Armenian And Turkish Governments Work On Thaw In Diplomatic Relation

Grace Annan

World Markets Research Centre
Global Insight
July 25, 2008

Relations between the Armenian and Turkish governments are showing
signs of a long-awaited thaw. On Monday (21 July), Armenian President
Serzh Sargsyan acknowledged that Armenian and Turkish diplomats had
held secret talks in Switzerland on 8 July. Sargsyan also confirmed
that he had invited Turkish President Abdullah Gul Enhanced Coverage
LinkingAbdullah Gul -Search using: Biographies Plus News News, Most
Recent 60 Days to watch a football match between Armenia and Turkey
in Yerevan (Armenia) in September. According toTurkish Daily News,
Sargsyan was sensing a "readiness to begin healthy discussions
on existing problems in Armenia-Turkey relations" and that Gul’s
visit on 6 September could turn the thaw into a "stable and positive
movement". Meanwhile, Turkish authorities are also showing signs of
a more lenient stance on Armenia. On Wednesday (23 July), the chair
of the Turkish Historical Society, Professor Yusuf Halaco lu, was
laid off. The society was launched by the founder of the Republic
of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and refutes claims that Turks
committed genocide in Armenia in 1915-1917. On Thursday, Turkish
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan stated that his government wants to
normalise relations with Turkey, according to Hurriyet. In addition,
the national carrier, Armavia, and Turkish Atlas Jet are increasingly
running flights between the two countries as demand is rising.

Significance: Although tentative and indirect, these first attempts at
normalising relations are significant. Officially, the two countries
do not have any diplomatic relations–Turkey shut its border with
Armenia in 1993 in protest to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. However,
Armenia’s economic surge certainly has something to do with the change
of heart in Istanbul. Although economic growth rates have slowed
since 2007, they could still reach an impressive 7.6% this year,
in which Turkish investors may be very interested. Both Armenian and
Turkish authorities are cautious in handling the nascent negotiations
as years of bitter, mutually hostile rhetoric have left a negative
imprint on the population. Animosity between the two runs deep and
any sudden change in diplomatic relations could cost both governments
support from their important conservative supporters.