ANKARA 

Armenia must surrender the Azerbaijani territories that it has occupied, Turkey’s National Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

“Azerbaijani Army acted heroically and achieved great triumphs to liberate its lands that were occupied. Armenia must now surrender the lands that it has occupied to their rightful owner,” the ministry said in a tweet.

Reiterating Ankara’s support for Baku, the ministry added: “Until then, we will continue to stand by our Azerbaijani Turkish brothers and sisters.”

Clashes erupted between the two countries on Sept. 27, and since then Armenia has continued attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces.

A humanitarian cease-fire agreed for the exchange of prisoners and retrieval of bodies in Nagorno-Karabakh came into force at 12 p.m. local time (0800GMT) on Saturday.

However, hours after the truce started, Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said Armenia is “grossly” violating the cease-fire agreement.

It said Armenian attempts to attack the Aghdere-Terter and Fizuli-Jabrayil fronts were successfully suppressed by the Azerbaijani military.

Turkey has hailed the cease-fire as an “important first step” but stressed that such measures “cannot replace a lasting solution.”

In a statement on Saturday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry also reaffirmed Ankara’s unwavering support for Azerbaijan “on the ground and at the [negotiation] table.”

Turkey has consistently supported Baku’s right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.

Relations between the two former Soviet republics have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan.

Some 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

Multiple UN resolutions, as well as 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 to in 1994.

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