Are ties finally warming between Turkey and Armenia?
Turkey and Armenia could both benefit economically and geopolitically if the two countries follow up pledges on to unfreeze diplomatic relations, according to experts.
“It’s in Turkey’s interests to use normalisation with Armenia to gain a seat at the table with Russia for post-war regional configuration,” Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Center, a Yerevan-based think tank, told Al Jazeera.
Giragosian said that he expects the border between the two countries to reopen within a few years.
Turkey and Armenia have recently exchanged positive statements on restoring bilateral relations, which have been on hold for nearly three decades.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Friday that Yerevan will evaluate Turkey’s gestures for the establishment of peace in the region and respond to positive signals.
“Turkey can work toward gradually normalising relations with an Armenian government that states it is ready for such progress,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in response on Sunday.
“We need a constructive approach in our region. Even if there are disagreements, neighbourly relations should be developed on the basis of respect of territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said.
What has been seen so far is largely an exchange of positive statements, according to Giragosian.
“The only thing we see on the ground is that Armenia has allowed Turkish Airlines to fly to Baku directly over Armenia. This is important as a gesture as Turkish airspace remains closed to Armenian flights,” Giragosian told Al Jazeera.
“Now the burden is on Turkey. Pashinyan’s statements, however unpopular they may be in Armenia, are positive. So now the expectation is on Turkey to make a move.”
Diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia have been suspended since 1993 amid Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, in which Ankara sided with Baku.
Two bilateral protocols were signed between Turkey and Armenia in Zurich in 2009 aimed at normalising relations between the two countries. But the agreements were heavily criticised domestically in both countries and never ratified by either legislature.
Beyond historical controversies, Turkey’s political and military support for Azerbaijan during last year’s war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended in a victory for Baku, has also long been a factor.
This may now be changing, with the Moscow-brokered truce deal signed by Baku and Yerevan last November helping give way to a shift in policy between Turkey and Armenia, Daria Isachenko, research associate at the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), said.
“In the early 1990s, one of the core obstacles to relations was the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and strong opposition from Azerbaijan to any rapprochement between Ankara and Yerevan. With the status quo now changed after Armenia’s defeat, Azerbaijan does not object anymore,” she told to Al Jazeera.
Opening a transport corridor with Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijan exclave bordering Armenia and Iran, was also agreed under the truce, giving Turkey direct access to Azerbaijan without having to rely on land routes through Iran and Georgia.
“The Nakhichevan corridor is in the interests of Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Russia. However, in Armenia it is associated with risks. Yerevan’s statements on the readiness to normalise relations may signal the fact that they have little choice now but to concede,” Isachenko said.