ANKARA: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has blamed Turkey for inflaming the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave by arming the Azeris.
Armenian and Azeri forces fought new clashes on Friday, defying hopes of ending nearly three weeks of fighting.
Pompeo said Turkey had worsened the conflict by providing resources to Azerbaijan. A diplomatic resolution was needed, rather than “third-party countries coming in to lend their firepower to what is already a powder keg of a situation,” he said in an interview with broadcaster WSB Atlanta.
Ankara accuses Armenia of illegally occupying Azeri territory. Armenia says Turkey has encouraged Azerbaijan to pursue a military solution to the conflict, putting Armenian civilians in danger.
Turkey has increased military exports sixfold this year to its close ally Azerbaijan. There were further signs on Friday that a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreed upon last Saturday to allow the sides to swap detainees and the bodies of those killed had all but broken down.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated and governed by ethnic Armenians.
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Greece expressed concern over Turkey’s “meddling,” as the Greek foreign minister visited Yerevan to back Armenia. “Turkey’s meddling in the Karabakh conflict causes us concerns,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in Yerevan, speaking alongside his Armenian counterpart Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.
Armenia and Greece “have a “shared problem — Turkey,” Dendias said, accusing Ankara of “ignoring the EU’s calls to respect international law.”
Turkey’s confrontation with Greece in the east Mediterranean has intensified, following accusations from powerful EU member states that Ankara was “provoking” Brussels with its acts.
Its decision to resend its vessel, Oruc Reis, to contested waters off Greek islands to resume gas exploration has infuriated the EU, and the bloc’s leaders discussed the crisis.
“The European Council urges Turkey to reverse these actions and work for the easing of tensions in a consistent and sustained manner,” a final meeting report said.
“Turkey remains consistent in its aggressive behavior,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.
Charles Ellinas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had missed a good opportunity by sending back the Oruc Reis.
“By doing so he snapped the EU and particularly Germany that put so much into bringing Greece and Turkey back from confrontation into discussions,” he said.
“They will still give Ankara time, possibly to the start of December, to return to the original plans and commence discussions with Greece. This is the preferred way forward by the EU but, if aggressive actions continue beyond that, then the EU will be forced to act.”