Turkey-Armenia normalization process: What to expect from the first meeting to be held in Moscow today?

Turkey Armenia normalization process What to expect from the first meeting

The special representatives appointed by Turkey and Armenia, Serdar Kılıç and Ruben Rubenyan, will hold their first meeting in Moscow today for the normalization of relations between the two countries. It is noted that the first meeting to be hosted by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will allow the special representatives and their delegations to meet and exchange views on how the process will be carried out. In the statement made by Armenia, the expectation of establishing diplomatic relations with Turkey as a result of the negotiations to be held “without preconditions” was expressed. Ankara and Yerevan are cautiously optimistic about the talks.

One of the most important results of the Nagorno-Karabakh War, which broke out in the autumn of 2020 between Azerbaijan and Armenia and ended with the victory of the Azeri army, was that it created a new window of opportunity for the normalization of relations between Ankara and Yerevan.

With the statements made after the end of the war, Turkey called on Armenia to be constructive in order to establish a new environment of peace and stability in the region. Armenia also gave the message that a new process could begin with Turkey, and this message took on more concrete expressions and steps after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan won the elections in 2021.

Turkey and Armenia announced that they have appointed special representatives to hold direct talks in December 2021 to normalize relations. Turkey announced Serdar Kılıç, an experienced diplomat who served as the Washington Ambassador between 2014 and 2021, and Ruben Rubenyan, who previously served as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Speaker of the Parliament in Armenia, as the special representative.

Russia host

Kilic and Rubenyan will hold their first meeting today in Moscow, hosted by Russia. The statements made from both capitals before the first meeting once again showed which elements the parties attach importance to.

In his speech to the European Union (EU) ambassadors, which he received on January 13, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “We entered a new era in the Caucasus with the liberation of Azerbaijan from occupation. After this development, we started the normalization process with Armenia. Expected results of the steps taken. It is important for Armenia to make good use of the opportunity for peace in the region and to establish a positive relationship with Azerbaijan,” he said.

Erdogan’s statement includes the message that a positive dialogue should be established between Yerevan and Baku and a comprehensive peace agreement should emerge in order to complete the normalization process that Turkey has begun to carry out with Armenia.

Turkey and Armenia signed two documents known as the Zurich Protocols in 2009, aimed at establishing diplomatic relations and developing political and economic relations, under the mediation of Switzerland, but the protocols were suspended due to Baku’s harsh reaction to Ankara. Turkey had previously declared that it would coordinate all stages of the process that started with Armenia in 2022 with Azerbaijan. In his last statement, Erdogan re-disclosed the link between the Turkey-Armenia process and the Azerbaijan-Armenia talks.

from Yerevan ‘**unconditional interview**’ emphasis

Armenian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Vahan Hunanyan noted that Yerevan’s main expectation is to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border, which has been closed since the 1990s.

One of the biggest criticisms leveled at the government in Armenia was that the process started with Turkey “without preconditions”. The Pashinyan administration has been criticized for sitting at the table with a Turkey that does not accept the 1915 events as genocide and does not apologize.

Spokesperson Vahan Hunanyan said that his country has the principle of establishing diplomatic contact with its international counterparts “without preconditions”, and that they apply it with Turkey as well. The spokesperson noted that Ankara also does not intend to put any preconditions on the table.

Hunanyan said, “Basically, this first meeting will be in the form of a courtesy visit. It is difficult to expect concrete results from a single meeting, but this meeting will start the process,” reflecting Yerevan’s view that the normalization process will take time.

Pashinyan had stated in his previous statements that normalization would not be an easy process, and that the parties would experience a long negotiation process.

Meeting format and logistical details will be discussed

The first meeting of Kılıç and Rubenyan will be held in Moscow, hosted by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Unlike in 2009, Turkey preferred to hold direct talks without a mediator, but did not respond negatively to Armenia’s offer to hold the first meeting in Moscow. Therefore, one of the important issues that the special representatives will address will be what role Russia will play in the next stages of the process and where the talks will continue.

Special representatives are envisaged to manage the normalization process with flexible delegations that can change according to the content and scope of the talks. In addition to the establishment of diplomatic relations, the opening of borders, the re-operation of railway and road transport lines and the establishment of commercial relations will also be among the important topics of the normalization process.

Special representatives are expected to discuss which topics to prioritize and in what timeframes, and to evaluate how the stages of the process will be announced to the public.

a difficult process

In the statements made from both Yerevan and Ankara, it is emphasized that if the special representatives bring the normalization process to a certain stage and submit it to the government, the issue will be evaluated by the highest political authorities. When asked about the possibility of meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said, “There is no such idea or agreement. However, if the negotiation process carried out with the participation of Mr. Rubinyan proceeds successfully and the process matures to this point, it will be done at the top and the highest level. A meeting at the highest level should follow,” he said.

Evaluations made in Ankara and Yerevan emphasize that the process will follow a difficult path and that there are both internal and external factors that the parties must overcome in order for relations to be fully normalized. The different interpretations of the 1915 events by the Turkish and Armenian communities and the fact that they have been in deep opposition for decades are seen as the most important difficulties of this process. It is envisaged that the parties will prefer to prioritize areas that are suitable for cooperation, such as economy, trade and transportation, rather than issues that they will not take a step back from.

Confidence building measures

The parties also put some confidence-building measures on the agenda before the Moscow talks so that the normalization process can start in a healthier environment and gain the support of both communities. It has been announced that Istanbul-Yerevan charter flights will be launched as of February 2, announced by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in December, and that Pegasus and Flyone companies will carry out reciprocal flights in this context.

In a statement made at the beginning of January, Armenia declared that the embargo on Turkish goods was lifted.

These steps taken between Turkey and Armenia and the start of normalization were welcomed by the USA, EU countries and Russia.