© RIA Novosti; REUTERS/Erik De Castro
Syrian President Bashar Assad says he agrees with Russian and French reports suggesting Turkey has been sending militants, from his country, to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh, where clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue.

Assad also labeled Turkey the 'instigator' of the conflict. "We definitely can confirm it, not because we have [direct] evidence, but sometimes if you don't have evidence you have indicators," the Syrian president exclaimed, in an exclusive interview with Moscow news agency Sputnik. Recalling recent history, he suggested Turkey has relied on "terrorist" manpower either on Syrian soil or in other locations across the region.

"Turkey used terrorists coming from different countries in Syria. They used the same method in Libya; they used Syrian terrorists in Libya, maybe with other nationalities," the president told Sputnik. These instances are enough for him to be convinced that Turkey employs similar tactics when it comes to the ongoing Armenian-Azeri hostilities, he insisted.

"So, it's self-evident and very probable that they are using that method in Nagorno-Karabakh because, as I said earlier, they are the ones who started this problem, this conflict; they encouraged this conflict.

Unloading on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Assad called him "the main instigator and initiator" of the Nagorno-Karabakh hostilities. "I would sum up his behavior as dangerous, for different reasons," the Syrian leader offered.

Syria's deep-seated animosity towards Ankara was fuelled by the 2016 Turkish intervention in northern Syria, which came under the pretext of safeguarding Turkey's borders from Syrian Kurdish insurgents. Turkish forces and allied Syrian militias took control of the large swathes of the north of Syria, drawing accusations of 'occupation' from Damascus.

A week ago, Syria's foreign minister labeled Turkey a 'sponsor of terrorism' in his UN General Assembly address. The Turks that facilitated "entry of tens of thousands of foreign terrorists into Syria" are still supporting Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations, he warned.

Allegations that Turkey has been deploying Syrian mercenaries to aid its ally Azerbaijan in its fight against Armenians surfaced shortly after heavy fighting broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27.

Yerevan suggested "about 4,000 militants" crossed into Azerbaijan from Turkey, while France's President Emmanuel Macron echoed this claim, citing "reliable information" of such a deployment. Syrian irregulars have used the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep as a gateway, he alleged.

Baku has strenuously rebuked the Armenian accusations, calling them "complete nonsense" and "cheap political propaganda," and insisting that Azerbaijan is in no need of mercenary reinforcements or any kind of third-party help from Turkey. It also demanded an apology from France over Macron's remarks.

Ankara has also denied involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh hostilities, describing the accusations as part of Armenian efforts to create "dark propaganda" about Turkey, according to Reuters. Previously, a Turkish presidential adviser used the same language while dismissing the claims as a disinformation campaign.

Canada halts sale of drone gear to Turkey over alleged use in Nagorno-Karabakh, Ankara dubs it 'double standards'

turkish drone
Turkish UAV TB2 Bayraktar
The surprise decision by the Canadian government - announced by Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne on Monday - "is an indication of the double-standard approach of this country," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Turkish diplomats also recalled that Ottawa has been less principled when it comes to exporting arms to other warring parties around the world. Canada "did not see any problem in exporting weapons to countries that were militarily involved in the crisis in Yemen, which was one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies of this century," Ankara noted.

Comment: He has a point. But that doesn't mean he should get any drones.

Thriving Canadian weapons exports to Saudi Arabia have almost doubled since 2018, amounting to $2.9 billion in 2019, according to estimates. Riyadh is leading an air campaign by the coalition of Gulf states in war-torn Yemen against Houthi rebels. The UN recently accused Canada - along with France, the UK, the US, and Iran - of perpetuating the conflict that has killed roughly 112,000 people, among them 12,000 civilians, since its outbreak in 2014, creating a humanitarian crisis.

"There can be no explanation for preventing exports of defense products," Turkish diplomats insisted.

Champagne, meanwhile, justified the suspension of arms sales to Turkey by reference to concerns over Canadian technology "being used in the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh." Since September 27, the ethnic-Armenian-populated region has been engaged in heavy hostilities against Azerbaijan - which has the unwavering the support of Turkey.

"In line with Canada's robust export control regime and due to the ongoing hostilities, I have suspended the relevant export permits to Turkey, so as to allow time to further assess the situation," the minister's announcement read.

The move was reportedly made in response to calls from arms control advocates who alleged that Canadian-made drone optics and laser targeting systems were mounted on the TB2 Bayraktar, the Turkish armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The Azerbaijani military announced that it sought to purchase the drone back in June, although details of its operations with the air force are unclear.

Previously, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told TRT broadcaster that Turkish-made drones have helped the military to reduce human losses. Yerevan reported downing several Azerbaijani drones in combat.

Meanwhile, Armenian diplomats have piled pressure on Israel, one of Baku's major arms vendors. Last week, Yerevan recalled its ambassador to the Jewish state for consultation, demanding that it stop selling arms to Azerbaijan.

The demarche apparently yielded some results, with Ambassador Armen Smbatyan saying on Monday that Israel had given "a verbal promise" to halt arms supplies in the coming days.