Despite being two neighboring countries, Turkiye and Armenia have seen ups and down in diplomatic relations since Yerevan’s declaring its independence in 1991.
The two countries have long been divided by a range of issues – from Armenia’s refusal to recognize their shared border to its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the 1915 events between the Ottoman Empire and Armenians.
The bilateral relations, however, have gained a new dimension towards normalization recently, with Turkish and Armenian special envoys scheduled to meet in Moscow on Jan. 14 to lead dialogue between Ankara and Yeravan.
History of relations
Turkiye was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence on Sept. 21, 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It sent humanitarian aid to Armenia that was struggling with serious economic problems after declaring its independence and helped Yerevan integrate with regional organizations, international community and the Western institutions.
Turkiye invited Armenia to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation as a founding member.
However, the bilateral relations deteriorated after Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory.
Turkiye ended direct trade with Armenia in 1993 and the border between the two countries was closed.
In 2005, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Turkish prime minister, sent a letter to the then Armenian President Robert Kocharyan and proposed establishing a joint commission of historians to study the Ottoman-era incidents of 1915.
Kocharyan, instead, suggested a high-level political dialogue to normalize relations between the two countries.
Then Turkish President Abdullah Gul congratulated Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan over his 2008 election victory. In what was called “football diplomacy,” Sargsyan invited Gul to a 2008 World Cup qualifier match between Turkiye and Armenia in Yerevan.
Gul became the first Turkish president to visit Armenia after its independence.
It was only after one year that the Armenian president paid a visit to Turkiye’s northwestern Bursa province to join Gul at the second leg of the World Cup qualifier.
High-level meetings continued when Erdogan and Sargsyan met in Washington on the sidelines of the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit.
2009 Zurich protocols
Turkiye and Armenia signed two protocols for the establishment of diplomatic ties and improvement of bilateral relations on Oct. 10, 2009 in Zurich, Switzerland, which were a “roadmap” for the re-establishment of bilateral ties.
According to the protocols, the steps would include the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border two months after the protocol went into effect. The two countries also decided to establish committees in several fields and at various levels.
Armenian diaspora, the church and the nationalist parties in the country reacted against the protocols.
Turkiye sent the protocols to parliament for the approval, while they were submitted to the Constitutional Court in Armenia.
Although the Armenian court ruled on Jan. 12, 2010 that the protocols could constitutionality be approved, it rejected one of the main premises of the protocols.
At the end, Sargsyan suspended the ratification process.
Azerbaijan’s Karabakh victory
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia carried out attacks on Azerbaijani soldiers and civilians for almost 30 years from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the surrounding area.
New clashes erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, with the Armenian army attacking civilians and Azerbaijani forces and violating humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and villages that were occupied by Armenia.
A Russian-brokered agreement ended the fighting on Nov. 10, 2020.
Turkiye has stood by Azerbaijan since the start of the war, with Azerbaijani President Aliyev thanking his Turkish counterpart Erdogan on every occasion.
Following the war over Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkish-Armenian relations have entered a new phase, with Erdogan saying Turkey is ready for dialogue with Armenia.
Addressing Azerbaijan’s parliament on Jan 16, 2021, Erdogan said peace and stability in the Caucasus will benefit the entire world, not just countries of the region.
“The opening of Turkiye’s borders to Armenia will bring innumerable benefits to the country,” he added.
Armenia has acknowledged “positive signals” from the Turkish president, with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan saying: “We will evaluate these gestures and respond to positive signals with positive signals.”
Armenia announced it would lift its embargo on Turkish imports as of January 2022.
Also Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s speech at the Turkish parliament on Dec. 13 signaled that a new era has begun in Turkiye-Armenia relations.
On Dec. 15, Turkiye appointed Serdar Kilic, a former ambassador to the US, as its special envoy to discuss steps towards normalization with Armenia. Three days later, Armenia named National Assembly Deputy Speaker Ruben Rubinyan as its special envoy for dialogue with Turkiye.
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