Turkey and Russia are unlikely to deepen their involvement in the fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, analysts told Reuters in an article published on Monday.
Fighting in the enclave is persisting even after Russia brokered a ceasefire between the two countries at talks in Moscow last week. Russia is the dominant player in the Caucasus region and maintains a security pact with Armenia, a close ally.
The agreement between Moscow and Yerevan does not cover Nagorno-Karabakh, which is located within Azerbaijan’s borders but controlled by ethnic Armenians. Russia has also cultivated warmer relations with Azerbaijan in recent years. It sells weapons to both sides.
Military and political analysts said neither Turkey nor Russia wants to be sucked into an all-out war, according to Reuters. They told the news agency that Turkey is likely to refrain from deeper military involvement if Azerbaijan advances further into Nagorno-Karabakh and Russia will not directly interfere unless the Azeri military deliberately attacks Armenian soil.
Turkey has thrown its firm support behind Azerbaijan, saying it is ready to do whatever is necessary to eject Armenian forces from the region.
Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan has had “a game-changing effect”, Laurence Broers, Caucasus programme director at Chatham House, told Reuters.
“If the Azerbaijani advance proceeds as it has to date, there won’t be a need for further Turkish involvement,” he said, Turkey “would probably lend increased support” if advances by the Azeri military stalled, he added.
Russia said on Oct. 31 that it would provide Armenia with military assistance should the conflict spill across into Armenia’s internationally recognised territory.
Political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov told Reuters that Russian involvement was unlikely to match the support received by separatists in eastern Ukraine and that even an “accidental hit” on Armenian territory would not be viewed by Moscow as “aggressive action”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it … clear that this protection (the security pact) does not, and never did, extend to where Armenia really wants support right now – in Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Pierre Razoux, academic director at France’s Mediterranean Foundation of Strategic Studies, according to Reuters.
Moscow and Ankara are largely turning a blind eye to the role of mercenaries – possibly fighting on both sides – to avoid stoking tensions, Reuters said, citing private military contractors.
One of the contractors, Alexander Borodai, former leader of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, told the newswire that a handful of Russian fighters, mostly of Armenian descent, had gone privately to Nagorno-Karabakh but had not stayed long.
“They understood quickly that they wouldn’t be properly used there,” he said.
Turkey has been accused by Russia, France, Iran and Armenia of providing Azerbaijan with former Syrian militants since before the latest fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh erupted at the end of September. The Turkish government was also shipped Islamist fighters to Libya, another conflict zone.