Armenia says Turkey has no reason to keep land border shut

Armenia said Turkey has no reason to keep a border between the two countries closed after a conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh ended in a ceasefire agreement.

The standoff in Nagorno-Karabakh has now been resolved through military means, Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian said in a Q&A session at the country’s parliament in Yerevan on Wednesday, according to Armenian-American newspaper Asberez.

“As you are aware, the blockade - the closure of the border - was the result of the Nagorno-Karabakh status quo, which has changed through a use of force,” he said. “Turkey therefore no longer has any reason to keep its border with Armenia closed.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a ceasefire deal in November to end last year’s military conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey, which sealed its border with Armenia in 1993, backed Azerbaijan with weapons and military know-how during the clashes, which lasted six weeks and killed thousands of combatants. Azerbaijan regained five cities and control of the entire Azerbaijan-Iran border.

Aivazian said an ongoing Turkish-Azeri military exercise in Turkey’s Kars region, adjacent to the border, which Ankara said was designed to “coordinate efforts during joint operations and to test new weapons” was a cause for concern.

Armenia has received certain diplomatic messages from Turkey, but the time had come for action, he said.

The European Union has said the re-opening of the land border would benefit the economies of the two countries and the wider region, including the South Caucasus, Russia, the Black Sea, Iran and Central Asia, and would help de-escalate ethnic pressures and promote de-militarisation.

Relations between Turkey and Armenia have been marred by the mass killing of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turks early last century and Armenia’s historical claims to land inside Turkey.