MOSCOW -- Special envoys from Turkey and Armenia met in Moscow on Friday for a first round of meetings aimed at ending decades of bitterness between their countries and establishing diplomatic ties. Both countries said the meeting was conducted in a “positive and constructive atmosphere."
Although Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the two neighbors share a bitter relationship and have no diplomatic ties.
Both countries hope that the talks will bolster peace efforts for the Caucasus region and lead to the reopening of their border to encourage trade and boost economic ties. Charter flights between Yerevan and Istanbul are expected to resume next month.
The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries said in separate statements that their special representatives “exchanged their preliminary views regarding the normalization process."
They said the two sides would continue with their negotiations “without preconditions," adding that the date and venue of their second meeting would be decided later.
Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency said the meeting between the envoys lasted for about 90 minutes. Serdar Kilic, a former Turkish ambassador to the United States, is representing Ankara in the talks, while Armenia appointed its deputy parliamentary speaker, Ruben Rubinyan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow was assisting Yerevan and Ankara establish a direct dialogue and expressed hope that the effort would be successful.
“Armenia and Turkey have appointed their special representatives. Russia helped to reach such an agreement, we are very pleased that their first meeting is taking place in Moscow today,” Lavrov said during a news conference. “Our role is to help establish a direct dialogue."
It’s the regional foes’ second attempt at reconciliation.
Turkey and Armenia reached an agreement in 2009 to establish formal relations and to open their joint border, but the agreement was never ratified because of strong opposition from Azerbaijan.
This time around, however, the reconciliation efforts have Azerbaijan’s blessing. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said Ankara would “coordinate” the normalization process with Azerbaijan.
Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, shut down its border with Armenia in 1993, in a show of solidarity with Baku, which was locked in a conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In 2020, Turkey strongly backed Azerbaijan in the six-week conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan gain control of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey and Armenia also have a more than century-old hostility over the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 in Ottoman Turkey.
Historians widely view the event as genocide. Turkey vehemently rejects the label, conceding that many died in that era, but insisting that the death toll is inflated and the deaths resulted from civil unrest.
Last year, U.S. President Joe Biden formally recognized the killings as genocide, joining several other countries that have already done so.
Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.