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Top Armenian diplomat visits Turkey to ‘build peace’ after earthquake

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Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan on Wednesday made a rare visit to arch-foe Turkey, underlining a desire to “build peace” in the wake of a devastating quake that killed nearly 40,000 people, Agence France-Presse reported.

Last week’s 7.8-magnitude temblor has been followed by a revival in talks between Turkey and its historic rivals, including Armenia and Greece.

The Greek foreign minister paid a visit to quake-hit regions last weekend, and Armenia’s top diplomat arrived in Ankara on Wednesday.

Turkey and Armenia never established diplomatic relations after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.

“I would like to once again reaffirm the readiness and willingness of Armenia to build peace in the region, and especially to fully normalize relations with Turkey, to establish diplomatic relations and fully open the border between Armenia and Turkey,” Mirzoyan said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Armenia had “extended a hand of friendship to our people,” thanking Yerevan for its humanitarian aid.

It was Mirzoyan’s second visit to Turkey since March 2022, when he held talks with Çavuşoğlu on the sidelines of a diplomatic forum in Antalya.

On Saturday, a border crossing between Armenia and Turkey opened for the first time in 35 years, to allow humanitarian aid through.

Armenia sent a team of 28 rescuers “who worked very hard since February 8 in Adıyaman” province in the southeast, Çavuşoğlu said, praising them for saving a young girl and a woman.

Turkey-Armenia ties are strained by World War I-era mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, atrocities Yerevan insists amount to a genocide.

Turkey fiercely rejects the genocide label, arguing that 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

But in December 2021, the two countries appointed special envoys to help normalize relations — a year after Armenia lost to Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan in a war for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In February 2022, Turkey and Armenia resumed their first commercial flights in two years.

The land border between the two countries had remained closed since 1993, forcing trucks to transit through Georgia or Iran.

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