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Erdogan says Turkey, Russia to monitor Karabakh ceasefire

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey and Russia signed an agreement on Wednesday to establish a joint centre to coordinate efforts for monitoring a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, President Tayyip Erdogan said.

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a Republic Day ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, October 29, 2020. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

He said Ankara would also participate in a peacekeeping force, but a senior Turkish security source said it would be sending observers, not peacekeepers.

The ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia was announced on Tuesday, ending the worst fighting in the region in decades, and celebrated as a victory in Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey.

Deployment of Russian peacekeeping troops on Tuesday locked in Azerbaijan’s territorial gains.

Speaking to members of his AK Party in parliament, Erdogan said Turkey would participate in the peacekeeping force and that the agreement ended Armenia’s 28-year occupation of Azeri lands - an allusion to Nagorno Karabakh, a mountainous enclave within Azerbaijan ruled by ethnic Armenians.

“Turkey will take part in the joint peace force to be formed to monitor the ceasefire along with Russia,” Erdogan said. “The relevant agreement on the formation of the Joint Turkish-Russian Centre to monitor the ceasefire was signed this morning. It will be formed on Azeri lands liberated from occupation.”

However, a senior Turkish security official said only military observers will operate from inside the centre, while Russian peacekeeping troops would be on the ground.

“We are not sending peacekeepers. Only observers from the Turkish armed forces will be present,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “Turkish troops will not be on the ground.”

Turkish officials will be sent to Azeri territory and “parts of Karabakh that will be handed to Azerbaijan,” the official said.

Erdogan also said that a Russian military delegation would be coming to Ankara. The official said the delegation will arrive this week to determine a roadmap for the monitoring efforts and Armenia’s withdrawal timeline.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ece Toksabay and Orhan Coskun; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Heinrich

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