"Turkey will not improve relations with Armenia at the expense of Azerbaijan's interests." Opinion
Armenian media are discussing information that by the end of this year direct air cargo transport between Turkey and Armenia may begin, as reported by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News, citing Turkish officials who wished to remain anonymous.
Official Yerevan did not report on this. The latest information regarding the Armenian-Turkish negotiation process is about the meeting of “technical delegations” held last month. The press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry said that its participants discussed “technical issues related to the implementation of previously reached agreements.”
According to Turkologist Mushegh Khudaverdyan, similar statements from Turkey will be made in the future, but Ankara will not take practical steps to normalize relations with Armenia. They should not be expected until the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are resolved.
The Hurriyet Daily News published information that the “second stage” of the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations has begun, and that “by the end of the year,Turkey and Armenia can start direct air transportation of goods.” Although the Turkish publication cited anonymous sources, this report was immediately published by Armenian media.
According to the newspaper, the “second stage” of the resolution involves the opening of the Alijan-Margara border checkpoint which has not been operating since 1993. To do this, it is necessary to repair a 128-meter bridge connecting the two banks of the Araks River. The publication says that negotiations to repair the bridge began a few weeks ago.
Moreover, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet spoke about the next, “third stage” of the resolution, i.e. “carrying out technical work” to start direct trade between the two countries.
“Issues on unblocking the border were discussed”
Armenian-Turkish “technical delegations” met in early November. Neither Yerevan nor Ankara made official statements on the matter. Ruben Rubinyan, the special representative of Armenia in the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations, said that concrete work had begun and “issues related to the unblocking of the Armenian-Turkish border were discussed.”
At the end of last month, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin reported on “positive progress” in the process of normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations. He said the participants of the November meeting had visited both sides of the border and even had lunch on the territory of Armenia.
“We discussed the work that will be carried out during the opening of borders, the repair of bridges, border control, the issues of the work of checkpoints,” Kalyn said.
The press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry said that during this meeting “technical issues related to the implementation of the agreements” were discussed. Vahan Hunanyan also said that the discussions would continue, but did not specify where and in what format.
It is known that the Armenian delegation included representatives of various government departments, but the Armenian Foreign Ministry did not disclose their names.
Another process of normalization of relations between Yerevan and Ankara began after the 44-day war in 2020. During this time, four meetings of special representatives of Armenia and Turkey took place. The first meeting between Ruben Rubinyan and Serdar Kılıç took place in Moscow, the rest in Vienna.
During the last meeting, the parties agreed
- “to ensure the possibility of crossing the Armenian-Turkish land border for citizens of third countries,
- start direct air transportation of goods between Armenia and Turkey”
However, there has been no official information on progress in the implementation of these agreements.
According to Turkologist Mushegh Khudaverdyan, reports similar to the the one in Hurriyet may still come from Turkey, but Ankara will not yet take practical steps. He believes that Armenian-Turkish relations will “fully intensify” only after Armenian-Azerbaijani relations are resolved.
“When a peace document is signed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, only then it will be possible to talk about the improvement of Armenian-Turkish relations,” he told JAMnews.
Khudaverdyan recalls that a few months ago an agreement was reached on opening the border for third-country nationals, but so far nothing has happened, and the only result of the normalization process is direct Yerevan-Istanbul flights, though they were carried out even before the 2020 war.
According to Khudaverdyan, at the moment the situation is uncertain:
“We do not know anything about the course of negotiations, the parties publish only short official messages without any detail.”
According to Khudaverdyan, the Armenian-Turkish process is hampered by those issues on which Armenia and Azerbaijan cannot agree, in particular
- demarcation and delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border,
- Azerbaijan’s demand to provide the “Zangezur corridor”, that is, the road that Armenia will not control,
“There are many unresolved issues. Without their decision, Turkey will not make any concessions, will never subordinate the interests of Azerbaijan to the interests of Armenia,” Khudaverdyan believes.