Russian Foreign Ministry Calls Out Aliyev After He Lied about Mercenaries
Moscow expressed serious concern on Thursday about the escalating deployment what it called international terrorists from the Middle East to the Karabakh conflict zone, warning that the region become a terrorist “enclave.”
“According to information we have received, at this moment members of international terrorist organizations with blood on their hands, are being transported from the Middle East to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.
“I am talking about radical mercenaries who espouse the jihadist ideology. All this raises serious concerns for us since it poses a threat that a terrorist enclave is being formed, this time in the South Caucasus,” Zakharova said.
Zakharova’s was referencing comments made by Russia’s Foreign Minister Segei Lavrov who told the Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday that, based on Russian intelligence, some 2,000 mercenaries had been deployed to Karabakh to fight alongside Azerbaijani forces.
“We, of course, are concerned over the internationalization of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and the involvement of militants from the Middle East, Lavrov told Kommersant http://asbarez.com/198232/lavrov-says-2000-terrorists-fighting-for-azerbaijan/. “We have repeatedly called on external players to use their capacities to prevent the transfer of mercenaries whose number in the conflict zone is already reaching 2,000 according to the existing data.”
“This topic was discussed specifically during an October 27 telephone conversation by Russian President Vladimir Putin with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as during the regular contacts with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. We continue persistently pushing forward our position through various channels,” added Lavrov.
The Russian foreign minister’s remarks apparently have not sit well with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev who told Spain’s EFE news agency that Moscow had overstepped its role as a neutral mediator to the conflict.
“Frankly speaking, I regret that high ranking officials of the countries that are supposed to be neutral and are supposed to be acting within their mandate that was given to them by the OSCE are using this unverified, groundless so-called information and rumors,” Aliyev said.
“We do not have any mercenaries. I have said it many times. We do not need them,” declared Aliyev. “We have an army with 100,000 fighters and we can recruit several times more if we announce total mobilization, which we have not done, unlike Armenia. There is no evidence of any foreign fighters fighting on our side. No evidence at this time,” Aliyev added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry was perplexed by what it called Aliyev’s “melodramatic” response to Lavrov’s citation of Russian intelligence reports.
“To be honest, we do not quite understand the melodramatic reaction by the honorable Ilham Haydarevich Aliyev to Sergei Lavrov’s comments,” a Russian foreign ministry source told Tass on Thursday. “Perhaps the president’s aides have shown him someone else’s statement, or included their own interpretation.”
Citing Lavrov’s statement, the source told Tass that the foreign minister had not rebuked Azerbaijan or any other country, for that matter.
The foreign ministry representative said that Moscow has always approached its role as a mediator with utmost seriousness, adding that “President Aliyev, himself, has repeatedly stated this.”
“We reaffirm our commitment to promoting a peaceful, political and diplomatic settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. At the same time, we remain convinced that bringing mercenary militants into the Caucasus threatens the stability and security of all countries in the region, including Azerbaijan and Russia,” the Russian foreign ministry told Tass.
Zakharova, the foreign ministry spokesperson, also reiterated Moscow’s concerns about “external forces” becoming engaged in the fighting.
“In the past week the situation has remained tense in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone. Exchange of gunfire has taken place in all directions of the line of contact. Civilian buildings were also targeted. We urge the sides to display extreme tolerance, avoid striking the civilian population and not allow the interference of external forces,” Zakharova said.