Turkey, Armenia mull further steps for ‘full’ normalization: Çavuşoğlu
ERDİNÇ ÇELİKKAN- ANKARA
“In the first meeting of the special envoys, the objectives of this process and expectations from this process were discussed. The special envoys, in their next meeting, will work on which steps could be taken following the resumption of flights,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters following the cabinet meeting late Jan. 18.
Special envoys from Turkey and Armenia, Serdar Kılıç and Ruben Rubinyan, respectively, held their first meeting in Moscow on Jan. 14 for the normalization of ties between the two countries through the establishment of diplomatic relations and opening the sealed borders. Both sides have described the first encounter as positive and productive and stated their agreement for the continuation of the dialogue.
In parallel to these talks, Turkey and Armenia have announced the resumption of charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan. The first flights will take place on Feb. 2.
“The objective [of the process] is full normalization. The Armenians are also very content with this,” Çavuşoğlu said. The two special envoys will continue to discuss what other confidence-building measures can be taken to strengthen the existing political process.
Turkey and Armenia had failed to establish diplomatic ties because of the latter’s occupation of Azerbaijani territories in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s. They have also sealed the borders and have never opened them since then.
The two countries attempted to restore ties in 2009 by signing two documents, dubbed Zurich Protocols, for establishing diplomatic ties, as well as improving ties in economy, transportation, trade and other issues.
The process could not be accomplished because of Azerbaijan’s strong reaction against Turkey. Azerbaijan’s liberation of its occupied lands after a 44-day war with Armenia in late 2020 provided a new condition for Ankara-Yerevan rapprochement.
Talks continue to defuse tension between Ukraine, Russia
Çavuşoğlu also answered questions about the ongoing escalation between Ukraine and Russia that also involved NATO.
“The dialogue process between the United States and Russia will be decisive. NATO has already provided oral answers to Russian proposals. It will also give written answers,” he suggested. The tension is still continuing and serious and Turkey is in contact with all the relevant parties, Çavuşoğlu said, adding, “We hope the de-escalation through these talks.”
Turkey has offered a mediation role between Russia and Ukraine with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressing his readiness to build a dialogue bridge between Moscow and Kiev. Erdoğan is planning to pay a visit to Ukraine in early February.
Turkey warns Greek Cyprus over PKK/YPG support
Meanwhile, Turkey has strongly criticized Greek Cyprus for allowing the PKK/YPG to open a representation on its soils and warned of serious consequences should these terrorists attack against Turkey and Turkish Cyprus.
“They should better not play with fire and cooperate with terrorists,” Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu told reporters at a press conference with visiting Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets in Ankara on Jan. 20.
Çavuşoğlu’s reaction follows a news report that Greek Cyprus allowed the PKK/YPG to open a representation in Nicosia. The PKK is listed as a terror organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. Turkey says the YPG is the PKK’s affiliation in Syria, and therefore, a terrorist organization. News reports suggest that the office in Greek Cyprus is to represent the YPG.
“It’s a very serious issue,” Çavuşoğlu said when asked about Greek Cyprus’ move. Turkey will have to act should the Turkish people and the Turkish Cyprus are threatened or attacked from this representation, the minister said, urging that Greek Cyprus would pay a dear price for that in such a case.
“We know we have differing points of view with them on many issues but terrorism is very different because it directly concerns our national security,” he said, recalling Turkey had taken measures against the terror organization in its southern neighbor when its borders and people were threatened and attacked.
In other remarks, Çavuşoğlu accused Greece and Greek Cyprus of breaching Turkey’s continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean. “I have explained to my Estonian counterpart that our continental shelf was attempted to be violated nine times in the past one year by Greece and Greek Cyprus. And the latest happened this morning,” he stated without giving details.