BRUSSELS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday Syrian extremist fighters were operating in Nagorny Karabakh, where Armenia and Azerbaijan are engaged in heavy fighting.
Macron said he had evidence that militants had travelled through the Turkish city of Gaziantep on their way to the conflict in the Caucasus, where the fiercest clashes in years have left nearly 130 people dead.
"We have information today that indicates with certainty that Syrian fighters from jihadist groups have transited through Gaziantep to reach the theatre of operations in Nagorny Karabakh," Macron said as he arrived for a summit with EU leaders in Brussels.
"This is a very serious new fact, which changes the situation."
Meanwhile, RIA cited the Russian foreign ministry as saying that Moscow knows about Syrian mercenaries in the Nagorno-Karabakh region independently of media reports.
Two Syrian rebel sources have told Reuters that Turkey is sending Syrian rebel fighters to support Azerbaijan.
Armenia has accused Turkey of sending mercenaries to back its ally Azerbaijan and on Monday the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Ankara had dispatched at least 300 proxies from northern Syria.
Macron himself this week condemned what he called Turkey's "reckless and dangerous" statements backing Azerbaijan.
Claims of Turkish meddling in the conflict look set to colour Thursday's summit talks about the EU's relations with Ankara, as Greece and Cyprus push for a tough line against their old enemy.
Nagorny-Karabakh, a majority ethnic Armenian breakaway region inside Azerbaijan, declared independence after the fall of the Iron Curtain, sparking a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives.
It is still not recognised as independent by any country, including Armenia, and talks to resolve the conflict have largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement.