Umut Ali Özmen, a 16-year-old Turkish national who was arrested in Armenia for illegally crossing the border last July, was released on Tuesday evening. As he is awaited for return to Turkey, Özmen thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his efforts to secure his release.
The boy was tending to his family's herd in a village in the province of Kars that borders with Armenia when he crossed the border on July 24.
His father Mustafa Özmen told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they were awaiting in Armenia for "procedures to conclude" to ensure his return as Umut did not have a passport. The father who left for Armenia to meet his son in prison, will accompany Umut back home. The duo will travel back via Georgia as Turkey and Armenia do not have an official border crossing.
Umut Ali Özmen said Erdoğan had made a "great contribution" for his release and he wanted to meet him and "kiss his hand" once he returned to Turkey, in reference to a traditional sign of respect.
Armenia and Turkey do not have formal ties. Even though Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence in 1991, Ankara cut diplomatic ties in 1993 after Armenia's invasion of Azeri territories. The Turkish-Armenian normalization process of 2009 neither succeeded nor spurred a breakthrough in the Karabakh peace process. A dispute over the claims made by Armenia of a genocide in the final days of the Ottoman Empire also overshadows the efforts to normalize ties.