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 National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told his Italian counterpart Lorenzo Guerini.

Reiterating that Turkey has an attitude based on its rightful stance on the Eastern Mediterranean, Akar said Turkey is always open to any kind of dialogue.

He said Turkish and Greek military delegations held their first meeting at the technical level today at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

"We are in favor of determining dialogue mechanisms between the two countries and measures to prevent accidents and incidents,” he said.

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.

 

Libya

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.

 

Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict

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.

“For solution of the problem, Armenia must withdraw from the occupied territories as soon as possible, and it must quickly evacuate the mercenaries and terrorists it has brought there,” Akar said.

We cannot anticipate Azerbaijani forces stopping their activities in the conflict zone until the Armenian occupation ends."

Underlining that this June and July Armenia stepped up its attacks on civilians, Akar said those attacks are “not acceptable.”

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.