By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Neighbors Turkey and Armenia have announced that they will appoint special envoys on mending relations that have been strained for decades.
Yerevan and Ankara have never established formal diplomatic ties. Turkey, a key regional ally of Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan, has kept its border with Armenia closed since the 1990s, due to what it said was Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.
Tensions have simmered for years over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian region internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan that broke away from Baku’s control in the early 1990s.
In autumn 2020, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-week war over the disputed region, which claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Armenians ceded territories they had controlled for decades to Azerbaijan.
Amid continued border tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with sporadic deadly fighting taking place, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev are expected to meet later on December 14 in Brussels for talks hosted by European Council President Charles Michel.
Armenia is ready for the process of normalizing relations with Turkey “without preconditions,” Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vahan Hunanian said on December 14.
Hunanian confirmed that Yerevan will appoint a special representative in order to normalize relations with Turkey, a day after a similar announcement by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“We will respectively nominate with Armenia special representatives for normalization.” Cavusoglu told Turkish lawmakers, adding, “We will also start Yerevan-Istanbul charter flights in the coming period.”
Mainly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan amid a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Armenia and Turkey signed an accord in 2009 to normalize relations that would have led to the opening of their shared border, but the deal was not ratified.
Their relationship has also been strained by the World War I-era mass slaughter and deportation of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. Armenia insists the massacres amount to genocide, which Turkey vehemently rejects.