Armenia lifts Turkish trade ban as officials hint at a thaw in their relations

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By Michael Daventry
Turkey and Armenia have not had diplomatic relations for three decades
Turkey and Armenia have not had diplomatic relations for three decades   -   Copyright  AP Photos

Armenia has lifted an embargo on Turkish imports and is to allow direct flights to Istanbul as the two countries prepare for talks on normalising their relations.

Representatives from Turkey and Armenia are due to meet in Moscow next month as officials on both sides hinted at a thaw.

The border between the two countries has been closed since the collapse of the Soviet Union three decades ago.

In a post on Facebook, Armenia’s economy ministry said it was lifting the ban imposed on Turkish imports during last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh war because it had contributed to inflation within Armenia.

The statement added it expected Turkey to lift a reciprocal ban shortly: “The removal of the ban on imports of Turkish goods is expected to create more favourable conditions for the export of Armenian goods.”

Authorities have also granted low-cost airline Flyone Armenia permission to operate flights between Yerevan and Istanbul.

Turkish carrier Pegasus Airlines is also understood to considering a new route between the two cities.

First talks since 2009

“We understand that Russia wants to host the first meeting between our envoys,” Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told 24 TV on Thursday.

“Armenia, from what we gather, also wants this first meeting to be in Moscow.

“If it is to be a third country, it does not matter for us whether it is Moscow or another country, but because Russia has made efforts in this area we too welcome the idea of a meeting in Moscow.”

The announcements come as the two countries prepare for their first direct talks since 2009.

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise Armenian independence, but diplomatic ties were never established because it has long supported neighbouring Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Previous Armenian governments have also demanded Turkey recognises the 1915 massacre of Armenians as a genocide before diplomatic relations can be established.

But ministers under Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have indicated they want to hold talks with Turkish officials without preconditions.

Ruben Rubinyan, a deputy speaker of Armenia’s parliament, will represent his country in the Moscow talks.

Turkey’s envoy will be Serdar Kılıç, a former ambassador to the United States.

Nagorno-Karabakh war

The two countries previously reached a deal to establish diplomatic relations and open their border in 2009.

But it was never ratified after Turkey demanded an Armenian withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh, which it largely occupied at the time.

Armenia lost control of most of the territory in a six-week war last year with Azerbaijan, which Turkey supported militarily.