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Moscow Says It's Ready To Help Armenia, Turkey Normalize Relations

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (file photo)
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (file photo)

Russia says it is prepared to mediate efforts to repair relations between Armenia and Turkey following reports earlier this week of a request by Yerevan to facilitate such a rapprochement.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a press briefing on November 25 that normalization between the neighbors "would undoubtedly contribute to the improvement of the general situation in the region."

Former Soviet republics Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a six-week conflict last year over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region that had been under ethnic Armenian control for nearly three decades.

NATO member Turkey threw its weight behind Azerbaijan in the war, which ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire in November 2020 that allowed Azerbaijan to regain control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territory, with Russian peacekeepers on the ground.

Turkey has kept its border with Armenia closed for nearly three decades, due to what it said was Armenia's occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani territory, an issue that was resolved by the cease-fire deal.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin will host Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for talks in Sochi on November 26, amid a small flareup of violence between the South Caucasus neighbors.

Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vahan Hunanian told RFE/RL this week that Yerevan had informed Moscow that it was ready for normalization with Ankara without preconditions and asked for its mediation in the process.

"Our country is ready to further promote this process [of Armenian-Turkish rapprochement] in every possible way," Russian spokeswoman Zakharova said. "The launch of this process, as we believe, would undoubtedly contribute to the improvement of the general situation in the region."

She added that Russia was "taking all measures to restore economic ties and transport links in the region."

Pashinian and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued public statements in August citing reciprocal "positive signals" for normalizing relations through multiparty regional talks including Russia.

On November 23, Pashinian reiterated Yerevan's readiness to normalize its relations with Ankara.

But he warned that such a process could not take place if Turkey continued to condition a rapprochement on the creation of a corridor connecting Azerbaijan to its western Naxcivan exclave via Armenia.

One point of the tripartite agreement that ended the war includes the "unblocking of regional economic and transport links." Such a corridor would give Ankara long-sought direct land access to its Turkic cousin through Naxcivan, with which Turkey shares a border.

"We want to normalize our relations with Turkey," Pashinian said. "We cannot discuss any corridor issue. But we want to discuss opening of regional transport links."

In an interview earlier this month with Le Figaro, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan accused Ankara of setting new conditions for a dialogue with Yerevan, including such a corridor, which he called unacceptable.

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