Uncertainty over meeting place as Armenia-Turkey talks continue

armenia-turkey border

By Mark Dovich

It remains unclear where the next meeting of Armenia and Turkey’s special envoys will take place, as normalization talks between the two neighbors continue.

On Tuesday, the Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported that the Armenian government has so far not responded to a proposal from the Turkish government to hold the next round of normalization talks in Yerevan or Ankara, citing an unnamed “diplomatic source” in Turkey.

“It would be logical for the negotiations to take place without the participation of third countries,” the source said. “We proposed to hold a meeting in Ankara or Yerevan, but we have not yet received a response.”

But the day before, Armen Grigoryan, the head of Armenia’s Security Council, said in an interview with Armenian Public Television Monday that he hoped the next round of normalization talks would be held in Ankara or Yerevan.

Armenian and Turkish special representatives have met four times so far this year, but all the meetings have taken place in either Moscow or Vienna. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has previously called for the talks to move to Ankara or Yerevan.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry has not publicly responded to RIA Novosti’s reporting as of Tuesday evening local time.

In his interview, Grigoryan also said he welcomed Monday’s historic phone call between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as the breakthrough agreement earlier this month to open the Armenia-Turkey border to citizens of third countries.

“I think that it will be possible later on to open the border for citizens of Armenia and Turkey as well,” he said.

In addition, Grigoryan repeated Yerevan’s position that its talks with Ankara are “completely bilateral” and taking place “without preconditions.”

Ruben Rubinyan, the head of Armenia’s negotiating team with Turkey, said in an interview with Radio Azatutyun Tuesday that “it is important” that the partial border reopening “be implemented very quickly,” adding that “I think it is reasonable for it to happen in the coming months.”

The two sides have yet to announce a concrete timeline for the reopening, but Pashinyan said at a cabinet meeting last week that Armenian government officials should start preparing to work with their Turkish counterparts to implement the agreement.

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.

Normalizing relations with Turkey was a key pledge in Pashinyan’s five-year government action plan, approved by lawmakers last August.