ANKARA — Russia supports Turkey’s and Armenia’s efforts to normalize bilateral relations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated during a visit to Ankara on Friday.

“We welcome the process of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey which began with our support,” Lavrov said after talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. “We welcome efforts to unblock transport links and communication routes.”

Russia, which has thousands of troops deployed along Armenia’s border with Turkey, hosted in January 2022 the first meeting of Turkish and Armenian envoys held as part of that process. They held three more rounds of negotiations in the following months.

The two neighboring states agreed last July to allow mutual air freight traffic and to open the Turkish-Armenian border to citizens of third countries.

Turkey has for decades made the full opening of the border and the establishment of diplomatic relations with Armenia conditional on an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace deal acceptable to Azerbaijan. Turkish leaders have reaffirmed this precondition since the start of the normalization talks with Yerevan.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Cavusoglu said Turkish-Armenian relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict were on the agenda of his talks with Lavrov. He said Armenia should sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan as soon as possible.

Lavrov stuck to the official Russian line that agreements brokered by Moscow should serve as a blueprint for the normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations.

“We hope that our non-regional partners will not interfere in this process and instead will prod the parties to strictly implement the trilateral [Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani] agreements,” he said in a clear reference to the West.

Over the past year, Moscow has repeatedly accused the United States and the European Union of trying to hijack those agreements and squeeze Russia out of the South Caucasus. The Western powers have denied that.

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