Turkey and Armenia hold their first meeting in more than a decade in an attempt to normalize relations | International

Representatives of Armenia and Turkey met this Friday in Moscow to try to normalize relations between the two countries, in their first meeting since 2010. This first round of talks between two states without diplomatic relations aims to give the tone for the reopening of the border between Turkey and Armenia (which shares a border of about 300 kilometers), closed for three decades; something that could boost trade and transportation.

The meeting between the special representatives appointed by Armenia, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ruben Rubinyan, and Turkey, former Ambassador to the United States Sedar Kilic, took place “in a positive and constructive atmosphere”, as they agreed to point this out in separate statements. Those sent to Moscow were limited to sharing their “preliminary” ideas regarding the process, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement. However, Ankara and Yerevan remain determined to “continue negotiations without preconditions” and with a view to a “full normalization of relations”, indicates the Turkish note.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said it hopes the meeting in Moscow will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of borders closed since 1993. The meeting also consolidates the role of Russia – which also signed the ceasefire agreement between Yerevan and Baku in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war – as a mediator and its influence in the South Caucasus.

Despite the painful past they share – modern Armenia was founded as a refuge for thousands of Armenians who fled the genocide unleashed in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire – Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the current Republic of Armenia after its independence from the Soviet Union. Union in 1991. However, Ankara, which does not recognize the Armenian genocide, froze its relations and closed its border with Armenia two years later in solidarity with Azerbaijan, a country traditionally allied with Turkey because it shares many ties cultural and linguistic.

The Turkish blockade of Armenia occurred when, in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War (a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but populated mainly by Armenians and clamoring for independence), Armenian forces conquered Kelbajar, a province outside Karabakh, which caused a mass exodus of Azerbaijanis.

Later, in 2008, a diplomatic thaw occurred when World Cup qualifiers in South Africa saw Turkey and Armenia drawn in the same group. Then-Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited Yerevan and held meetings with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsián, which opened the door to a possible normalization of relations. However, the process foundered the following year under pressure from Azerbaijan, which made large investments in the Turkish energy sector and argued that before taking any opening steps, Armenia should return to Azerbaijan the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding provinces occupied during the conflict in the early 1990s.

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In the 2020 war, Azerbaijan partially regained control of Nagorno-Karabakh and fully of the surrounding Azerbaijani-majority provinces. From now on, Ankara considers that the obstacles to normalization between the two countries have been lifted. For now, the talks have a practical tinge, without getting into historical conflicts, like the Armenian Genocide.

If the reopening of the borders happens, Armenia could get economic benefits, since the roads could be used not only by Turkey, but also by Iran and even by Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Ankara believes that the thaw would benefit its economic opportunities in the Caucasus, including Armenia (the government in Yerevan recently lifted an embargo on Turkish products in protest against Turkish military support for Azerbaijan during of the last Karabakh war).

Furthermore, within the framework of the peace agreement between Yerevan and Baku, a railway corridor will be established which will connect Azerbaijan with its enclave of Nakhchivan (separated by the Armenian territory), which Turkey intends to use to establish routes direct communications to transport its goods to Central Asia. . At the same time, trade across the new border should improve the economic situation of eastern Turkey (the poorest in the country) and Armenia.

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