Turkey on Thursday invited neighboring countries in the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean to dialogue to solve disputes.

“We invite our neighbors, other institutions and organizations to dialogue. Let’s meet, talk, discuss, and solve the issues,” National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said while visiting the Free Fire-2020 military activities in the capital Ankara.

Noting that the 10-square-kilometer island — Kastelorizo, or Meis that is just 2 km (1.2 miles) from the Turkish coast and 580 km (360 mi) from the Greek mainland — cannot have a maritime jurisdiction area of 40,000-square-km, Akar said when Turkey opposes it, everyone sees it as a “provocation.”

He said even though Ankara is in favor of dialogue and political solution, it would not let its rights to be overruled.

“This should be understood,” he said. “Besides, it is a futile effort for third parties, who do not comply with reason, logic and law, to try set some rules by exceeding their limits, or expect us to accept those rules.”

He reiterated that Turkey wishes peace in the region by solving the issues through dialogue.

In August, Turkey resumed energy exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean after Greece and Egypt signed a controversial maritime delimitation deal, spurning Turkey’s goodwill gesture of halting its search.

Declaring the Greek-Egyptian deal “null and void,” Turkey authorized the Oruc Reis vessel to continue its activities in an area within Turkey’s continental shelf.

Turkey has consistently opposed Greece’s efforts to declare an exclusive economic zone based on small islands near Turkish shores, violating the interests of Turkey, the country with the longest coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara has also said energy resources near the island of Cyprus must be shared fairly between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus.

Azerbaijan’s rightful cause

Touching upon the ongoing Upper Karabakh conflict, Akar said: “Just when our Azerbaijani brothers began taking back their lands after Armenian aggression, those, who’ve been silent for 30 years, started talking peace, cease-fire, dialogue, and negotiations.”

He said this approach was “not sincere,” and added that there is a simple solution to the dispute: “Armenia leaves the occupied Azerbaijani territories, removes mercenaries it brought to the region, and sends terrorists away…as simple as that.”

He reiterated Turkey’s support to brotherly Azerbaijan’s “rightful cause.”

Upper Karabakh conflict

Relations between the ex-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Upper Karabakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh.

Fresh clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and the Armenian army has since continued its attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces, even violating humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

Four UN Security Council resolutions and two from the UN General Assembly as well as international organizations demand the “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of the occupying forces” from Azerbaijani territory.

In total, about 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory – including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent regions – has been under illegal Armenian occupation for nearly three decades.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (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.

World powers including Russia, France and the US have called for a sustainable cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku’s right to self-defense and demanded the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.

*Writing by Sena Guler

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