Turkey, Armenia to hold talks in Moscow on normalization of relations

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Envoys from Turkey and Armenia will hold a first round of talks on Friday aimed at normalizing relations in Moscow, which Armenia says will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of borders after decades of animosity.

Turkey and Armenia have not had diplomatic or trade relations for three decades and the talks are the first attempt to restore ties since a 2009 peace deal. That deal was never ratified and ties have remained strained.

The neighbors disagree on various issues, primarily the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire.

Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute genocide. Turkey admits that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but disputes the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated or constitute genocide.

During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ankara supported Azerbaijan and accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying Azeri territory. Turkey began calling for a rapprochement after the conflict, as it sought greater influence in the region.

According to Russian news agency TASS, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Yerevan expects the latest talks to lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of borders that have been closed since 1993.

With closed borders, Turkey and Armenia have no direct trade routes. Indirect trade has increased slightly since 2013, but was only $3.8 million in 2021, according to official Turkish data.

Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, said in November that opening borders and renovating railways between Turkey and Armenia would have economic benefits for Yerevan, as the roads 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 start charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan as part of the rapprochement, but that Turkey would coordinate all steps with Azerbaijan.

Flights are expected to begin in early February.

No easy breakthroughDespite strong support for normalization from the United States, which hosts a large Armenian diaspora and angered Turkey last year by calling the 1915 killings a genocide, analysts said the talks would be complicated.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Armenia needed to establish good relations with Azerbaijan for the normalization effort to bear fruit.

Emre Peker, London-based director at Eurasia Group, said a cautious approach focused on quick deliverables was expected from both sides due to old sensitivities, adding the role of Russia, which brokered the ceasefire. of Nagorno-Karabakh and is the dominant player in the region, would be key.

“The talks will likely pave the way for further talks in the coming months. But reaching a long-term comprehensive pact will prove challenging due to the multifaceted nature of the talks and domestic political constraints in both countries,” did he declare. “The biggest challenge will come from the issue of historical reconciliation.”

The fate of the talks will depend on “Ankara’s recognition that it needs to scale its ambitions”, he said.

(Reuters)

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