Three Syrian mercenaries were killed by the Armenian army in Nagorno-Karabakh, reports say. The Syrian mercenaries were hired by Turkey to fight alongside ally Azerbaijan in the festering regional conflict. Turkey had denied sending mercenaries to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, but major world media outlets have confirmed the development.

The mercenaries hired by Turkey were originally fighters in the Free Syrian Army, which had received generous patronage by Ankara.

The fact that foreign mercenaries are involved in the escalating conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh points to the extremely dangerous course Turkey has charted out for its involvement in Central Asia and Europe.

Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters
Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army fighters Reuters

"The presence of Syrians on the ground – believed to be contractors working for Turkish security companies – signalled a new frontier for Ankara's increasingly assertive foreign policy," the Guardian reported, adding that Turkish intervention is a factor that threatens to make the Nagorno-Karabakh clashes bloodier and longer.

The mercenaries who signed up for action in Nagorno-Karabakh joined a private Turkish security company, which took them to Turkey before flying them off to Azerbaijan, the paper reported a few days ago.

The report says that the recruitment drive started a month ago, before the first shots were fired in Nagorno-Karabakh in the latest bout of clashes. While being recruited by the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad division in the rebel held Afrin, the mercenaries were told they would be given between 7,000 and 10,000 Turkish lira a month. Both Turkey and Azerbaijan denied they were using Syrian mercenaries in the clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh but reports from the ground indicate the ex-Syrian rebels are active in the battles.

"So far, it's an offensive on two or three fronts. These are small countries and they don't want to lose men, which possibly explains shipping in these Syrians – you don't have to sacrifice young Azerbaijani lives," Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, told the Guardian.

Nagorno-Karabakh Map
Nagorno-Karabakh Map Wikimedia Commons

Ankara is not entirely new to the dealings in mercenaries. Turkey had mobilized more than 10,000 Syrian mercenaries on the battlefields of Libya.

Earlier this year, there were reports that Turkey had hired 100 Pakistani mercenaries to fight alongside its soldiers and proxies in Syria.

The Pakistan-backed militia arrived in Syria to fight alongside the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Eurasian Times reported, citing American journalist Lindsey Snell, who was once abducted by an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

With Syria's Idlib steadily slipping out of Turkey's control and influence, it has a steady supply of ex-fighters with the Free Syrian Army. The fact that Turkey is smuggling the militia into a conflict zone in Eurasia exposes the reckless geopolitical strategy adopted by Ankara under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.