Turkey’s top diplomat called for an urgent dialogue between Ankara and the European Union (EU) to address rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, and developments in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict.
In an interview with Italian news agency Agenzia Nova during his recent visit to Rome, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu said he considered Italy “a strong NATO ally and a balanced partner in regional issues.”
He added, however, that Turkey was disappointed by the outcome of the EU Special Council on October 1-2, which he believed “did not yield the expected results.”
Çavusoglu said that that the summit’s conclusions “were designed again to put the solidarity within the union before international law and equity,” accusing the EU of having been “once more taken hostage by the maximalist demands of Greece and Greek Cypriots.”
Tensions have been running high for months as Greece has disputed Turkey’s rights to energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Ankara sent out drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, asserting its rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
EU countries have been trying to mediate between Turkey and Greece over their conflicting demands.
Turkey says that Greece’s maritime territory claims in the region, based on small islands near the Turkish coast, are in defiance of the international law.
“Turkey is the most developed and the biggest electricity and gas market in the region,” Çavusoglu said. “It is not possible to establish a functional and fruitful mechanism in the Eastern Mediterranean by ignoring these facts.”
Çavusoglu said there was “an urgent need to normalize our relations with the EU,” noting that Turkey and the EU must have common short-term goals, including more engagement and dialogue.
Addressing the Upper Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Turkish minister stressed that “the only viable solution to the conflict goes through the total withdrawal of Armenian forces from the occupied Azerbaijani territories in line with the international law.”
He noted that “we need more than just another cease-fire,” calling for “a clear call on Armenia to abandon its expansionism.”
The ongoing clashes began on Sept. 27, when Armenian forces targeted civilian Azerbaijani settlements and military positions in the region, leading to casualties.
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.
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