Ambassadors from Turkey and Armenia will hold a first round of talks aimed at normalizing ties in Moscow on Friday, in a move that Armenia expects will lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of borders after decades of hostility.
Turkey and Armenia have not had diplomatic or commercial relations for three decades and the talks are the first attempt to restore relations since a 2009 peace agreement. That agreement was never ratified and ties have been strained.
Neighbors disagree on various issues, most notably the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
Armenia says the 1915 murders are a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but denies the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated or constituted genocide.
During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020, Ankara supported Azerbaijan and accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying Azerbaijani territory. Turkey began calling for a rapprochement after the conflict, as it sought greater influence in the region.
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Armenia’s foreign minister as saying on Thursday that Yerevan expected recent talks to lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of closed borders since 1993.
With closed borders, Turkey and Armenia have no direct trade routes. Indirect trade has increased marginally since 2013 but was only $ 3.8 million in 2021, according to official Turkish data.
Thomas de Waal, a senior colleague at Carnegie Europe, said in November that opening borders and renovating railways between Turkey and Armenia would have economic benefits for Yerevan, as the routes 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 launch charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan during the rapprochement, but that Turkey would coordinate all steps with Azerbaijan.
The flights will start in early February.
No easy breakthrough
Despite 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 have said the talks would be complicated.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Armenia must forge good ties with Azerbaijan for normalization efforts to pay off.
Emre Peker, a London-based director at Eurasia Group, said a cautious approach focusing on fast deliveries was expected on both sides due to the old sensitivity, adding to Russia’s role, which mediated the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh and is the dominant player in the region. , would be the key.
“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 policy constraints in both countries,” he said. “The bigger challenge comes from the issue of historic reconciliation.”
The fate of the negotiations would depend on “Ankara’s recognition that one must adjust one’s ambitions to the right size,” he said.