Turkey and Armenia take first step to establish relations

Turkey and Armenia will take a first step towards normalizing relations next Friday, with an exploratory meeting scheduled in Moscow between the two countries’ special representatives.

The expectation is high, given the history of disagreements between Armenians and their Muslim neighbors, particularly traumatic for the former. The border between the two countries has been closed for almost thirty years.

The Armenian diaspora in France and the United States demanded from the outset that Turkey recognize as genocide the massacres of Armenians perpetrated in 1915 by the Ottoman state and its Kurdish collaborators. A recognition that should be accompanied by compensation.

None of this will be accepted by any Turkish government, so the debate will be limited to issues that can improve living conditions.

To begin with, in neighboring Turkish provinces such as Kars, which since the border was closed in 1993 has lost half its population to the mirage of prosperity in 1991, when Turkey hastened to recognize the independence of Armenia. Soon after, Ankara closed the two border crossings again, in retaliation for the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azeri territories.

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However, in 2009, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan in power, Turkey and Armenia again came close to normalization, signing protocols that were never ratified.

However, once the main stumbling block was removed, with the victory of Azerbaijan in Karabakh – with the help of Turkey – fourteen months ago, the Turkish president considers that an opportunity has opened up for the entire Caucasus -including Iran, Georgia and Russia- to improve its connectivity.

He also gets into the reconciliation car that criss-crosses the region. The one who a month and a half ago took the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to Ankara or who next month will take Erdogan himself to Riyadh.

Although US President Joe Biden acknowledged the “Armenian Genocide” hours before he first called Erdogan, Washington also welcomes Armenia’s loosening of dependence on Russia and the United States. ‘Iran. While Turkey does not hide its interest in direct access to the Caspian Sea.

Currently, some of the region’s key infrastructure, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline (in Mediterranean Turkey), deliberately bypasses Armenia.

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Destroyed buildings in the center of Shusha, Nagorno-Karabakh, in an image from November 2021

Sandwiched between two enemies, its economic stagnation and its demographic decline seem irreversible if it does not improve its connection to the world and its exchanges with its main neighbor, 25 times larger.

Yerevan is also interested in access to Caspian ports and alternative communication routes to that of Georgia, which are subject to tension.

For its part, Iran, the other ally of Armenia – although with a common border reduced by the last war – is wary of the influence of Israel in Azerbaijan or Iraqi Kurdistan, along its borders. In this particular reel case, Israel maintains its sole Palestinian ambassador in Baku.

Azerbaijan, for its part, demands that the corridor through the Armenian territory agreed in the truce materialize, to connect with its Nakhchivan enclave and with Turkey. In the same way that Armenia maintains, under Russian protection, an umbilical cord with Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Caucasus has again become a crossroads. Three months ago, Yerevan welcomed an Indian foreign minister for the first time. Pakistani flags which, along with those of Turkey, flutter during parades in Baku, have sounded the alarm in New Delhi, giving new impetus to the Iran-Armenia-Georgia route as a gateway for Indian goods to India. Europe.

As part of the thaw, Turkey last month signaled the start of charter flights and that Turkish and Armenian airlines are offering regular connections between Yerevan and Istanbul, where some tens of thousands of Armenians still live.

Armenia has shown pragmatism by lifting the embargo on several Turkish products, in place for a year. In its Constitution, Yerevan can still claim a “Western Armenia”. But Mount Ararat is not going to change sides.

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