325 kilometres of barbed wire is a physical symbol of the hostility and distrust that has existed between Turkey and Armenia for over a century.
Ankara closed its border with its neighbours in 1993 in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union, two years earlier. As Armenia and Azerbaijan declared their independence from the hammer and sickle , Yerevan decided to back the embattled Armenian community of Nagorno-Karabakh, which in turn had declared its independence from Baku rule. What followed was a conflict that left thousands dead and tens of thousands displaced on both sides. Turkey cut off ties with Armenia in support of the mainly Muslim Azerbaijanis, whom the Turks consider “kith and kin.” By May 1994 the Armenians were in control of some 14 percent of Azerbaijan, but after Russian mediated talks, an unofficial ceasefire was reached with Armenian troops still in the disputed territory, where they remain to this day. Saturday’s Zurich signing of an historic accord between Turkey and Armenia normalising relations has upset a number of different parties. Azerbaijan is furious with the move and believe that the situation inside Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved. However, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to ease Baku’s fears by saying: “Unless Armenia withdraws from occupied Azerbaijani soil, Turkey cannot have a positive attitude to the issue.” In the Armenian capital Yerevan, 10,000 took to the streets in protest against the treaty. They believe that ties with Turkey can only be restored when the Turks recognise that the killing of close to 1.5 million Armenians during the last days of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. They are adamant that Turkey masterminded the slaughter. But Ankarra is in no mood to admit to any such thing.