Turkish, Armenian envoys meet in bid to end chilly relations

MOSCOW (AP) — Special envoys from Turkey and Armenia are scheduled to hold a first round of meetings in Moscow on Friday in a bid to end decades of bitterness between their countries and establish diplomatic relations.

Although Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the two neighbors share a bitter relationship and have no diplomatic relations.

The two countries hope the talks will bolster peace efforts for the Caucasus region and lead to the reopening of their border to encourage trade and strengthen economic ties. Charter flights between Yerevan and Istanbul are expected to resume next month.

Serdar Kilic, Turkey’s former ambassador to the United States, represents Ankara in the talks, while Armenia has appointed its deputy speaker of parliament, Ruben Rubinyan.

This is the second attempt to reconcile regional enemies.

Turkey and Armenia reached an agreement in 2009 to establish formal relations and open their common border, but the agreement was never ratified due to strong opposition from Azerbaijan.

This time, however, reconciliation efforts have Azerbaijan’s blessing. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara would “coordinate” the normalization process with Azerbaijan.

Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of solidarity with Baku, which was locked in a dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In 2020, Turkey strongly supported Azerbaijan in the six-week conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended in a Russian-brokered peace deal that allowed Azerbaijan to take control of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey and Armenia also have a century-old hostility to the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in the massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 in Ottoman Turkey.

Historians widely consider the event a genocide. Turkey vehemently rejects the label, admitting many died during this time, but insisting the death toll is inflated and the deaths resulted from civil unrest.

Last year, US President Joe Biden officially recognized the killings as genocide, joining several other countries that have already done so.

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Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

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