Armenia and Turkey begin Talks today to Normalize Relations
Envoys from Turkey and Armenia will hold the first round of talks in Moscow today, aimed at normalizing relations between the two countries, Reuters reports. Armenia hopes the talks will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of borders after decades of hostility.
Turkey and Armenia have not maintained diplomatic and trade ties for three decades. Today's talks are the first attempt to re-establish contacts under the 2009 peace agreement, which was never ratified and relations between the two countries remained strained.
The two neighboring countries have differences on a number of issues, most notably the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
According to Armenia, the events of 1915 constituted genocide. Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes during World War I, but disputes their numbers and denies that the killings were systematically organized and genocidal.
During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020, Ankara supported Azerbaijan and accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying Azerbaijani territory. Following the conflict, Turkey began calling for rapprochement, seeking stronger influence in the region, Reuters reported.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said yesterday that Yerevan expects the talks to lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of borders that have been closed since 1993.
Due to the closed borders, Turkey and Armenia do not have direct trade routes between them. Indirect trade has been growing slightly since 2013, but was only $ 3.8 million in 2021, according to official Turkish figures.
According to Thomas de Vaal of the Carnegie Europe Center, opening borders and restoring rail links between Turkey and Armenia will have economic benefits for Yerevan, and the route could be used by traders from Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last year that the two countries would also launch charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan during the rapprochement, but added that Ankara would co-ordinate with Azerbaijan. The flights are expected to start in early February.
The United States, home to a large Armenian diaspora, strongly supports the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. Last year, Washington angered Ankara by recognizing the events of 1915 as genocide. Despite strong US support, analysts do not expect the talks to be easy.
Yesterday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Armenia must establish good relations with Azerbaijan before efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia bear fruit.
According to Emre Peker of the London-based Eurasia Group, today's talks are likely to lay the groundwork for further talks in the coming months. "A comprehensive and long-term agreement will be difficult, given the multilateral nature of the talks and domestic political constraints on both sides," said Peker, who said the "key" was Russia, which mediates the Nagorno-Karabakh agreement and is a main player in the region. According to Packer, the biggest challenge will be the issue of reconciliation with history.
The fate of the talks will depend on Armenia's ability to accurately assess its ambitions, Emre Peker said.
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