CORRECTED DECK; UPDATED WITH REMARKS BY TURKISH DEFENSE MINISTER
By Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak and Sarp Ozer
ANKARA (AA) – The chief of NATO on Friday said that in a move to de-escalate tensions, Turkey and Greece cancelled military exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean planned for next week.
“I can confirm that both Greece and Turkey have decided to cancel military exercises which were planned for next week on their national holidays,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers.
“I welcome deconfliction, I welcome the cancellation of the two military exercises, the Greek and the Turkish exercises, partly because of reduced risks for incidents and accidents, but also because it helped to pave the way for negotiations on the underlying problem,” he said.
“And I welcome also the efforts of Germany to facilitate, and to help these negotiations to start, and I hope their exploratory talks can start as soon as possible,” he added.
After the meeting, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that the cancellation of the exercises had been done on Turkey's proposal.
Telling how developments between Azerbaijan and Armenia were also discussed at the meeting, Akar said: "We had the opportunity to express our evaluations on what needs to be done to ensure peace and stability."
"The main issue we’re talking about is that the essential condition for the establishment of peace and stability in the South Caucasus is Armenia withdrawing from Azerbaijan’s lands it occupied and leaving there as soon as possible."
He repeatedly stressed Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan, he said, adding that developments in the Aegean and Mediterranean were also discussed.
Turkey favors international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue, and political solutions for solving problems, he said.