Yerevan and Ankara a détente of convenience rather than conviction
by Marta Ottaviani

The past few days have seen the first direct contact between the Turkish president and the Armenian prime minister. A phone call in a complex attempt to normalise diplomatic, and commercial, relations between the two countries. Baku and Moscow are interested spectators of the evolution of the framework. The resistance of the Armenian diaspora, which primarily wants recognition of the genocide. 


Milan (AsiaNews) - Turkey and Armenia are poised to trial run a technical detènte, more out of convenience than conviction, but which we could lead to the partial reopening of the border between the two countries. Two days ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a telephone conversation with the Armenian premier, Nikol Pashiyan. Officially the phone call officially was to exchanges wishes for Eid al-Adha, in Turkish Kurban Bayrami, the Feast of Sacrifice. Erdogan responded with greetings for Vardavar, the traditional 'water festival', also observed by the Muslim minority living in the country and to be held on 24 July. Recurrences aside, the phone call is part of a complex, and still ongoing, framework of normalisation of diplomatic, trade and tourism relations between the two countries.

The border between Turkey and Armenia has been closed since 1993, i.e. since the first war in Nagorno-Karabakh, where Turkey unhesitatingly took the side of Azerbaijan, which is linked to Ankara by cultural and religious reasons. Also weighing negatively on relations between the two countries is the Armenian genocide of 1915, which cost the lives of over a million people and which the Crescent has always stubbornly denied, denouncing, on the contrary, the death of thousands of Muslims at the hands of the 'rebel Armenians'. Lastly, Turkish military and logistical support to Baku during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020 seemed to have ruled out any possibility of reconciliation.

The Armenian-majority enclave in Azerbaijani territory, the scene of bloody conflicts, remains an unresolved knot and one of the hottest spots in the Caucasus. But Vladimir Putin wants a stable region and, above all, he is concerned about the political, economic and energy axis that Ankara is forming with Baku, so he welcomes the reconciliation between Erdogan and Pashiyan, which should lead on the Turkish side to the renunciation of a military presence in Azerbaijani territory (incompatible with the 'normalisation' of relations).

These, at least, are the hopes of the Kremlin camp. Ankara may be able to renounce having soldiers in the Caucasus (for the time being), but it will hardly change the orientation of a foreign policy increasingly aimed at creating zones of influence and where the Caucasus is an almost natural outlet. The reconciliation with Armenia could also be read in this way, and in that case it would not be good news for Russia. Yerevan is the side that has had to make the most concessions, especially on some territories in Nagorno-Karabakh, which are back under Azerbaijani control, for relations with Turkey to resume and for the country to stop suffering from the commercial isolation from which it has suffered since the 1990s and because of which it has created a double bond with Moscow.

Meanwhile, Ankara and Yerevan are beginning to take their first steps. A memorandum to be 'put into practice in the immediate future' was signed in Vienna on 1 July. On the Armenian side, the wish is for this to be implemented as soon as possible. In February, the first commercial flights between one side of the border and the other resumed and, two days ago, there was Erdogan's first direct contact with the Armenian premier.

According to Turkish newspapers, the two leaders emphasised the importance of improving relations between the two countries, thus contributing to peace and prosperity in the region. In the first phase, the border between Turkey and Armenia could only be opened to people from third countries who need to cross it for tourist purposes. It would seem that everything is going well, but above all Pashiyan is in trouble because of internal opposition and also resistance from the Armenian diaspora, for whom the recognition of the 1915 genocide is the conditio sine qua non for the resumption of any form of relations.