Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire is right step, Erdogan tells Putin

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Turkish President Erdogan speaks during a ceremony in Ankara
Turkish President Erdogan speaks during a ceremony in Ankara

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement was the right step towards a lasting solution, the Turkish presidency said on Tuesday.

Russian peacekeeping troops deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday under a deal that halted six weeks of fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces and froze territorial gains by Azerbaijan.

Turkey is a close ally of Azerbaijan.

Erdogan told Putin that Turkey would set up a centre to observe the ceasefire along with Russia, in a location "in the lands liberated from Armenian occupation", determined by Azerbaijan.

He also expressed the importance of opening a corridor between Azerbaijan and Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan for Azeris to return to Karabakh. Nakhchivan is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenia.

Azerbaijan, which had been trying to regain land lost during a war in the 1990s, hailed the deal as a victory.

Turkish arms supplies and diplomatic support helped give Azerbaijan the upper hand in the conflict. Russia, which has a defence pact with Armenia and a military base there, is likely to hail the deal as a sign it is still the main arbiter in the energy-producing South Caucasus.

(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Alison Williams and Peter Graff)