Armenia, Turkey to partially open border in major breakthrough

By Mark Dovich

Armenia and Turkey agreed at a meeting in Vienna Friday to open their land border to citizens of third countries “at the earliest date possible,” Armenia’s Foreign Ministry has announced, in the biggest breakthrough in normalization efforts between the two neighboring countries in many years.

They also “agreed on commencing direct air cargo trade…at the earliest possible date” and “reemphasized their agreement to continue the normalization process without preconditions,” according to the read-out. Little other detail was made immediately available.

Efforts to normalize the extremely fraught relations between Armenia and Turkey took on a new life late last year, when both sides appointed special envoys for talks. Though the two countries officially recognize one another, they have never established diplomatic relations.

Friday’s announcement is by far the most significant outcome of the negotiations so far. Earlier this year, direct passenger flights resumed between the Armenian capital of Yerevan and Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.

The Armenia-Turkey border, which stretches for hundreds of kilometers, has been closed since the early 1990s, when Turkey, together with Azerbaijan, imposed a devastating economic blockade on Armenia.

Other ongoing disputes include Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, as well as Turkey’s crucial role aiding Azerbaijan in the 2020 war in and around Karabakh. That conflict saw Armenia suffer a disastrous military defeat and prompted a major humanitarian crisis in the region.

Friday was the fourth meeting so far between Armenian special envoy Ruben Rubinyan and his Turkish counterpart, Serdar Kılıç. Their negotiations are the first direct talks between Armenian and Turkish officials in over a decade.