Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict draws in fighters from Mideast

Beirut, Oct 09 (AP):
For the past two weeks, Raffi Ghazarian has been glued to the TV at home and at work watching news about the fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.
If it goes on, the 50-year-old Lebanese of Armenian descent says he’s ready to leave everything and volunteer to defend his ancestral land.
Some from Lebanon’s large ethnic Armenian population have already travelled to join the fight, according to members of the community, although they say the numbers are small.
The new eruption of violence in the Caucasus region strikes close to home for Lebanon’s Armenians. Red, blue and orange Armenian flags are flown on balconies, windows and roofs of buildings in Bourj Hammoud, Beirut’s main Armenian district.
Anti-Turkish graffiti in English and Armenian mark walls all over the streets.
Fighting has raged since September 27 in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving several hundred dead. The enclave lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by neighboring Armenia since 1994, when a truce ended a years-long war that killed an estimate 30,000 people.
On the other side of the latest fighting, Turkey has sent hundreds of Syrian opposition fighters to back its ally, Azerbaijan, according to a Syrian war monitor and three Syria-based opposition activists.
Lebanese-Armenians have been sending money and aid as well as campaigning in the media in support of ethnic Armenians in the enclave, which they refer to as Artsakh. The support they can give is limited Lebanon is passing through a severe economic crisis, and banks have imposed tight capital controls.
Lebanon is home to one of the largest Armenian communities in the world, most of them descendants of survivors of the 1915 genocide by Ottoman Turks.
An estimated 1.5 million died in massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 as Ottoman officials worried that the Christian Armenians would side with Russia, its enemy in World War I.
The event is widely viewed by historians as genocide. Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

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