Politics 11:06 29/09/2020 Region

Reuters: Turkey deploying Syrian fighters to help ally Azerbaijan, two fighters say

Turkey is sending Syrian rebel fighters to support Azerbaijan in its escalating conflict with neighbouring Armenia, Reuters reported, citing two Syrian rebels.

The clashes over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh are the heaviest since 2016, with reports of dozens of deaths and hundreds wounded.

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.

“I didn’t want to go, but I don’t have any money. Life is very hard and poor,” said a fighter who had fought in Syria for Ahrar al-Sham, a group that Turkey has supported.

Both men said they had been told by their Syrian brigade commanders they would earn around $1,500 a month - a large wage for Syria, where the economy and currency have collapsed.

The fighter said he had arranged his assignment with an official from the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) in Afrin, a region of northwest Syria seized by Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies two years ago.

A spokesman for the SNA, an umbrella group of Syrian rebel groups backed by Turkey, did not respond to a request for comment.

The other fighter, from the SNA-affiliated Jaish al-Nukhba militia, said he had been told nearly 1,000 Syrians were set to be deployed to Azerbaijan. Other rebels, who also declined to be named, gave figures of between 700 and 1,000.

The two men, who spoke to Reuters last week, said they expected to be despatched on Sept. 25, to guard facilities but not to fight. Reuters was not able to contact them on Monday to confirm their location.

Mustafa Sejari, a senior Syrian rebel, did not confirm the deployment of fighters to Azerbaijan but said Turkey was the “only hope” left for opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has retaken most rebel-held land in Syria with Russian and Iranian support.

“Our alliance with (Turkey) takes different forms and is truly a common fate,” he said. “I don’t rule out at all Turkey becoming a strategic choice for Syrian youths.”

Turkey has already used Syrian fighters to help block an assault on the Libyan capital Tripoli earlier this year by General Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army, backed by Russia among others.



Source Panorama.am
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