NORTH AND EAST SYRIA — Several media outlets have reported that Turkey is in the process of equipping a group of fighters from the predominantly Syrian Turkmen Sultan Murad Division for deployment to Azerbaijan.
Several buses carrying hundreds of Sultan Murad Division fighters reportedly gathered at the Hor Kals border crossing east of Azaz, north of Holob (Aleppo), in preparation for their transfer to Azerbaijan.
The fighters being sent to Azerbaijan will supposedly be used to guard sections of the Armenia–Azerbaijan border and public facilities in exchange for a salary of $1,800 per month.
Many of those being sent have only recently returned from Libya, another of Turkey’s ongoing foreign theaters of conflict.
A source close to the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, of which the Sultan Murad Division is a part, said That Turkey is preparing dozens of members of its armed opposition factions in northwestern Syria with the aim of sending them to fight in Azerbaijan.
Last week, Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, accused Turkish authorities of transporting foreign fighters to neighboring Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a decades long dispute over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. From 1988 to 1994, a war was fought between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. By the wars end, Armenian was in full control of the territory with few exceptions, including areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh connecting the enclave with Armenia.
Tensions between the two sides even predate the 1988 conflict, with violence occurring between them while they were both republics under Soviet rule.
In July of this year, clashes erupted after an Azerbaijani patrol attempted to cross the border and were met with fire from Armenian forces. Artillery and drone strikes were exchanged between the two sides for days, resulting in over a dozen casualties.
Mnatsakanyan’s accusations came in response to the threat of the Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister, Yavuz Selim Kiran, in which he called on Armenia to withdraw immediately from the Karabakh region, accusing it of escalating tension and representing the biggest obstacle to the stability and security of the region.
Earlier, Turkey had sent ground and air forces to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku to conduct joint military training with Azerbaijani forces on the Armenian border.