Armenian, Turkish foreign ministers meet amid efforts to normalise ties
The first meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey took place. Negotiations between Ararat Mirzoyan and Mevlut Cavusoglu were held within the framework of a diplomatic forum in Antalya. As the Armenian minister said at the end of the meeting, the parties confirmed their readiness to continue the process of normalizing relations without any preconditions. This refers to the ongoing efforts to establish diplomatic relations between the countries and opening borders. The Turkish Foreign Minister praised the talks as “extremely effective and constructive”.
In 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, Turkey de facto recognized Armenia, but still refuses to establish diplomatic relations. Since 1993, Turkey has unilaterally closed its air and land borders with Armenia. Through the efforts of the world community, the air border was opened in 1995, but the land border remains closed.
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“Normalization is necessary for the whole region”
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, both ministers confirmed their readiness to establish good neighborly relations without preconditions.
After the Karabakh war in the early 1990s, Turkey put forward a number of preconditions for opening the land border and establishing diplomatic relations. One of them was the return of the areas of the unrecognised NKR under the control of Azerbaijan. This condition is no longer valid, since these territories are already under the control of Azerbaijan as a result of the second Karabakh war in 2020.
Turkey’s other condition has always been the rejection of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. This refers to the massacre in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. Prior to that, about two and a half million Armenians lived in the territory of the Ottoman Empire. As a result of the killings and mass deportation, more than half of them died. Armenia, several Western countries and international organizations officially recognize these events as genocide. Turkey categorically rejects such a formulation.
During the meeting, Mirzoyan and Cavusoglu “agreed that normalization is necessary for the entire region”. In this regard, both ministers expressed readiness to support the work of the special representatives of the two countries, who are entrusted with negotiations on the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations.
In an interview with journalists after the meeting, the Armenian Foreign Minister said that he hoped for positive results in the Armenian-Turkish talks in the near future.
In December 2021, Yerevan and Ankara announced their readiness to take steps to normalize relations. Ankara has appointed former Turkish Ambassador to Washington Serdar Kilic as a special representative. Armenia is represented by Vice Speaker of the Parliament Ruben Rubinyan. Two meetings of Rubinyan-Kylych have already taken place – on January 14 in Moscow and on February 24 in Vienna.
“I am glad to see that all the peoples and states of the region are trying to build peace and stability. I want to say that Armenia is ready to establish peace in the region”, Mirzoyan said during a joint briefing with Cavusoglu.
The Turkish Foreign Minister said that he considers the meeting productive and constructive. At the same time, he stressed that Azerbaijan also has a positive attitude towards the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations:
“Recently I was in Baku. Azerbaijan also supports this process. Peace and stability in the region is in the interests of all. We will continue our efforts in this direction”.
Armenia took a long time to decide on participation
Discussions regarding the participation in the diplomatic forum of Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and Special Representative for the Normalization of Relations with Turkey Ruben Rubinyan continued for more than a month.
At the end of January, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the possible participation of Mirzoyan and Rubinyan in the forum in Antalya, which was scheduled for March 11-13. As a result, the special representative from Armenia did not go to Turkey.
The participation of Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan was confirmed by the Armenian Foreign Ministry only on March 7.
In early February, Mirzoyan stated from the rostrum of the parliament that the decision to participate in the forum “will largely depend on the results of the meeting on February 24 in Vienna”. He was referring to the second meeting of the special representatives of Armenia and Turkey.
A day after the confirmation of the participation of the Armenian minister in the forum, official Ankara welcomed this decision. On the page of the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Twitter, a statement was published by the press secretary of the department:
“Such reciprocal steps will contribute to the expansion of dialogue between the two countries, as well as the discussion of steps aimed at building confidence for a full-fledged settlement”.
Diplomatic forum in Antalya
The diplomatic forum is being held in Turkey for the second time at the initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The second forum is held under the title “New Diplomacy: New Time, New Views”.
Among the guests of honor of the event are the secretaries general of NATO and the Council of Europe, as well as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In general, more than 2,000 people take part in it. These are diplomats, politicians, representatives of international organizations, scientists and businessmen.
The topic of discussion was “Recoding Diplomacy”. The agenda included issues of regional and global importance: the fight against terrorism, climate change, food and energy security, artificial intelligence, and the fight against discrimination.
Political scientist Areg Kochinyan believes that one should not place great hopes on one meeting of ministers. However, in his opinion, the visit of the Armenian Foreign Minister to Antalya should be considered as an important link in the process of normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations in general.
“The normalization process itself is the most important post-war initiative [he is talking about the second Karabakh war in 2020]. He can change the difficult situation in which Armenia finds itself”, the political scientist emphasized in an interview with JAMnews.
Moreover, according to the expert, it is naive to believe that Armenia will be able to normalize relations with Turkey without normalizing them with Azerbaijan first:
“Turkey will strive for a package solution, that is, it will strive to ensure that the Armenian-Turkish and Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are improved in parallel and at the same speed, and at the same time will link one to the other”.
The normalization of relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan, according to the political scientist, should be seen as an opportunity for Armenia:
“These are the most important problems for the statehood of Armenia at the moment. These are opportunities that will pave the way for the preservation of our statehood. Otherwise, our statehood will be under threat in the medium term”.
At the same time, the expert believes that Armenia needs more normalization of relations than Turkey or Azerbaijan.
Since the beginning of the negotiations, the Armenian society has been discussing the issue, which means the more than once repeated formulation of “normalization of relations without preconditions”. Does this statement suggest that Armenia has presented its “red lines” in the negotiations? This, in particular, is about the international recognition of the Armenian genocide, the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Political scientist Areg Kochinyan believes that Armenia cannot include in its “red lines” what it cannot influence:
“During the 44-day war, Azerbaijan, at least, achieved that there are no more armed forces of the Republic of Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. And this means that Armenia has almost zero impact on the future political status of Artsakh.
As for the international recognition of the Armenian genocide, I don’t think Turkey will put forward a demand to renounce it. The driving force behind this process is not Armenia, but the Armenian Diaspora abroad”.
Previous normalization attempt failed
Ararat Mirzoyan became the first high-ranking Armenian official to visit Turkey in more than 10 years. Prior to him, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan visited Turkey, who at that time came up with the initiative to normalize relations with Turkey. The process he started in 2008 was called “football diplomacy”.
First, at the invitation of Serzh Sargsyan, Turkish President Abdullah Gul arrived in Armenia. Together with the President of Armenia, they watched a football match between the national teams of the two countries. Then, in 2009, the Armenian president went to Turkey, where the match between the teams was again held.
The result of “football diplomacy” was the so-called Zurich Protocols, signed in 2009 by foreign ministers. These were protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations and on the principles of mutual relations. However, the documents were not ratified by the parties.
In December 2009, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Ankara would not ratify the protocols until the Karabakh conflict was resolved. In the Turkish parliament, the process of ratifying the document was frozen. In response, the Armenian side stated that the protocols should have been signed without preconditions, and on April 22, 2010, it was decided to suspend the process of ratifying the protocols.
Five years later, the President of Armenia withdrew the Armenian-Turkish protocols from the National Assembly. And on March 1, 2018, Armenia announced their annulment.