Turkey anticipates opening of borders with Armenia
After a 13-year break, negotiations began between Turkey and Armenia on the normalization of relations between the two countries. According to the newly reached agreement, negotiations will continue without preconditions. The majority of the population of Turkey is positive about the normalization process and many are looking forward to the opening of the borders with Armenia.
Economic ties between Turkey and Armenia
Despite the fact that Turkey closed the border with Armenia in 1993 due to the first Karabakh war, trade relations between the two countries did not stop. Trade was carried out through the territory of Georgia.
According to the State Statistics Office of Turkey, the volume of trade with Armenia reached its peak in 2020 and amounted to 4.2 million US dollars. In 2021, despite the ban on the import of Turkish goods to Armenia, trade between the countries was made in the amount of $3.8 million.
Expert commentary: Not everything is as simple as it seems
According to Emre Peker, a London-based expert of the Eurasia Group (a political consulting structure headquartered in the United States) of Turkish origin, in the process of establishing relations between Armenia and Turkey, the leading role belongs to Moscow.
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It is no coincidence that the first meeting of representatives of the two countries took place in the capital of Russia, the specialist emphasizes.
Peker is sure that the parties should focus their attention on the issues, which are able to give immediate results, and not delve into topics that are painfully perceived both in Armenia and in Turkey.
The expert expressed confidence that contacts will continue in the coming months, but not everything is so simple. “It is difficult to imagine that the agreements reached will be durable. There are many reasons for this – and the first of them is the tense internal political situation in both countries. If the topic of conversation touches on historical issues, then it will be difficult for the parties to agree on something”, said Emre Peker.
What is the opinion of ordinary citizens in Turkey?
Unlike politicians and experts, ordinary citizens in Turkey generally have a positive attitude towards the process of establishing relations with a neighboring country. This is evidenced by the results of a survey conducted by the publication Gündem Ortadoğu.
According to the results of the study, 67% of respondents are positive about the beginning of the process of normalizing relations with Armenia, 13% have not decided on their opinion on this issue, and 20% of respondents prefer to leave everything as it was.
“We are looking forward to opening the borders with Armenia”
Akyaka is a village in the Turkish province of Kars, where the railway station, inactive since 1993, is located. This station is the closest to Armenia. In an hour by train, one can reach the territory of a neighboring country. But for 28 years now, trains have stopped running on this route.
“Every day in the morning and in the evening a train from Armenia arrived here. Families from a neighboring country went here, or continued their journey to Kars. They would buy goods here, and on the next train they would return home.
The Turks living here did the same. We went to Armenia, bought the necessary goods and returned home. Trade was very lively. But after Armenia invaded the territory of fraternal Azerbaijan, the borders were closed”, recalls the writer Vedat Akchayoz.
According to local residents, the population of the village of Akyaka has significantly decreased after the closure of the border with Armenia. Engin Yildirim, head of the trade union of local entrepreneurs, spoke about the reasons:
“There are 27 villages besides this one. In 1993, 17,000-18,000 people lived here. At present, the population has decreased to 10,000. In other words, the population decline is 70-80%.
There is only one reason: this is the end point of Turkey. After the closure of the border with Armenia, the village turned into a “black hole”. There is no investment, it is impossible to go anywhere from here. Now, if the border opens, the village will immediately revive”.
“There are railway and motor roads leading to Armenia. But we cannot trade with them, because the border is closed. The resolution of the Karabakh issue gave us hope. We are anxiously waiting for the results of negotiations with Armenia”, says Ghaffar Demir, owner of a hotel in the village of Akyaka.
“Who does not want to develop trade, increase profits? I really want it. Let them come, buy from us, and we will go and shop there.
We also trade with European countries, and this country is very close. Just an hour away. Imagine an hour on the train and you are already there. I would leave in the morning and come back in the evening”, says Hussein Kanyk, a cheese producer from Kars, who is also anticipating of the opening of the border.
Journalists, as always, have more data. According to the owner of the local Serhat TV, Alijan Alibeyoglu, the population is waiting for the opening of roads linking Turkey with Armenia:
“Before the start of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020, we conducted a survey among the local population. At that time, the absolute majority supported the decision to close the border.
But with the resolution of the Karabakh issue, the ratio changed dramatically. Now almost everyone is looking forward to positive decisions from the bilateral talks between the special representatives of Turkey and Armenia”.
“Currently, there are no official diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia. But as soon as the diplomats come to an agreement, our delegation will visit Armenia.
All importers of products from our region will go to Yerevan together. And I hope that the resumption of trade relations will take a very short time. This is my dream. We are waiting for positive decisions”, said Ethem Tanriver, head of the East Anadolu Importers Association.