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Turkey rejects 'superficial' Caucasus ceasefire calls

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to the media after attending Friday prayers in Istanbul, Turkey, August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey rejected “superficial” demands for a ceasefire on Saturday in the South Caucasus, where it backs Azerbaijan, after a week of fierce fighting with ethnic Armenian forces in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

While Russia, the United States and France have called for an end to hostilities, regional power Turkey has staunchly supported the Azeris and has repeated that what it called Armenian “occupiers” must withdraw.

Armenia said on Friday it would work with the three big powers toward a ceasefire. But Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said they should have no role in peacemaking and on Saturday said Ankara backs the “oppressed” in the South Caucasus.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told Italian newspaper La Stampa that Russia could play an intermediating role in a ceasefire “only if it is neutral”.

“Superficial demands for an immediate end to hostilities and a permanent ceasefire will not be useful this time,” he was quoted as saying by Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency.

Moscow has a defence pact with Armenia, but also good relations with Azerbaijan.

Nagorno-Karabakh, where ethnic Armenians are the vast majority, said on Saturday that 51 more service personnel had been killed in the war with Azerbaijan, a sharp rise in the death toll from a week of fierce fighting.

Reporting by Jonathan Spicer and Irem Koca, Editing by Louise Heavens and Alexander Smith

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