ISTANBUL

Armenia should withdraw from the Azerbaijani territory it occupies before any talk of a cease-fire, said Turkey’s defense minister on Thursday.

“Those who stay silent on the occupied Azerbaijani lands should ensure Armenia’s retreat from Karabakh instead of calling for a cease-fire,” Hulusi Akar said at an event in the Turkish metropolis Istanbul.

He said keeping silent on Armenia’s occupation of the Azerbaijani territory of Upper Karabakh and its massacres of civilians amounts to “hypocrisy.”

There is now a new opportunity for a lasting solution to the Upper Karabakh issue, he said, adding: “We can’t afford to waste time for another 30 years.”

Relations between the two republics have been strained since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, an internationally recognized territory in Azerbaijan.

New clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and since then Armenia has continued attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani 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 was agreed to in 1994.

Many world powers, including Russia, France, and the US, have urged a new cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku’s right to self-defense and demanded a withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.

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