US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced hope Thursday that Armenia would "defend" itself against Azerbaijan, appearing to show sympathy to one side over the other in the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
"We're hopeful that the Armenians will be able to defend against what the Azerbaijanis are doing," Pompeo said in an interview with WBS radio in Atlanta.
He added that Armenia and Azerbaijan should "get the ceasefire right, and then sit down at the table and try and sort through this.”
The top US diplomat also criticized Turkey over its involvement in the conflict.
"We now have the Turks, who have stepped in and provided resources to Azerbaijan, increasing the risk, increasing the firepower that's taking place in this historic fight over this place called Nagorno-Karabakh," Pompeo said.
“The resolution of that conflict ought to be done through negotiation and peaceful discussions, not through armed conflict, and certainly not with third party countries coming in to lend their firepower to what is already a powder keg of a situation,” he added.
Rebuffing criticism from NATO allies, Turkey has accused Armenia of occupying Azeri territory and vowed full support for Azerbaijan.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had said on September 28 Ankara had dispatched at least 300 proxies from northern Syria.
French President Emmanuel Macron had also said that intelligence reports had established that 300 Syrian fighters from the Syrian city of Aleppo had passed through the Turkish city of Gaziantep en route for Azerbaijan.
"These fighters are known, tracked and identified," he alleged, adding that he would call Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "in the coming days."
Turkey has said it will "do what is necessary" to support Azerbaijan, but has denied sending mercenaries.
Neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in an armed conflict since September 27 over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, killing hundreds of people.
The disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, home to about 150,000 people, which broke from Baku's control in a war in the 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.
Its separatist government is strongly backed – but not officially recognized as independent – by Armenia.
Turkey strongly backs Azerbaijan and Russia has a military treaty with Armenia.
- With Reuters and AFP