Turkey has closed its airspace to Armenian planes in response to the unveiling of a statue dedicated to Operation Nemesis, a campaign to assassinate the Ottoman perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide.
FlyOne, an Armenian airline, broke the news on 29 April, stating that it had to cancel some of its flights to and from Europe because of the sudden closure of Turkey’s airspace to Armenia.
On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu told NTV that the closure was a response to the unveiling of a monument dedicated to members of Operation Nemesis.
He said that an exception would be made for Armenian parliamentary speaker Alen Simonyan, who arrived in Ankara on Wednesday to participate in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organisation.
Çavuşoğlu said the sanction would remain in force until Armenia stopped its ‘provocations’.
‘If it continues’, he said, ‘we will take other measures’.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan responded to the news during a session of parliament on Wednesday, appearing to oppose the unveiling of the statue.
‘Do we know what effect, for example, the installation of the statue of Garegin Nzhdeh had on those relations? I want to remind or inform [you] that we have had and continue to have serious problems there’, Pashinyan said. In 2016 a statue was erected in Yerevan dedicated to Garegin Nzhdeh, a key figure in the First Republic of Armenia in the late 1910s.
Nzhdeh is a controversial figure because of his nationalist ideologies and later cooperation with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union.
However, late in April, Levon Sardaryan, the spokesperson for the Yerevan Municipality, said that he was ‘almost certain’ that the government and Foreign Ministry had approved the installation of the Operation Nemesis monument back in 2019.
The monument was unveiled on 25 April by Tigran Avinyan, the Deputy Mayor of Yerevan and a stalwart ally of Pashinyan’s. Avinyan is expected to run as the ruling Civil Contract party’s mayoral candidate in Yerevan in September.
Operation Nemesis, carried out by members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, began in 1920 as a programme to assassinate Ottoman perpetrators of the 1915–1917 Armenian Genocide, as well as Azerbaijani officials responsible for the massacre of ethnic Armenians in Baku in September 1918.
Turkey, as the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, denies the Armenian Genocide and accuses Armenians of killing ethnic Turks during World War I.
Armenia and Turkey have not had diplomatic relations since 1993; Turkey severed relations during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. Yerevan and Ankara first attempted to normalise relations in 2008, but failed after Turkey stipulated that normalisation should be contingent on the resolution of Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The countries restarted normalisation talks in 2021 after the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. They agreed to launch direct cargo flights, open their airspaces to each other, and allow third-country citizens to travel between them.
Yerevan has also stated that work is underway to restore customs checkpoints on the Armenia–Turkey border.
The United States, which has long advocated for the normalisation of relations between the two countries, condemned Turkey’s decision to close its airspace to Armenia.