UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS BY ERDOGAN
By Guc Gonel
ISTANBUL (AA) – The Turkish president on Monday called on Armenia to immediately end the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, so the peace will reign in the region again.
“The crisis in the region that started with the occupation of Upper Karabakh must be put to an end,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a symposium on international maritime law and Eastern Mediterranean at the Dolmabahce Office in Istanbul.
“Once again I condemn Armenia, which attacked Azerbaijani territories yesterday,” Erdogan said.
“Turkey continues to stand with the friendly and brotherly Azerbaijan with all its facilities and heart,” he added.
Any imposition or offer other than ending the occupation “will not only be unjust and unlawful but continue to spoil Armenia,” Erdogan said.
“Recent developments have provided an opportunity for all influential countries in the region to introduce realistic and fair solutions,” he said.
“We hope that this opportunity will be utilized at its best.”
Erdogan’s remarks came after border clashes broke out early Sunday after Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions in the region, which is also known as Nagorno-Karabakh.
Relations between the two former Soviet nations have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper 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.
- Eastern Mediterranean
On the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdogan said that as a country located in the region, Turkey is not “a guest but the host”.
“Every move, every step taken in the Mediterranean has a direct impact on the security, rights, and interests of our country,” he added.
Turkey wants peace and cooperation in the region, not tension, the president reiterated.
“As a nation that is the heir of Ottoman civilization and peace in the Mediterranean, we want a peaceful atmosphere to be reestablished in this geography,” he said.
Problems in the region can be solved by “not excluding each other, but bringing all the actors in the region together around the same table,” Erdogan added.
Any equation in the region would not bring peace to the Mediterranean if Turkey and Northern Cyprus do not take part fairly in it, he said.
Erdogan blamed the EU, saying the bloc “did not take advantage of diplomacy opportunities and gave in to the brattiness of Greece and the Greek Cypriot side.”
Tensions have recently escalated over the energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece, Greek Cypriot administration and other EU members have tried to block Turkey’s energy exploration, claiming Turkish drillships are exploring in Greek waters, using a maximalist view of Athens’ maritime territory based on small islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – says this view is illegal and makes no sense and has sent out drillships, with military escorts, to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have rights in the region.
It has repeatedly urged negotiations with no preconditions to lay out fair sharing of the region’s resources.