The Turkish and Italian defense chiefs met Friday in Rome to discuss bilateral and security issues as well as the latest developments concerning Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Despite Ankara’s positive and fair attitude, provocative attitudes are raising tension in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told his Italian counterpart Lorenzo Guerini.
Tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Greece has disputed Turkey’s rights to energy exploration, making maximalist claims based on tiny Greek islands near the Turkish coast.
Turkey – the country with the longest coastline on the Mediterranean – sent out drill ships to explore for energy on its continental shelf, asserting its own rights in the region as well as those of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Stressing that Turkey and Libya share a history going back half a millennium, Akar said Turkey will continue to make every effort for stabilization in the North African country and the region.
Turkey supports a stable, independent, and sovereign Libya under relevant UN Security Council resolutions, Akar added.
Libya has been torn by civil war since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The Government of National Accord (GNA) was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by forces loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar.
The UN recognizes the government headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj as the country’s legitimate authority, as Tripoli has battled Haftar’s militias in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.
Diplomatic efforts have been underway in recent weeks to reach a solution to the Libyan conflict following victories by the Libyan Army over Haftar’s militias.
Speaking on the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Akar stressed the importance the cessation of support for Armenia and the withdrawal of its forces from occupied territories in order to ensure peace and stability in the region.
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, and seven adjacent regions.
Some 20% of Azerbaijan’s territory has remained under illegal Armenian occupation for some three decades.
Four UN Security Council and two UN General Assembly resolutions, as well as many international organizations, demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces.
New clashes erupted on Sept. 27, and since then Armenia has continued attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces, leading to casualties.
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 the withdrawal of Armenia’s occupying forces.
*Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur
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