Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

The neighbors are at odds over several issues, most notably the 1915 massacres of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

Envoys from Turkey and Armenia will hold the first round of talks in Moscow on Friday aimed at normalizing ties, 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 had no diplomatic or commercial ties for 30 years and the talks are the first attempt to restore ties since a 2009 peace agreement. That agreement was never ratified and tensions remained tense.

The neighbors are at odds over several issues, most notably the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Armenia says the murders of 1915 constitutes a genocide. Turkey accepts 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 constituted a genocide.

During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ankara supports Azerbaijan and accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying Azeri territory. Turkey has begun calling for an approach to the conflict, as it has sought greater influence in the region.

Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Armenia’s foreign ministry on Thursday as saying Yerevan expects the latest talks to lead to the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of borders has closed since 1993.

With borders closed, 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 fellow at Carnegie Europe, said in November that the opening of borders and the refurbishment of railways between Turkey and Armenia would bring economic benefits to Yerevan, as the routes through traders from Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Iran and Azerbaijan can be used.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last year that the two countries would also start charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan under the approach, but that Turkey would coordinate all steps with Azerbaijan.

The flights will start in early February.

No easy breakthrough

Despite strong support for normalization of the United States, which houses a large Armenian diaspora and angered Turkey last year by calls the murders in 1915 a genocide, analysts say the talks will be complicated.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Armenia must form good ties with Azerbaijan for the normalization effort to deliver results.

Emre Peker, a London-based director at Eurasia Group, said a cautious approach focusing on fast deliveries on both sides was expected due to the old sensitivities, and added the role of Russia, which mediated the Nagorno-Karabakh Armistice and is the dominant actor in the region, will be the key.

“Talks will probably pave the way for more discussions in the coming months. But delivering a comprehensive, long-term treaty will be difficult due to the multifaceted nature of the talks and domestic political constraints in both countries, ”he said.

“The bigger challenge will come from the issue of historical reconciliation.”

The fate of talks will depend on “Ankara’s recognition that he must make his ambitions the right size,” he said.

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