Armenia’s humiliating military defeat may open door to normalise relations with Turkey
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hailed the gradual normalisation of bilateral ties with Armenia, three decades since the border closed.
The strongman president was speaking after Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Yerevan had received friendly signals from Turkey about establishing peace.
“We will evaluate these gestures and respond to positive signals with positive signals,” the recently re-elected premier said.
On August 18, Pashinyan was quoted saying: “We were in the past also ready to improve relations with Turkey without any precondition, and we are now ready too to create a mutual confidence between Ankara and Yerevan and continue our relations without preconditions.”
Pashinyan’s domestic popularity fell after the heavy defeat to Azerbaijan in last year’s brief war. The triumphant Azeri armed forces were bolstered by Turkish drone technology during the 44-day war in the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, which started on September 27, 2020.
Armenia is keen to reduce its economic and trade isolation and Turkey’s economy is also waning and the lira remains weak, meaning there are incentives on both sides to work towards improved relations.
Analysts have said both countries stand to benefit economically from a normalisation of diplomatic ties, while also potentially improving relations between Azerbaijan and Russia.
The region needs new, constructive approaches, Erdogan said.
He urged the Yerevan administration to acknowledge reality and take advantage of the opportunities created by Azerbaijan’s seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia.
“If Armenia moves in line with this, Turkey will also act accordingly,” Erdogan said.
The president recently told foreign ambassadors to Turkey: “After the recent Karabakh war, new opportunities have been created for progress in that direction. We have already stated that if Armenia responds positively to these opportunities, we will take the necessary steps [to reopen diplomatic relations].”
During the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as Azerbaijan’s territory, and seven adjacent regions, prompting a wave of international condemnation.
The Turkey-Armenia border has been closed by Ankara since 1993 because of the war with Azerbaijan, Turkey’s main Caucasus ally.
Since then, Armenia has largely been in favour of reopening the border, while Turkey has insisted the Yerevan authorities hand Nagorno-Karabakh back to Azerbaijan. Armenia currently has closed borders with two of its four bordering countries and Turkey has limited access to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Reopening the Turkish-Armenian border would be expected to stimulate trade and tourism in the region. The Turkish border province of Kars has seen its economy contract since the early 1990s, with its population shrinking from 662,000 in 1990 to 285,000 last year.
Eastern Turkey will be hoping to attract Armenian visitors. Picture credit: Pixabay