Turkey and Armenia hold first talks to establish diplomatic ties and reopen border
A 2009 peace accord between the countries was never ratified and the 1915 slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire remains highly contentious.
Armenia and much of the international community call the mass killings a genocide while Turkey disputes the death toll and denies the killings were systematically organised or that they constitute a genocide.
Turkish drones were pivotal in Azerbaijan’s rapid victory during the September 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Turkey has accused Armenian forces of occupying Azerbaijan’s territory since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Armenia’s foreign ministry expects the Moscow talks between special envoys – former Turkish ambassador to the US Serdar Kilic and Armenia’s deputy parliament speaker Ruben Rubinyan – to begin the process of establishing diplomatic relations and opening the border, according to Russia’s state-controlled Tass news agency.
Turkey and Armenia have no direct trade routes with some goods passing through Georgia.
Armenia’s Economy Ministry announced at the end of the last year that it was lifting an embargo on Turkish imports imposed during the devastating 44-day war with Azerbaijan.
The 2020 conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire under which Armenia ceded to Azerbaijan territory it had controlled since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Bilateral trade could also open a route to traders from Russia, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan.
Charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan are due to begin in early February.
The European Union called Friday’s Moscow meeting “an important step forward”.
“Any further concrete steps towards the normalisation of relations would be good news for regional stability and prospects for reconciliation and economic development,” a statement from Brussels said.
Emre Peker of the Eurasia Group said Russian influence was vital if the talks were to succeed.
“Talks are likely to pave the way for more discussions in the coming months. But delivering a comprehensive, long-term pact will prove difficult due to the multifaceted nature of the talks and domestic political constraints in both countries. The bigger challenge will come from the question of historic reconciliation,” the analyst said.
The border on the Turkish side. A deal could open the area up to tourism. Picture credit: Wikimedia