Turkey and Armenia agree to second round of talks as flights resume

Turkey and Armenia agree to second round of talks as flights resume

Turkey and Armenia this week resumed commercial flights after two years as they move towards reestablishing bilateral relations.

Special envoys from the two countries will meet again on February 24 in Vienna, the Turkish foreign ministry said.

Armenia and Turkey share a closed border, have no diplomatic relations and face an impasse over the recognition of the slaughter of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, in what is widely recognised as a genocide.

In December both countries appointed special envoys to normalise ties with Russia’s backing.

Armenia has been pushed into talks by the disastrous 44-day war that started in September 2020 when Azerbaijan using Turkish combat drones were used to crush Armenian forces in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

A Russian-brokered ceasefire ended the one-sided war and forced the Armenian authorities to end support for the Nagorno-Karabakh administration’s claims of independence from Azerbaijan, which was Turkey’s main objection to talking to Armenia.

Half of Armenia’s citizens live in poverty, according to the World Bank, and improving trade on the western border could stimulate economic growth.

Talks were held in Moscow last month, although Turkey’s refusal to recognise the 1915-16 deaths of more than a million Armenians as genocide was not discussed.

Overlooking the capital, Yerevan, is a memorial to the victims of 1915-16.

The talks in January were the first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace agreement that was never ratified.

The January talks did agree to restart direct flights to Istanbul.

Almost all of the estimated 60,000 ethnically Armenian in Turkey live in Istanbul.

Flights ended when the budget Turkish carrier Atlasglobal went bust in February 2020, forcing passengers to pass through Georgia.

The land border closed in 1993 after the first war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing trade through Georgia or Iran.

Many Armenians are angry that Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is holding talks without Turkey recognising the 1915-16 genocide.

A Yerevan resident, who gave only the name Haïg, said: “Opening the borders is mostly for encouraging economic development. But building a more fraternal relationship, no, that’s out of the question. An Armenian proverb says, ‘If your enemy becomes your friend, you should still keep a stick in your hand.'”

Yerevan’s genocide memorial. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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