BAKU – Turkey's top diplomat traveled to Baku on Tuesday in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan amid a flare-up in fighting over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Heavy fighting between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in the region since Sept. 27 has killed hundreds in the worst escalation of hostilities since 1994 when a truce ended a war that raged for several years. Nagorno-Karabakh lies inside Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia for more than a quarter-century.
On Tuesday, Azerbaijani authorities accused Armenia of launching missiles to target a strategic pipeline that carries Azerbaijan’s oil from the Caspian Sea to global markets. Armenian officials rejected the accusations.
The fighting involving heavy artillery, warplanes and drones has continued despite numerous international calls for a cease-fire.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized calls for a truce and urged the international community to stand by Azerbaijan, saying that previous cease-fires had failed to end what he called Armenia’s occupation of the Azerbaijani territory.
“Let’s have a cease-fire, OK, but what will happen after that? Will you be able to tell Armenia to immediately withdraw from Azerbaijan’s territory? Or are you able to draw up a solution for it to withdraw? No,” Cavusoglu said after a meeting with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Jeyhun Bayramov. “We have supported efforts for a peaceful resolution, but Armenia has enjoyed the fruits of the occupation for 30 years.”
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who also met with Cavusoglu, thanked Turkey for its support.
“This support inspires us, gives us additional strength and at the same time plays an important role in ensuring stability and prosperity in the region,” Aliyev said.