Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan welcomed an apparent proposal to start negotiations between Turkey and Armenia made by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The proposal, Erdoğan said, was passed on to him by way of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili.
Erdoğan made the comments during a press conference held on 19 September.
‘If (Pashinyan) is really sincere on this issue, I will show our sincerity and start diplomacy’, the Turkish President said. ‘I hope positive approaches will prevail, and thus, this problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia will end with the opening of the corridors.’
While Erdoğan was not specific about what ‘corridors’ he indicated, it appeared to be a reference to the ‘Zangezur corridor’ that would cross southern Armenia and connect Azerbaijan’s western regions with the exclave of Nakhchivan.
Azerbaijan has been adamant that Armenia allow the corridor to be established through its southern Syunik province.
‘Whether Armenia wants it or not, the Zangezur corridor will be opened’, Ilham Aliyev told the Azerbaijani Public Broadcaster in April. ‘If they want, we will solve it in an easier way, if they don’t want, we will solve it by force.’
Following Erdogan’s press conference, Pashinyan’s spokesperson Mane Gevorgyan told Armenpress that no ‘direct contact’ had taken place between Armenian and Turkish officials, but that Yerevan is ‘ready’ for them.
Gevorgyan also criticised the discussion about ‘corridors’.
‘The talk about the corridors is just like that and contradicts the logic of establishing peace and stability in the region’, she said. Instead, she emphasized the importance of ‘opening regional communications in a way that emphasises regional interconnectedness’ that can then ‘overcome hostility step by step’.
According to point 9 of the Trilateral Peace Declaration that ended the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, ‘all economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked’ and Armenia ‘shall guarantee the security of transport connections between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in order to arrange unobstructed movement of persons, vehicles and cargo in both directions’.
The nature of ‘connections’ between Armenia and Azerbaijan and their ‘unblocking’ has not yet been officially determined. A trilateral working group was established between Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia on 11 January — though since then, little progress appears to be made.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk, in Yerevan on 20 September for a Russian-Armenian business forum, told journalists that, at present, ‘we don’t have corridors on the working group agenda’.
The comments on 19 and 20 September from Erdoğan and from Pashinyan’s spokesperson, appear to be the latest manifestation of a recent diplomatic thaw between Armenia and Turkey. On 27 August, Pashinyan praised ‘positive signals’ coming from Turkey for ‘the establishment of peace in the region’.
Two days later, Erdoğan appeared to reply to the Armenian Prime Minister, stating that Turkey ‘can work toward gradually normalising our relations with an Armenian government that states it is ready for such progress.’
[Read more: ‘Positive signals’ for Armenia-Turkey relations]