Armenia and Turkey have agreed to open their shared border for citizens of third countries and persons with diplomatic passports before the upcoming tourist season, according to Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.
This move is part of efforts to normalise relations between the two countries, which have had no diplomatic ties since Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 as a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan during the conflict over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In July 2022, Armenia and Turkey agreed in principle to normalise their relations, including opening their shared border for third-country nationals and starting direct cargo flights. Special envoys from Ankara and Yerevan began talks in January 2022 to fully restore ties "without preconditions". Since then, the two countries have appointed special envoys to help normalise relations and have had four meetings.
Armenia's Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Minister Gnel Sanosyan announced that repairing the 29km section of the Armavir-Gyumri road bordering Turkey will be accelerated in 2023. The repair work will resume soon as soon as the weather conditions become favourable. This road connects the western regions of Armenia and passes through the Shirak region, adjacent to the Turkish border.
Despite being one of the first countries to recognise Armenia's independence from the Soviet Union, Turkey and Armenia have had a troubled relationship. Turkey also does not recognise the Armenian genocide of 1915-1923, which killed an estimated 1.5mn Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman government. In 2009, an agreement was reached in Zurich to establish diplomatic relations and reopen the border between Turkey and Armenia. Still, Turkey later insisted that it would not ratify the deal until Armenia withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh.
In 2020, Turkey supported Azerbaijan during the six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with Azerbaijan gaining control of a significant portion of the region. However, in February this year, the Margara land checkpoint on the Armenian-Turkish border was opened for the first time in 30 years to allow Armenian trucks to deliver tons of food, medicine, and other relief supplies to Turkey's regions affected by a powerful earthquake.
Armenia's Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan visited Turkey on February 15 to meet with the Armenian search and rescue team operating in Adiyaman. In the wake of the recent earthquake in Adiyaman, a 27-member Armenian search and rescue team was deployed to the area after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Armenia also sent five trucks carrying 100 tonnes of food, medicine, and other relief supplies to Turkey through a border that had been closed since 1993.
At the beginning of his remarks, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu thanked his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan for expressing solidarity and condolences to Turkey immediately after the recent earthquake. He emphasised that the normalisation of relations in the South Caucasus continues and that cooperation in the humanitarian sphere will support this process.
"The progress to be made in normalising Armenia's relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan will ensure peace and prosperity in our region. We talked with my colleague Ararat Mirzoyan about the steps to be taken in the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Turkey. We also received information from him about the comprehensive peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I specifically want to say from here that if these three countries take sincere steps, we will establish permanent peace in the South Caucasus; peace in this region is extremely important for economic prosperity," said the Turkish foreign minister.