Turkey-Armenia talks not about reconciliation, says business association chief

Turkey’s renewal of talks with Armenia is centered on achieving normalisation, not reconciliation, said Vice Chairperson Noyan Soyak of the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council (TABDC).

In an interview with the state-run Anadolu agency on Sunday, Soyak said that the talks could produce benefits that extended beyond the two countries themselves. With the end of the second war over Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in November 2020, Soyak says that the ground has been laid to secure more peace in the South Caucasus that will be to the benefit of neighbours like Russia.

"Having its regional disputes with Georgia in the Caucasus and Ukraine in the southwest – probably Russia wouldn't like to have another continuing conflict in the rest of the South Caucasus, which might have further weakened Russia's influence in the region," Soyak said in the interview. 

Russia plays a grandiose role in Armenia in many ways," he added.

Russia and Armenia are military allies as members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and Russian forces stationed in Armenia currently help guard its borders with Turkey. However, Armenia’s confidence in Russia was shaken after it failed to stop Azerbaijan and Turkey from defeating its armies in the field during the Karabakh war. 

Ultimately, a Russian-backed treaty signed in November 2020 brought the worst fighting to a pause and it led to the deployment of 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to the region. Turkey was not a signatory to the deal, but its officers are stationed alongside Russia’s at a joint operations center that monitors the ceasefire. 

Soyak also suggested that Turkish-Armenian normalisation could help in the long-run defuse tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. 

"Some senior bureaucrats in Baku privately suggest that a Turkish-Armenian normalization might even help smooth their own postwar relations with Armenia by showing the benefits of shifting from a war footing to an everyone-wins focus on trade. Therefore, we can easily say that Baku's approach to the normalization process has diverted 180 degrees," he said.

Turkish and Armenian diplomats met for the first round of talks in Moscow on January 14 and they are scheduled for a second set in Vienna on February 24. As a first step to move the process along, charter flights between Yerevan and Istanbul were resumed last month after three years. It was also reported that Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan will pay a visit to Turkey at some point in March, the first such visit by a high ranking Armenian official in decades.

Turkey’s refusal to recognise the 1915 Armenian genocide has long been a stumbling block in creating healthier relations between the two neighbours. However, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has made clear that talks with Turkey are being done without any preconditions.

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