Azerbaijan has the ability to liberate its occupied lands by itself, Turkey's top diplomat said Wednesday, amid Azerbaijan fighting off an offensive by Armenian forces in occupied Upper Karabakh.
"Azerbaijan is fighting to protect its own lands. Where in the world are the occupied and occupier treated the same?" Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at Anadolu Agency’s Editors' Desk.
Border clashes broke out early Sunday when Armenian forces targeted Azerbaijani civilian settlements and military positions, leading to multiple casualties.
With these attacks Armenia ignored the international system and international law, Cavusoglu said, adding that this attitude deserves a response.
Armenia illegally resettled ethnic Armenians from Middle Eastern countries to the Azerbaijani land it occupies in Upper Karabakh – also known as Nagorno-Karabakh – he added.
Turkey continues to support Azerbaijan, he added, saying: "We said that if Azerbaijan wants to solve [the Armenian occupation problem] on the ground, we will stand by Azerbaijan."
Cavusoglu stressed "diplomacy hasn't worked for 30 years" to solve the conflict in Upper Karabakh, with no solution reached at the negotiating table since Armenia’s illegal occupation began in 1991, and this failure served to "encourage" Armenia.
"Despite all the warnings, where does Armenia find its courage?" he asked.
"If Armenia hadn’t enjoyed support today from other countries, from the West, Russia, it wouldn’t be able to muster up this courage."
Cavusoglu slammed the international community for only urging a cease-fire but failing to call Armenia to leave the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.
"This is not a proper approach," he added.
Noting that Azerbaijan is in the right both morally and legally, Cavusoglu said the international community should support Azerbaijan, just as it supports Ukraine, Georgia, and other countries which have lands under illegal occupation.
Upper Karabakh conflict
Relations between the two former Soviet republics 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 on in 1994.
Since Armenia’s attacks last Sunday, tensions have continued to escalate, with Turkey firmly standing with Azerbaijan.
The EU, Russia, and NATO, among others, have called for an immediate halt to clashes in the occupied region.
Turning to developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cavusoglu reiterated Turkey's proposal for a regional conference to find a solution.
"We have no designs on the rights of others, but neither will we let our own rights be usurped," he said.
There have been some tensions as a result of Turkey's "determined steps" in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cavusoglu said, adding that Turkey was trying to defend its own rights and the rights of the Turkish Cypriot people.
Referring to US State Secretary Mike Pompeo's visit last week to the Greek Cypriot administration, and the US partially lifting an arms embargo from Greek Cyprus, Cavusoglu said: "The US should not violate its neutrality. It’s not right for them to lift the embargo, even if it is limited. This violates its neutrality."
Cavusoglu said there was a "positive atmosphere" for discussions on the Eastern Mediterranean as Greece agreed to restart exploratory talks with Turkey.
"The confident country should be at the table, be active in diplomacy and strongly defend its stance."
Tensions have recently escalated over energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece, the Greek Cypriot administration, and other EU members have tried to block Turkey’s energy exploration, claiming it is searching 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 drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, saying that both Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have rights in the region.
Ankara has repeatedly urged negotiations with no preconditions to reach a fair sharing of the region’s resources.
Stance of France
French President Emmanuel Macron's show of solidarity with Armenia and no concern about occupied Azerbaijani lands, effectively means supporting occupation, says Cavusoglu.
Referring to Macron's remarks on Turkey's support to Azerbaijan on border clashes, Cavusoglu asked: "What part of our statement for our brotherly country is dangerous and unacceptable?"
He said that France started following an "anti-Turkish policy" on every platform after Turkey launched multiple operations against the YPG/PKK terrorists in Syria.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
Turkey's top diplomat said that his country has no problem with the "Kurdish brothers" there.
"But let's distinguish between the Kurds and the PKK/YPG. Do not equate them [terrorists] with those innocent Kurdish brothers."
He went on to say that Turkey has never been "categorically" against France, but has criticized France's wrong policies in the past and present, and will continue doing so in the future again.
"France can criticize us too. This is natural. It does not always have to agree with us on every issue," he added.
Relations with US
Cavusoglu expressed the desire to redefine relations with the US.
"We need to get rid of issues that have been poisoning our relationships lately. Such as the YPG, PKK, FETO issues," he said.
He went on to say that Turkey and the US should also resolve among themselves issues related to the defense industry.
"Whoever takes office in the next election, we can take mutual steps together to get it done."
Also referring to US presidential candidate Joe Biden's recent remarks on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict and the role of Turkey, Cavusoglu said Ankara finds the call to stay away from Baku "extremely wrong".
"We are one nation and two states with Azerbaijan. When appropriate, we act like one state. Azerbaijan's problem is our problem, its trouble is our trouble. They should not try to portray Turkey and Azerbaijan separately."
Referring to the recent Armenian attacks, Biden in a tweet asked Turkey to "stay out of this conflict".