The last word.

Author:Gorvett, Jon


Diplomatic and governmental traffic between Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan has been spiking recently, giving rise to new hopes that some age-old conflicts may finally be resolving.

Yet despite the prayers of many, the fundamental issues dividing the three states remain deep. Occupied territories, energy pipelines and centuries-old massacres continue to dominate relations, with a history of false dawns also muddying the waters.

At the same time though, many see Turkey's recent diplomatic efforts on this front as a sign of a new foreign policy approach--one advocated by a new foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. In this, a major push is under way to normalise relations between Turkey and its neighbours, thus securing the country a more powerful role in the region.

Relations between Turkey and Armenia and indeed, between Turks and Armenians--have long been deeply troubled.

The 1915 massacres of Armenian citizens of Turkey's predecessor state, the Ottoman Empire, by Ottoman Turks and Kurds have been widely recognised internationally as a genocide. Yet Turkey maintains that no such crime took place, and instead, claims the horrific slaughter of the time to have been the result of World War One fighting, in which Turkish civilians were also often the victims.

This historical dispute has been bitter, yet did not prevent Turkey recognising the new Armenian state that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. What poisoned relations between that state and Ankara was much more the subsequent conflict between Armenia and neighbouring Azerbaijan.

This saw the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, located inside Azeri territory, taken over by Armenian forces in 1993. In addition, Armenia occupied several Azeri provinces between its frontiers and the enclave. A ceasefire begun in 1994 still holds, but the two countries have remained technically at war ever since.

Turkey's response to the fighting was to back up Azerbaijan, breaking diplomatic relations with Armenia and closing its land frontier. Ankara declared that until Armenia withdrew from occupied Azeri territory, it could not reopen the border or restore relations.

That has largely remained the scenario until today.

Then, in April this year, a few days before US President Obama was due to make a statement on the 1915 genocide, a breakthrough appeared to have been made.

A "roadmap" to restore normal relations between Turkey and Armenia was announced by Ankara and...

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