Azerbaijan has admitted using Turkish-manufactured armed drones in clashes against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, acknowledging it for the first time since the conflict was reignited.
In a televised interview with the Turkish news channel TRT Haber yesterday, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said: "Thanks to advanced Turkish drones owned by the Azerbaijan military, our casualties on the front shrunk." He praised the efficiency of the drones, stating: "These drones show Turkey's strength. It also empowers us."
After border clashes between the Azeri military and Armenian nationalist militias broke out at the end of September, Azerbaijan released footage of drone strikes which caused many to suspect it was using Turkish drones. The drones are thought to be of the renowned Bayraktar TB2 model, used by the Turkish military in both Syria and Libya and which has been proven highly effective.
Those suspicions were heightened when the owner of the Bayraktar drone company, Selcuk Bayraktar, expressed his support for Azerbaijan by retweeting a video of the Azeri military's drone strikes in the Armenian-occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev's confirmation of his country's use of Turkish drones also comes a week after Turkey declared its political and military support for Azerbaijan, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling on Armenia to withdraw from the region which is internationally-recognised as Azerbaijan's.
Since the clashes were revived, Azeri forces successfully pushed forward into the occupied territory, and have reportedly captured at least 22 towns and villages in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Israel was also accused yesterday of selling arms to Azerbaijan, leading Armenia to recall its Ambassador Armen Smbatyan at the reports. Following phone calls and talks between Armenian President Armen Sarkissian and his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin, however, Armenia has said that Tel Aviv may cease its commercial arms sales to Azerbaijan.