A Turkish diplomat has asked South Africa to support Turkey’s efforts in promoting a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through mediation.

In an opinion piece published by online publication, Daily Maverick, Elif Comoglu Ulgen, Turkey’s ambassador to Pretoria, urged South Africa to support Azerbaijan whose land has been occupied by Armenia.

“A world without justice cannot be a safe place for anyone. It only produces more conflict and suffering. And it makes everyone unsafe and insecure,’’ the diplomat wrote.

Ulgen said South Africa was better placed to mediate in the conflict based on its history of fighting for justice and freedom.

She said when the rainbow nation was elected to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member in 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed in his speech that “South Africa’s tenure will be guided by its commitment to resolve regional, global and international conflicts”.

During his speech in September, Ramaphosa told the Security Council: “South Africa calls on all parties to armed conflict to use this opportunity to work towards peaceful resolution.”

The diplomat said it is against this background that she sought South Africa’s support for Turkey in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Illegal occupation

She said no single shot was fired toward the territory of Armenia. “All the fighting has actually taken place within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders.”

“First and foremost, one must set the record straight: illegal Armenian occupation lies at the heart of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,’’ the diplomat stated.

Ulgen said Armenia has occupied 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory for 30 years, despite four UN Security Council Resolutions and many UN General Assembly resolutions, which call for “the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of occupying Armenian forces”.

The diplomat further said Armenian occupation has caused profound human suffering, displacing a million Azerbaijanis who are yearning to return to their homes which remain under Armenian occupation.

Ulgen also refuted Armenian campaigns which seek to present Turkey as a party to the recent hostilities.

“Turkey has not been a party to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and was not involved in the recent clashes,’’ she said.

She said Armenia’s stance is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the South Caucasus.

“It [Armenia] does not want to peacefully coexist with its neighbors, nor does it want a negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It only wants to appear negotiating in order to consolidate its illegal gains,’’ she said.

Ulgen said Turkey reiterates its support to Azerbaijan on all occasions. “This support is not only based on Turkey’s special bonds with Azerbaijan; but it is also based on international law.”

She said in an armed conflict one cannot treat both sides equally when it is clear who the aggressor is.

“It is our duty to support starting meaningful negotiations to ensure unconditional and immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces from illegally occupied Azerbaijani territories in line with relevant UNSC Resolutions,’’ she concluded.

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