Turkey's Erdogan says Minsk group stalling on Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 14, 2020. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that the co-chairs of the Minsk group were stalling in dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and repeated that the region should be given back to Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan accused Armenia on Wednesday of trying to attack its gas and oil pipelines and warned of a “severe” response, as tensions mounted over a fraying Russian-brokered ceasefire in the mountain enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey has accused Armenia of occupying Azeri territory and vowed full support for Azerbaijan. Ankara has repeatedly called on the Minsk Group, formed to mediate the conflict and led by France, Russia and the United States, to urge Armenia to withdraw from the region.

“The United States, Russia and France are still putting this off with their stalling tactics,” Erdogan told members of his AK Party in parliament on Wednesday. “Just give them the occupied lands. Let them do what they want in their own lands,” he added.

“What you need to do is finish your negotiations and hand over the lands to their owners” he said, referring to 30 years of talks between the warring sides and the Minsk Group.

Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan under international law, but is populated and governed by ethnic Armenians. The clashes have raised concerns that Turkey and Russia, which also back opposing sides in Syria and Libya, may get dragged in.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow disagreed with Turkey’s position and that a military solution was unacceptable. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said Turkey should be involved in the talks.

Erdogan also denied reports that Turkey had deployed allied Syrian fighters to the region, an accusation denied by Baku too.

“‘You sent Syrian fighters there’, they say to Azerbaijan while remaining silent to all this other supply. They have work in their own country, they won’t go there,” he said.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Nevzat Devranoglu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Raissa Kasolowsky