Meeting of Turkey and Armenia top diplomats a boost in relations

Turkey and Armenia have agreed to press ahead with efforts to establish diplomatic relations “without conditions” that could lead to reopening their borders for trade, their foreign ministers said on Saturday.

Ararat Mirzoyan met with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Çavuşoğlu on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum near the Turkish Mediterranean city of Antalya during a rare visit to Turkey.

Mirzoyan said he welcomed Turkey’s invitation to the forum “as a positive signal” for improved relations between the two countries with decades of bitterness and no diplomatic ties.

“I can say that it was a very productive and constructive meeting,” Çavuşoğlu said.

Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, shut down its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of solidarity with Baku, which was locked in a conflict with Yerevan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In 2020, Turkey strongly backed Azerbaijan in the six-week conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan gain control of a significant part of the region.

Until recently, there was a century of ongoing hostility between both nations after Ottoman Turkey carried out a genocide against Armenians in 1915 when an estimated 1.5 million were killed.

Turkey has neither admitted to the severity of the genocide nor the scale of its killings, saying only 300,000 died.

The two countries have appointed special representatives who have held two rounds of talks in Moscow and Vienna to improve ties.

Turkey and Armenia reached an agreement in 2009 to establish formal relations and to open their mutual border, but the deal was never ratified because of strong opposition from Azerbaijan.

This time around, however, Azerbaijan has given the nod for the reconciliation efforts, and Çavuşoğlu has said that Ankara would “coordinate” the normalisation process with Baku.

As a first step toward reconciliation, charter flights between Armenia’s capital Yerevan and Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul resumed earlier this year.