The Turkish foreign minister on Monday said Armenian forces have been targeting civilians in recent tensions at the Azerbaijan-Armenia front line.
“Armenia directly targets civilians [in Azerbaijan] which is essentially a war crime,” said Mevlut Cavusoglu after hosting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the capital Ankara.
Cavusoglu urged all, particularly NATO, to call on Armenia to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories.
Stoltenberg, for his part, said NATO is “deeply concerned” over the Upper Karabakh conflict, and he called for the peaceful solution of the dispute.
“We should support all efforts to find a peaceful negotiated solution because there is no military solution to the situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Stoltenberg, urging all parties to immediately cease fighting.
“I expect Turkey to use its considerable influence to calm tensions,” he added.
The visiting NATO chief is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later today.
Fighting began on Sept. 27 when the Armenian forces targeted civilian Azerbaijani settlements and military positions in the region, leading to casualties.
Upper Karabakh conflict
Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.
Multiple UN resolutions, as well as many international organizations, demand the withdrawal of the invading 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.
Many world powers, including Russia, France and the US, have urged an immediate cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku’s right to self-defense.
S-400 missile system
On Turkey’s purchasing S-400 missile system from Russia, Cavusoglu said: “Since we could not get the Patriot or any other air defense systems from our allies, we had to buy S-400.”
“And we see the sensitivity this creates within NATO,” he added, reiterating that Turkey also needs to meet its essential requirements.
“NATO and its allies need to understand this too,” he stressed.
“This is not only about the air defense system, but also that the allies should not cause each other difficulties for different reasons in meeting other needs in the defense industry,” he said, adding this was one of the issues he discussed with the NATO head.
Since 2017, Turkey and the US have been at odds over Turkey’s decision to buy S-400, a Russian-made missile defense system, and US threats to break its contract to sell Turkey F-35 fighter jets over the dispute.
For his part, Stoltenberg said: “Turkey is a valued ally contributing to NATO in different ways.” NATO remains strongly committed to Turkey’s security, he added.
“We are concerned about the consequences of the Turkish acquisition of the S-400 system,” he said, adding that the system can pose a risk to ally aircraft and can lead to US sanctions.
Underlining that the S-400 system cannot be integrated into NATO’s aerial missile defense system, he urged Turkey to work with all the allies to find alternative solutions.