Despite being two neighboring countries, Turkey and Armenia have seen ups and downs in their diplomatic relations since Yerevan’s declaration of independence in 1991.
The two countries have long been divided by a series of issues – from Armenia’s refusal to recognize their common border, to its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the events of 1915 between the Ottoman Empire and the Armenians.
Bilateral relations, however, have recently taken on a new dimension towards normalization, with Turkish and Armenian special envoys due to meet in Moscow on January 14 to lead the dialogue between Ankara and Yeravan.
– History of relationships
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence on September 21, 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
He sent humanitarian aid to Armenia which was grappling with serious economic problems after declaring its independence and helped Yerevan integrate with regional organizations, the international community and Western institutions.
Turkey invited Armenia to Black Sea economic cooperation as a founding member.
However, bilateral relations deteriorated after Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory.
Turkey ended direct trade with Armenia in 1993 and the border between the two countries was closed.
– Football diplomacy
In 2005, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Prime Minister of Turkey, sent a letter to then Armenian President Robert Kocharyan and proposed to create a joint commission of historians to study the incidents of the Ottoman era of 1915.
Kocharyan, on the contrary, suggested a high-level political dialogue to normalize relations between the two countries.
Next, Turkish President Abdullah Gul congratulated his Armenian counterpart Serge Sarkissian on his victory in the 2008 election. In what has been called “football diplomacy,” Sargsyan invited Gul to a World Cup qualifier. 2008 between Turkey and Armenia in Yerevan.
Gul became the first Turkish president to visit Armenia after independence.
It was only a year later that the Armenian president traveled to Bursa province in northwestern Turkey to join Gul in the second leg of the World Cup qualifiers.
The high-level meetings continued when Erdogan and Sargsyan met in Washington on the sidelines of the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit.
– 2009 Zurich protocols
Turkey and Armenia signed two protocols for establishing diplomatic relations and improving bilateral relations on October 10, 2009 in Zurich, Switzerland, which constituted a “road map” for re-establishing bilateral relations.
According to the protocols, the measures would include the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border two months after the entry into force of the protocol. The two countries have also decided to create committees in several areas and at different levels.
The Armenian diaspora, the church and the country’s nationalist parties have reacted against the protocols.
Turkey sent the protocols to parliament for approval, while they were submitted to the Constitutional Court of Armenia.
Although the Armenian court ruled on January 12, 2010 that the protocols could be approved on constitutionality, it rejected one of the main premises of the protocols.
In the end, Sargsyan suspended the ratification process.
– Azerbaijan’s victory in Karabakh
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia carried out attacks against Azerbaijani soldiers and civilians for almost 30 years from the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its surroundings.
New clashes erupted on September 27, 2020, with the Armenian army attacking civilians and Azerbaijani forces and violating humanitarian ceasefire agreements.
During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several towns and villages occupied by Armenia.
A deal brokered by Russia ended the fighting on November 10, 2020.
Turkey has supported Azerbaijan since the start of the war, with Azerbaijani President Aliyev thanking his Turkish counterpart Erdogan at every opportunity.
– Towards standardization
After the Nagorno-Karabakh war, Turkish-Armenian relations entered a new phase, Erdogan declaring that Turkey is ready to dialogue with Armenia.
Addressing the Azerbaijani parliament on January 16, 2021, Erdogan said peace and stability in the Caucasus will benefit the whole world, not just countries in the region.
“Opening Turkey’s borders to Armenia will bring countless benefits to the country,” he added.
Armenia acknowledged the “positive signals” from the Turkish President, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declaring: “We will assess these gestures and respond to positive signals with positive signals.
Armenia has announced that it will lift its embargo on Turkish imports from January 2022.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s speech to the Turkish parliament on December 13 signaled that a new era has begun in Turkey-Armenia relations.
On December 15, Turkey appointed Serdar Kilic, former ambassador to the United States, as its special envoy to discuss steps towards normalization with Armenia. Three days later, Armenia appointed Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Ruben Rubinyan as its special envoy for dialogue with Turkey.