The Ani bridge is a symbol of Armenian-Turkish reconciliation and the future of the South Caucasus

17.02.23 10:00

A second visit by Armenia's foreign minister to Turkey within a year would have been something out of the realm of fiction a few years ago. When the Armenian Foreign Minister visited Turkey for the first time in March last year to attend a diplomatic forum in Antalya, it was seen as a breakthrough in bilateral relations. The first bilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries, Ararat Mirzoyan and Mevlut Cavusoglu, took place then. Ararat Mirzoyan is invited to a Diplomatic Forum in Turkey this year as well, but this will be his third visit. 


The catastrophic earthquake in Turkey, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives, has made sane politicians in Yerevan forget about the "historical grievances", however temporarily. The very fact that Armenia, in defiance of its own nationalists, decided to send help and rescuers to a neighbouring country speaks volumes. And on February 15, 2023, Armenia's foreign minister arrived in Turkey for the second time and met his Turkish counterpart once again. The Armenian delegation, headed by Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, also visited Turkey's Adyaman city, one of the hardest hit by the disaster, where rescue and relief work has been carried out by Armenian rescue workers since February 7, 2023.


 The Armenian and Turkish foreign ministers made press statements following the meeting in Ankara. In a press release, Ararat Mirzoyan told journalists that the sides agreed "to jointly repair the Ani Bridge (a historic structure from the 10th to 11th centuries across the border river, part in Armenia, part in Turkey) and to take care of the relevant infrastructure before the border is fully opened.


The very fact that the bridge in Ani will be repaired by Turkey and Armenia is very symbolic. The fact is that located in eastern Turkey, the ancient city of Ani (or rather, its surviving remnants after catastrophic earthquakes) encompasses the cultural heritage of three neighbouring peoples - Turks, Georgians and Armenians. There are Georgian churches, Turkish mosques and palaces as well as Armenian churches that are gradually being reconstructed and restored by the Turkish government. The bridge in Ani will symbolize the opening of transport links in the South Caucasus region.


Ararat Mirzoyan called it symbolic that on 11 February the Armenian-Turkish border, which had been closed for 30 years, opened for Armenian freight trucks travelling with humanitarian aid to the Turkish city of Adıyaman. And of course, once the Armenian-Turkish border has already been unblocked, the key cross-border route in the region to be unblocked in the near future should be the Zangezur corridor. There is hope that the issue of its unblocking will be raised as soon as possible in the coming days.


Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan is expected to attend the international security conference in Munich on 18-19 February, where Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will also be present. From this conference many expect significant new progress in the settlement of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, including the conclusion of a peace treaty and the unblocking of communications.


It is also symbolic that these days progress in improving relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan on the one hand and Armenia on the other is taking place without Russia's involvement, for which other issues are more pressing, namely the war in Ukraine. The Russian Federation is stuck in this area. But this does not mean that the Kremlin cannot expect more unpleasant surprises in the South Caucasus. It is already known that on February 21st, 2023 the Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and that the next day he invites the separatist proxies from Sukhumi and Tskhinvali to Moscow.


Some political analysts believe that the Kremlin has not abandoned the idea of offsetting disastrous defeats in the Ukrainian direction with "neo-imperial" expansion towards the South Caucasus. According to a number of sources, there are plans for a new aggression against Georgia to force a "military corridor" into Armenia with the simultaneous replacement of the authorities in Armenia with pro-Russian revanchists. The ultimate goal is to incorporate them, together with the "Artsakh" separatists, into a kind of USSR-2 with the help of Russian military force. However, even if such plans existed, judging by the way the Kremlin is handling the war in Ukraine, the Russian Federation simply does not have the strength for such adventure now.



Alexandre Zhakhariadze

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