At the end of the fourth meeting in Vienna between the Armenian and Turkish envoys, it was announced that the parties have agreed to open the land border for citizens of third countries in the shortest possible time, as well as to resume direct air cargo transportation between Armenia and Turkey.
The announcement was somewhat of a surprise, considering that before this last meeting, the Armenian side was not optimistic about the ongoing negotiations. During his last press conference, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan was very cautious about his expectations from these negotiations, recalling previous experiences when a document was signed between the parties, but was not implemented. He was referring to the Armenia-Turkey reconciliation protocols signed in 2009.
Ruben Rubinyan, the envoy of the Armenian side and the vice-chairman of the National Assembly, before his departure to Vienna, found the statements of various Turkish officials strange, that they coordinate the process with Azerbaijan. “Since the beginning of the process of regulating Armenian-Turkish relations, Armenia has been very constructive. Armenia has the political will and has demonstrated that to achieve a quick settlement, the success of the process depends on the appropriate constructiveness and political will of Turkey. As you can see, there is not much progress until now, it is visible,” Roubinyan said.
The Turkey-Armenia border has been closed since 1993 by Turkey. Since then, the return of the “occupied territories” of Azerbaijan was its prerequisite for the reopening of the border.
European institutions and the US have often raised the issue of opening the border with Ankara. They also encouraged Yerevan to make another attempt to normalize relations between the two countries. Responding to these calls, the two sides agreed to conduct negotiations without preconditions, which was the main demand of Armenia. However, contrary to these assurances from both sides about this principle, Turkish officials are constantly talking about the “Zangezur Corridor,” which is the demand of Azerbaijan, while the Armenian side insists that there is no such issue on its agenda, and the opening of roads and other means of communication are the only issues to be discussed.
Considering all of the above, the Armenian side began to publicly express doubts about Ankara’s sincerity. The reason behind Turkey’s sudden display of flexibility remains unknown. One thing to note is that this decision was made after the meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit between US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Erdogan.
Coming back to the agreement itself, it is a half-measure that could not be a base for much enthusiasm in official Yerevan. The resumption of direct air cargo transportation between Armenia and Turkey, will not have much impact on Armenia’s economy. The partial opening of the border, may help to some extent so that foreign tourists will be able to visit Armenia after they tour Turkey. Diaspora Armenians visiting the homeland, can make the pilgrimage to Western Armenia without having to enter Georgia.
Although it was announced that this agreement is to be executed within a short period, considering past experiences, Turkey may once again delay the implementation of this step, and continue to “coordinate processes with Azerbaijan” which is against any kind of Armenian-Turkish rapprochement. Armenia has shown its goodwill, but is not ready for unrealistic concessions. Therefore, the next step belongs to Turkey, and the ball continues to remain in its court.