On Friday, envoys from Turkey and Armenia will meet in Moscow for the first round of negotiations aimed at normalising relations, which Armenia hopes would lead to the creation of diplomatic relations and the reopening of borders after decades of hostility.
The news: For three decades, Turkey and Armenia have had no diplomatic or trade connections, and the negotiations are the first attempt to re-establish ties since a 2009 peace agreement. That agreement was never approved, and relations between the two countries have remained strained.
- The two neighbours are at war over a number of problems, the most serious of which is the Ottoman Empire’s 1915 murder of 1.5 million Armenians.
- Armenia claims the killings in 1915 were genocide. Turkey acknowledges that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman soldiers during World War One, but disputes the figures and claims that the killings were planned and carried out in a systematic manner.
- Ankara supported Azerbaijan during the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis in 2020, accusing ethnic Armenian forces of seizing Azeri land. Following the fighting, Turkey began pressing for rapprochement in order to gain more power in the region.
What’s going on: Armenia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency, that Yerevan expects the latest negotiations to result in the creation of diplomatic relations and the opening of border crossings that have been blocked since 1993.
- Turkey and Armenia have no direct commercial routes now that their borders have been blocked. According to official Turkish data, indirect trade has increased somewhat since 2013, but is still only $3.8 million in 2021.
- In November, Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, argued that opening borders and refurbishing railways between Turkey and Armenia would benefit Yerevan economically since traders from Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Iran, and Azerbaijan could use the lines.
- Last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu indicated that as part of the rapprochement, the two nations will begin charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan, but that Turkey would coordinate all moves with Azerbaijan.
- Flights are expected to start in early February.
What they’re saying: Despite the United States’ strong support for normalisation, which has a substantial Armenian diaspora and outraged Turkey last year by declaring the 1915 killings a genocide, many have predicted that the negotiations will be difficult.
- President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey stated on Thursday that for the normalisation process to succeed, Armenia needed to have good relations with Azerbaijan.
Because of the past sensitivities, Emre Peker, a London-based director at Eurasia Group, expects both sides to take a cautious approach focused on speedy deliverables, adding that the role of Russia, which brokered the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire and is the region’s dominating power, will be crucial.
- “More conversations are anticipated to follow in the coming months as a result of the talks. However, given to the multifaceted nature of the talks and internal political restraints in both nations, reaching a comprehensive, long-term agreement will be challenging,” he said, adding “The issue of historic reconciliation will be the greater problem.”
- The outcome of the negotiations would be determined by “Ankara’s awareness that it needs to scale back its objectives,” he said.