Armenia and Turkey have agreed on “a comprehensive framework for normalisation of their bilateral relations,” according to a joint communique from the two governments. “Within this framework, a roadmap has been determined,” they said. Details and initial reactions here, here, here and here.
The timing is significant, as April 24 is the traditional date for commemorating the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Coming on the eve of the most sensitive date in the two countries’ relations, the announcement is surely meant to signal that normal relations, probably including an opening of the border, are very close. The governments have been in high-level talks since last year, and a very interesting sign of progress was noted at AFOE last month.
Quick two cents’ worth: Normalization is clearly a big win for Armenia. Open borders to the west would substantially improve its links with the world, while also making it less dependent on Russia as its main great-power ally. Also a win at the margins for Georgia, as a larger regional role for Turkey means a relatively lesser role for Russia. Normal Turkish-Armenian relations also means clearer paths for European institutions, if only because it means one obstacle less. For Turkey, this will help to lessen an irritant in its relations with the rest of Europe. If the current Turkish position on the massacres (whatever that turns out to be when relations are resumed) is good enough for Armenia, Turkish emissaries will surely contend, it ought to be good enough for France and the rest of the EU.
There’s also an element of domestic Turkish politics. I am on rather shakier ground here, but I think that the most rigid Kemalists have also been the ones most supportive of Azerbaijan’s position over Nagorno Karabakh. By marginalizing that view through better ties with Armenia, the current government is also putting its domestic opponents in their place. Further, the AK is stronger than the opposition in the parts of eastern Turkey that stand to gain from increased trade within the region; opening the border will also help the government’s friends who hold local power. Azerbaijan come out the main loser here. Turkish support of Azeri views on Karabakh has been a major element of the country’s foreign policy. But sixteen years of solidarity changed the situation in Karabakh, and clearly enough people in Ankara felt that the blockade had passed its sell-by date to risk Baku’s irritation.