting foreign terrorist fighters to Azerbaijan.”
The question of Erdogan’s use of Syrian mercenaries first arose last year when Turkey deployed thousands of them in Libya to fight against the Libyan National Army in its push to capture the capital Tripoli, which has been controlled for years by religious extremist militias. Now, he is using them against Armenia in its conflict with Azerbaijan.
Igniting and inflaming conflicts
These extremist mercenaries, who fought their Syrian government for years in the civil war, are being increasingly used by Erdogan to serve his foreign policy ambitions that seem to have no boundaries — even if they mean igniting and inflaming conflicts.
His misguided ambitions, to revive the past glory of the Ottoman state, have blinded him and pitted his country against most of its neighbours. Most recently, he threatened Greece with military action over the disputed maritime borders.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict more than nine years ago, Turkey has been sheltering, training and arming extremist groups, some of which committed the worst atrocities in the conflict. In addition to Syria and Libya, Turkey launched a major offensive in Iraq’s northern territory few months ago on the pretext of fighting Kurdish groups. In response, the Arab League, which met upon the request of the Iraqi government, declared Turkey’s military intervention in the Arab world “an immediate threat to the region”.
Now, Erdogan is spreading his destabilising action to the Caucasus region using his favourite weapon — mercenaries, a military force for hire that will be discarded once it has achieved the dirty job they are sent to do.