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Turkish, Armenian foreign ministers meet in bid to mend ties

March 12, 2022

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan met for the first official sit-down talks since 2009. Ankara and Yerevan have troubled history and no diplomatic relations.

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan (L) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on the sidelines of a forum in Antalya
Turkey and Armenia have recently allowed charter flights between the two countries as they inch towards reconciliationImage: Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry/AP/picture alliance

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he held "productive and constructive" talks with Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan on Saturday. The diplomatic forum in Turkey marks the first time foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia met for sit-down talks since 2009.

Cavusoglu told reporters that they were "making efforts for stability and peace."

Armenia's Mirzoyan echoed similar sentiments, saying "we are continuing the process of normalizing relations without preconditions… we are making efforts."

The meeting, which lasted for 30 minutes, was held in the southern Turkish city of Antalya.

Divided by a history of bloodshed

Turkey and Armenia are historically bitter rivals and share no diplomatic relations.

The main issue between the countries stem from the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman forces in 1915, during World War I.

Armenia calls it a genocide, and says 1.5 million Armenians were killed that year. Turkey has rejected the genocide label and has denied that it was systematically orchestrated. Ankara accepts that a large number of Armenians were killed, but says the numbers are exaggerated by Armenians and that Turks were killed as well. 

The German Parliament in 2016 recognized the killing of Armenians as constituting a genocide, as did the United States in 2021. A dozen other bodies and countries like the European Parliament, France and Canada recognize Ottoman killing of Armenians as genocide.

Additionally, normalization of ties between Turkey and Armenia have been hampered by fierce dispute between Turkey's ally Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought violence wars over the region in the late 1980s and 1990s, with tensions flaring most recently in 2020.

Nagorno-Karabakh: A new reality

Turkey allied with Armenia's rival Azerbaijan

Turkey cut diplomatic ties and shut its border with Armenia in 1993, in solidarity with all Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was at the time engaged in a conflict with Armenian separatists in Karabakh.

Azerbaijan is majority Muslim, while Armenia is majority Christian.

In 2009, Armenia and Turkey signed a landmark peace accord to restore ties and open borders, but the deal was never ratified amid pressure from Azerbaijan.

In 2020, during the bloody Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Ankara once again supported Azerbaijan and accused Yerevan of occupying Azeri territories.

A Russian-brokered truce that ended the conflict removed Turkey's main objection to talking to Armenia, which was Yerevan's support for the local Nagorno-Karabakh government's claim of independence from Azerbaijan.

The war also saw Azerbaijan restore control over large parts of its former province of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts.

Traces of conflict ‘line the road’ in Nagorno-Karabakh

The first commercial flights for two years between Turkey and Armenia resumed in early February, but the land border remains closed. 

rm/dj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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