Now that flights are resumed, what next for Turkish-Armenian ties? | Aviation News

Istanbul, Turkey – Direct flights between Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, and Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, are scheduled to take off again from Wednesday after being grounded for more than two years.

While good news for frequent travelers between the two cities, analysts say the resumption of air links is primarily an important step in the ongoing diplomatic effort between the two estranged neighbors to restore official ties after nearly 30 years.

At the end of last year, Turkey and Armenia appointed envoys to engage in a dialogue aimed at rapprochement. The two envoys met in January for talks in Moscow, an indication that both countries are making constructive efforts to restore relations.

Although Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, ties were severed and the border between the two neighboring countries was closed in 1993 as a gesture of Turkish solidarity with its closest ally. Azerbaijan during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, when Armenian forces occupied several areas of Baku.

Following Azerbaijan’s victory in the second Nagorno-Karabakh war of 2020 and the withdrawal of Armenian troops from the occupied territories in question, the possibility of Turkish-Armenian rapprochement for the first time since diplomatic efforts in 2009 failed to materialize.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan have made statements expressing their desire to relaunch ties – and even Azerbaijan announced its support.

“This time, Azerbaijan is not hindering the normalization process, but they also have some expectations,” said Aybars Gorgulu, general manager of the Center for Public Policy and Democracy Studies, an Istanbul-based think tank.

“First, they want to be informed and consulted about every step Turkey is taking. Ankara is also paying close attention to the issue to be transparent with them at all levels. Armenia also seems more ready this time. Pashinyan won the election despite the military defeat,” Gorgulu added, referring to the prime minister’s victory in quick polls in June 2021.

Although the land border has been closed for almost 30 years, direct flights between Istanbul and Yerevan continued, but did not stop until the end of 2019.

On Tuesday, the website of Turkish budget carrier Pegasus Airlines listed a one-way flight departing Wednesday evening from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Yerevan for 919 lira ($68).

Apart from Pegasus, Moldovan budget airline FlyOne is also slated to offer direct flights between the two cities.

“The only reason these flights ended was not due to a political move, but simply because the Turkish airline Atlas Jet went bankrupt. So the resumed flights are important, but only as a first step and represent only a return to the former status quo rather than a breakthrough,” said Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center (RSC), a think tank in Yerevan.

Still, analysts say both countries will benefit greatly from the normalization of ties and the reopening of land borders.

“For Turkey, opening the closed border with Armenia would represent another strategic opportunity to boost economic activity in the country’s impoverished eastern regions,” Giragosian said. “A deepening economic crisis also comes with its own costs of keeping borders closed and missing opportunities to conquer new markets,” he added.

In addition, such a return to diplomatic engagement between Turkey and Armenia represents a rare success in Turkish foreign policy and a positive development after months of political instability.

Turkey’s far northeastern region has indeed suffered economically as a result of the closed border severely hampering trade and commerce, and residents in the area have expressed great enthusiasm for reopening.

For Armenia, meanwhile, analysts say there are two key factors in terms of how it would benefit from restored relations.

“The first factor is the need for Armenia to break through isolation, where closed borders and geographical restrictions seriously threaten Armenia’s need for economic recovery from COVID-19 and the need for new supply chains in the post-pandemic period,” explains Giragosian. . .

“A second incentive for Armenia to commit to normalization with Turkey is rooted in the ability to exploit the underlying divergence of interests between Turkey and Azerbaijan. In this context, normalization is a policy capable of decoupling and separating Turkey’s policies from Azerbaijan, with Armenia pursuing a separate policy on a bilateral track with each country.”

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