Turkey is ready to take further steps in improving relations with Armenia and establishing a regional cooperation platform in the Caucasus as long as Yerevan is determined to continue the normalization process that started with the appointment of special envoys, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday.
Addressing press members on his way back from the Africa tour, which was cut short by a day due to the developments in Ukraine, Erdoğan evaluated the ongoing normalization process with Armenia.
Erdoğan said that he discussed the process with Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday. Noting that in addition to the appointment of special envoys to conduct diplomatic talks and the relaunch of the flights between the two countries, he also reiterated Turkey's intentions to form a regional cooperation platform among Caucasus countries, including Armenia.
"As you know, I already said that we will respond in the same way to positive steps taken by Armenia. This region needs peace, stability and prosperity. With this understanding, we made a sincere effort to start a normalization process between our country and Armenia. President of Azerbaijan, my brother Ilham (Aliyev), also finds this useful. We are pleased with the will of Armenia to normalize with us," the president said.
Expressing Turkey's expectation from Armenia to maintain the positive approach, he said: "We also know that Armenia has some concrete expectations such as opening the borders and establishing diplomatic relations. If Armenia is determined to continue the process that has started with the special representatives, there will be no question of keeping the doors closed for us."
Underlining that Turkey favors a regional cooperation platform and to overcome problems with Armenia through cooperation, Erdoğan said: "In this sense, Azerbaijan-Armenia relations and Turkey-Armenia normalization process can progress by supporting each other. Likewise, our idea of regional cooperation will support and feed off these bilateral processes. Everyone needs to act constructively to make good use of this historic opportunity. We will continue to carry out all these processes in close coordination with Azerbaijan, as we have done so far."
Despite being neighbors, Turkey and Armenia have seen many difficulties in their diplomatic relations since Yerevan’s declaration of independence in 1991. The two countries have long been divided by a range of issues – from Armenia’s refusal to recognize their shared border to its occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the 1915 events between the Ottoman Empire and Armenians.
The two countries have had no diplomatic or commercial ties since the 1990s. The talks last month were the first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord that was never ratified.
The bilateral relations, however, have gained a new dimension toward normalization recently. Following the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in which Turkey backed Azerbaijan against Armenia, Turkish-Armenian relations have entered a new phase, with Erdoğan saying Turkey is ready for dialogue with Armenia. Azerbaijan also supports the process.
Addressing Azerbaijan’s Parliament on Jan. 16, 2021, Erdoğan said peace and stability in the Caucasus will benefit the entire world, not just countries of the region.
The first meeting of special representatives from Turkey and Armenia toward normalization was held last month. Turkey and Armenia held what both hailed as "positive and constructive" talks in Moscow, the first in more than a decade, raising hopes that diplomatic relations can be established and their land border – shut since 1993 – reopened. Turkey and Armenia have also restarted commercial charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan after two years as part of the normalization process.
Ankara has made frequent calls for a six-nation platform comprising Turkey, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia for permanent peace, stability and cooperation in the region, saying it would be a win-win initiative for all regional actors in the Caucasus. Turkey believes that permanent peace is possible through mutual security-based cooperation among the states and people of the South Caucasus region.
Russia hosted the inaugural meeting of the regional platform. However, Tbilisi has refused to attend, citing Russian aggression toward the ex-Soviet nation. Turkey wants to host the next Caucasus cooperation platform meeting.