Armenia to lift ban on Turkish imports as envoys set to meet

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Armenia said Thursday it was lifting an embargo on Turkish goods from January 1, while Turkey announced the two countries’ envoys could meet in January to discuss mending ties, Agence France-Presse reported.

Arch-enemies Armenia and Turkey have recently made tentative moves to improve relations.

In Yerevan, the Armenian economy ministry said it was lifting an embargo originally imposed over Ankara’s backing of Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan in a six-week war with Armenia in 2020.

“A decision was made not to extend the embargo on the import of Turkish goods into the country,” the ministry said.

The two countries have no diplomatic relations, a closed frontier and a long history of hostility rooted in mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Turks during World War I.

The bitter relationship has deteriorated more recently over Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan, which last year fought a war with Armenia for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The flare-up claimed more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire that saw Yerevan cede swathes of contested territory it had controlled for decades.

Earlier this month Turkey and Armenia named special representatives to work on the normalization of ties.

Turkey will be represented by former Washington ambassador Serdar Kılıç, while Armenia appointed Ruben Rubinyan, deputy speaker of the National Assembly, as special envoy.

Turkish and Armenian companies have also applied for permission for charter flights between İstanbul and Yerevan.

Envoys to meet in January

Speaking on television, Çavuşoğlu said that the first meeting between the special envoys would likely take place in Moscow in January.

“Russia wants to host that first meeting and Armenia, too, wants it to take place in Moscow. We lean towards that too,” he said. “The first meeting will be important. Afterwards, they will continue in Turkey and Armenia via videoconference”.

He described Armenia’s envoy as someone who “knows Turkey well”.

“He was appointed with good intentions to normalize relations with Turkey.”

He also described Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan as a “friend of ours who wants normalization”.

Çavuşoğlu sought to downplay the significance of the Armenian ban on Turkish imports.

“We heard the news about the non-prolongation of this decision,” he said. “It was meaningless anyway.”

Armenian analyst Hakob Badalyan said the authorities’ decision not to extend the embargo was a symbolic effort to set the stage for talks with Turkey.

“Armenia wants to create a favorable climate for dialogue,” he told AFP.

Analysts believe that with the backing of powerbrokers such as Russia and the United States — and  less opposition from Armenia’s sworn enemy Azerbaijan — the two arch-foes could have a shot at finally mending relations.

Analysts say that Russia welcomes the normalization of relations because it wants transport and energy lines to open in the region.

The administration of Joe Biden also welcomed the moves, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Washington “strongly” supports the start of the process.

But some ordinary Armenians criticized the lifting of the ban.

“Have you thought about the consequences of this decision in the context of the weak lira?” one such critic, Arshaluis Mghdesyan, said online.

“Cheap Turkish goods will simply flood the Armenian market.”

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