Azerbaijan and Armenia’s conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh is intensifying concern that the fighting could draw other regional powers into a larger conflict, defence analyst Paul Iddon said on Tuesday.
“There are already some signs that three regional powers, Russia, Turkey and Iran, may not remain on the sidelines,” Iddon said in an article for Forbes magazine.
Turkey had limited its intervention in the South Caucasus region, careful to avoid what Russia considers its sphere of influence. But it has stepped up support for the Azeri government this year, including holding joint military exercises in August and by selling it $77.1 million of Turkish military hardware in September, Iddon said.
Turkey’s increased support for Azerbaijan and Russia’s mutual defence treaty with Armenia have raised concern that Nagorno-Karabakh could become a new front in a Turkey-Russia ‘proxy war’ that already includes Libya and Syria.
Iran is another regional power increasingly unhappy about the violence, Iddon said.
On Oct. 6, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif expressed “serious concern” about the involvement of “militants from illegal armed groups from Syria and Libya” in the conflict, referring to militia reportedly deployed by Turkey in support of Azerbaijan.
“While Iran is not likely to launch any cross-border military intervention, its growing frustration with spill-over fire and Syrian militiamen’s presence could see it pressure Azerbaijan and its Turkish backer to end hostilities sooner rather than later,” Iddon said.