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Turkey and Armenia to re-establish ties

ANKARA, Turkey, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- One of Europe's longest-running disputes could be resolved soon as Turkey and Armenia have agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties.

"Traitor," the protesters shouted at Armenian President Serge Sarkisian when he visited Paris last week. It was a rocky start to Sarkisian's trip to Armenian communities all over the world, a tour aimed at raking in support for his bid to reopen a new chapter of diplomacy with Turkey on Oct. 10.

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Last month Sarkisian and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they would sign documents to re-establish ties and reopen the countries' mutual border. The move would help Armenia economically and Turkey strategically, with energy security, Turkey's EU membership and relations with Russia and the United States playing a part in the development. Washington and Moscow are backing the diplomatic initiative, observers say.

But not everyone is happy about the thawing of relations. An estimated 5.7 million Armenians live abroad (including 1.4 million in the United States), significantly outnumbering the 3.2 million living in the small landlocked country itself.

Many of the Armenian expatriates are against the diplomatic detente because they are descendants of families that experienced the 1915-1923 violence that killed up to 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. Armenia has tried to convince European allies that genocide took place, a charge Turkey vehemently denies.

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The expats protesting in Paris last week feel Sarkisian is betraying the Armenians killed. But in Armenia, people are eager to reap the economic benefits the new Turkish-Armenian relations are likely to bring.

But there are some more hurdles to take for the new diplomacy to come into effect.

In Turkey, people are critical of Armenia's occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in neighboring Azerbaijan. In 1993 Ankara severed ties with Armenia when it fought a war with Azerbaijan, a close Turkish ally. Observers expect some sort of political horse-trading between Turkey and Armenia on the genocide and Nagorno-Karabakh issues.

On Oct. 10 the foreign ministers from both countries are expected to sign the accord; it will then be passed on to the parliaments for consideration.

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