Closed border between Armenia and Turkey.

Justyna Mielnikiewicz

Before Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 that border for about 70 years time that was tight sealed, an outpost of the Soviet Empire.  When in 1991 Armenia become Independent country Turkey recognized that and the border reopened for brief two years.

Renewed closure in 1993 was due to Turkish embargo designed to encourage Armenia’s withdrawal from Azerbaijani territory captured during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (1989-1991). Turkish political leaders in mid-2004 mulled re-opening the border, but the idea met fierce resistance, both in Turkey and in Azerbaijan, and officials backed off the idea. On the other hand, Armenian President Robert Kocharian in late 2004 appealed to the EU to place the opening of the frontier among the pre-conditions for Turkey’s EU membership saying:” It is unacceptable for a country that is to have membership talks with the EU to keep its border closed with another country that is already in the Neighborhood Policy of Europe.” Officially, there is no trade between Turkey and Armenia, but goods are exchanged between the two countries via Georgia and Iran.

Roots of the conflict goes even deeper in time to the Ottoman Empire and 1915 when the massacre of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians by Turkish soldiers in the final years of the Ottoman Empire took place. Armenia claims 1.5 million people died as the result of a carefully organized genocidal campaign. Turkey denies both the genocide charge and the death toll, saying tens of thousands of Armenians were killed in what it says was mere “domestic unrest.” It also blames Armenians for the subsequent killing of thousands of Turks. Many in Yerevan make genocide recognition a precondition for improving relations with Turkey. Meanwhile, in addition to conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh, Ankara uses the embargo as leverage to persuade Armenia to stop campaigning for international recognition of the 1915 genocide.

Armenia is an impoverished, landlocked country of 3.2 million essentially supported by distant Russia.  The Russian Federation has military garrisons in Armenia and guards its borders under an agreement that ensures their constant military presence through 2045.

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