The agendas for the next meeting were set: there was no better result for the first meeting between the official representatives of Turkey and Armenia, which took place in Moscow on Friday. However, it was a historic encounter after three decades of animosity. The two countries say they aim to “normalize relations”.
The rapprochement is also the thousandth transformation in a row in the Turkish government’s foreign policy. For a year and a half, Turkey has been experiencing conflicts with almost every country in the region, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and from Israel to Iraq. At the beginning of last year, Ankara realized that this was no longer the case. Since then, Turkey has calmed down disagreements one by one.
Armenia can now be put on hold. The two countries appointed envoys to end the coldness in the relationship. Senior Turkish diplomat Serdar Kılıç and Deputy Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Rubin Rubinyan started on Friday. The two sides said the talks took place in a “positive and constructive atmosphere.”
The neighboring countries have been at odds for nearly thirty years. Turkey rushed to recognize the new state of Armenia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but diplomatic relations were never achieved. In 1993, a war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and Turkey sided with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijanis belong to the Turkic peoples. The border between Armenia and Turkey was closed, trade stopped.
Turkey once again showed itself to be an ally of Azerbaijan when it clashed again with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Thanks to the help of the Turkish army, which deployed a lot of drones, the Azerbaijanis won. They have recaptured a large part of the disputed area.
Although the Turks and Armenians have decided to put this incident behind them, the relationship between the two countries is hung on a much larger shock: the trauma of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The two sides will never agree on its dating. Even the term “genocide” is taboo for Turks.
However, this does not prevent the two governments from taking concrete steps. It was announced late last year that air traffic between Yerevan and Istanbul would resume in February after a three-decade hiatus. Armenia says it expects to open land borders and establish diplomatic relations.
Quarrel over refugees
The words “dissolution” and “normalization” have recently become key words in Ankara’s foreign policy. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come a long way in this regard. Once, until about ten years ago, the official strategy was “zero problems” with neighbors, but the opposite turned out.
The lowest level was reached in 2020. With a string of Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, United Arab Emirates), Turkey has been at odds. In the Mediterranean, the Turkish navy has been on high alert due to the conflict with Greece and Cyprus over gas discoveries. Relations with the European Union were worse than ever after Erdogan threatened to open the “gates of Europe” to 4 million Syrian refugees. Turkey was arguing with the United States because it had bought a Russian anti-aircraft defense system.
But now, Erdogan has given a major role in the steering wheel. Sweet rolls are baked with everyone again. There is a constructive conversation with Egypt, Greece and Israel, and all this is a good thing with the Emirates, which were previously damaged. Political analyst Talha Kos stated in his column in the pro-government newspaper: Daily morning A turning point in foreign policy.
Next month, Erdogan will take the next great step. He then pays an official visit to Saudi Arabia, the home of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered in October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul – to the anger of the Turks – by a special team. Hottest question: Will Erdogan shake hands with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, the man likely to have ordered the assassination?
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