ADDS MORE REMARKS FROM DEFENSE MINISTER
By Sarp Ozer
ANKARA (AA) - Reiterating Turkey's full support to Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the country's defense minister on Monday urged Armenia to immediately retreat from the occupied region.
*** "Armenia must stop its attacks immediately and send back the mercenaries and terrorists they brought from abroad and evacuate the Azerbaijani territories they occupied," Hulusi Akar told Anadolu Agency.
He said Turkey stands by its Azerbaijani brothers in defending their native land, adding that Armenia must retreat from the occupied Azerbaijani territories to achieve peace and stability in the region.
*** "Turkey-Azerbaijan ties are [based on the principle of] 'one nation, two states' which everyone should know of. We are always one and together in sadness and happiness," he said.
*** Akar criticized those who now call for "immediate cease-fire" although they were silent when Armenia occupied Azerbaijani territories and massacred its people.
*** "Those who now want a peaceful solution, an immediate cease-fire and a dialogue now; where were they for 30 years when Nagorno-Karabakh and 20% of Azerbaijani territories were under occupation, when thousands of innocent people were massacred in Khojaly with barbarism; children, women and elderly people, and millions of people were displaced from their homes."
Border clashes broke out early Sunday when Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions, leading to casualties.
Azerbaijan's parliament declared a state of war in some of its cities and regions following Armenia's border violations and attacks in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region.
- Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
Relations between the two former Soviet nations have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions, as well as many international organizations, demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
The OSCE Minsk Group -- co-chaired by France, Russia and the US -- was formed in 1992 to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but to no avail. A cease-fire, however, was agreed upon in 1994.
France, Russia and NATO, among others, have urged an immediate halt to clashes in the occupied region.