Lebanese Armenians have joined the fighting against Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh, Associated Press (AP) has reported.
The agency said that an unknown number of Lebanon's large ethnically-Armenian population have reportedly travelled to the southern Caucasus to defend their ancestral homeland.
Several residents of Beirut's main Armenian district, Bourj Hammoud, told AP that they too are ready to abandon their lives in Lebanon to fight against Azerbaijan. "We will fight until the last Armenian soldier," one shop owner was quoted as saying. "This is not a war between Muslims and Christians. This is a war for the existence of the Armenian entity and we are ready."
At least one Lebanese Armenian who travelled to the region as a volunteer has been killed on the front line, said local broadcaster Yerkir. Opera singer Kevork Hadjian, who was known for his rousing renditions of nationalist Armenian songs, was killed in combat last Tuesday. The 49-year-old was in a regiment of volunteers led by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, a nationalist and socialist political party that is also active in Lebanon and Syria.
Hundreds more Armenians from the diaspora are believed to have signed up as volunteers to fight since tensions flared on 27 September, but it is unclear how many are currently involved in the hostilities. Meanwhile, Turkey has apparently sent nearly 1,250 Syrian mercenaries to fight alongside Azerbaijani forces, according to Reuters. Syrian fighters were encouraged by a $1,500 a month bounty, which is a lot of money in the war-torn country. Azerbaijan and Turkey have denied the "mercenaries" claim.
To date, at least 500 people, including more than 60 civilians, have been killed in Nagorno-Karabakh. Efforts were made to establish a Russian-brokered ceasefire over the weekend, but they were shattered yesterday after clashes broke out in the southern region of Hadrut.
The decades-old dispute concerns territory considered part of Azerbaijan by the United Nations but with a population Christian ethnic-Armenian separatists. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-year war over the disputed territory, ending with a ceasefire in 1994, but no peace agreement resolving the issue has ever been signed.