Turkey’s top diplomat called for urgent dialogue between Ankara and the European Union 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 Cavusoglu 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 Oct. 1-2, which he believed “did not yield the expected results.”
Cavusoglu 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.
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,” Cavusoglu said. “It is not possible to establish a functional and fruitful mechanism in the Eastern Mediterranean by ignoring these facts.”
Cavusoglu 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.
Multiple UN resolutions, as well as many international organizations, demand the withdrawal of the Armenian forces.
“If Armenia chooses to become a constructive, responsible partner for peace in the region, including with Azerbaijan, it has a lot to gain,” Cavusoglu said.
The Turkish diplomat, who on Friday met in Rome his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio, also discussed the situation in Libya, stressing the importance of the Italian role in the region.
He said that both Turkey and Italy are working to bring the conclusions of the Berlin Conference to “a sustainable, viable, lasting, and legitimate political solution in Libya,” with the common interest of rebuilding the country and combating illegal migration in the Mediterranean.
Responding to a question on the possible outcome of the upcoming US presidential election, Cavusoglu said that relations with the US have continued to develop under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
“Therefore, Turkey will continue to constructively engage with the US regardless of who wins,” he concluded.
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