The Turkish foreign minister on Monday said Armenian forces have been targeting civilians in recent tensions at the Azerbaijan-Armenia front line.
"Armenia directly targets civilians [in Azerbaijan] which is essentially a war crime," Mevlut Cavusoglu at a joint news conference after hosting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the capital Ankara.
Many, including children, were martyred in the Armenian attacks, Cavusoglu said.
"Armenia, which has been cornered in the last days, has started to send missiles to Ganja and even to places close to Baku," he added.
The Turkish top diplomat pointed out that when the territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia is at stake, everyone rightfully supports these countries.
"So, why don't we say to Armenia 'withdraw from Azerbaijani lands' when it comes to the Armenia-Azerbaijan issue?" Cavusoglu asked.
Cavusoglu urged all sides, particularly NATO, to call on Armenia to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories under the international law and the UN Security Council resolutions.
"Otherwise, this problem cannot be solved. Azerbaijani lands have been under occupation for 30 years," he added.
Stoltenberg, for his part, said NATO is "deeply concerned" over the Upper Karabakh conflict, and he called for the peaceful solution of the dispute.
"We should support all efforts to find a peaceful negotiated solution because there is no military solution to the situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh," said Stoltenberg, urging all parties to immediately cease fighting.
"I expect Turkey to use its considerable influence to calm tensions," he added.
The visiting NATO chief is expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan later today.
Fighting began on Sept. 27 when the Armenian forces targeted civilian Azerbaijani settlements and military positions in the region, leading to casualties.
Upper Karabakh conflict
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 invading 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, however, was agreed upon in 1994.
Many world powers, including Russia, France and the US, have urged an immediate cease-fire. Turkey, meanwhile, has supported Baku's right to self-defense.
S-400 missile system
On Turkey's purchasing S-400 missile system from Russia, Cavusoglu said: "Since we could not get the Patriot or any other air defense systems from our allies, we had to buy S-400."
"And we see the sensitivity this creates within NATO," he added, reiterating that Turkey also needs to meet its essential requirements.
"NATO and its allies need to understand this too," he stressed.
"This is not only about the air defense system, but also that the allies should not cause each other difficulties for different reasons in meeting other needs in the defense industry," he said, adding this was one of the issues he discussed with the NATO head.
Since 2017, Turkey and the US have been at odds over Turkey's decision to buy S-400, a Russian-made missile defense system, and US threats to break its contract to sell Turkey F-35 fighter jets over the dispute.
For his part, Stoltenberg said: "Turkey is a valued ally contributing to NATO in different ways." NATO remains strongly committed to Turkey's security, he added.
"We are concerned about the consequences of the Turkish acquisition of the S-400 system," he said, adding that the system can pose a risk to ally aircraft and can lead to US sanctions.
Underlining that the S-400 system cannot be integrated into NATO's aerial missile defense system, he urged Turkey to work with all the allies to find alternative solutions.
Among the issues Cavusoglu and Stoltenberg discussed were Eastern Mediterranean, Libya and Syria, Turkish top diplomat said.
"As Turkey, we are trying to not bring to our bilateral issues with other allies on the NATO agenda," he said.
"But constantly we see that some allies bring their issues with Turkey or other counties to NATO's agenda," he added.
Stressing that Turkey takes steps in the Eastern Mediterranean to protect itself and Turkish Cypriots, Cavusoglu praised NATO's taking initiative to ease the tension between Greece and Turkey.
"We have viewed this initiative positively from the very beginning and gave our support," he said.
"In the beginning, Greece had a negative attitude, but now we see that Greece also participates in these meetings. We are also pleased with that," he added.
"Today we discussed the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean. We have now established military de-confliction mechanism to reduce the risks of incidents and accidents in the region," Stoltenberg said.
He added this includes a commitment to use the secure hotline that has been set up between Greece and Turkey available 24/7.
"The mechanism was achieved through the constructive engagement of Turkey and Greece at NATO headquarters," he said, welcoming Turkish and Greek efforts.
He hoped that ongoing disputes can be addressed through negotiations, in the spirit of allied solidarity and international law.
On Sunday, Turkey and Greece postponed their next round of technical negotiations on the Eastern Mediterranean as NATO head is on a visit to Ankara and Athens.
Turkish and Greek military delegations have been engaged in a series of NATO-hosted technical talks since Sept. 10. The talks were planned after a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Stoltenberg in early September.
Tensions have been running high for months in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Greece has disputed Turkey's rights to energy exploration.
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.
Separately, Stoltenberg met with Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, according to a written statement by the Turkish National Defense Ministry.
During the meeting, Akar and Stoltenberg exchanged views, especially on the recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya, NATO issues as well as technical meetings held at NATO headquarters in Brussels between the Greek and Turkish military delegations.
Akar stressed that Turkey continues to support efforts to resolve conflict via dialogue without any preconditions.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.