Mirzoyan Visits Armenia Rescue Team Sent to Turkey after the Earthquake
The foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey, Ararat Mirzoyan and Mevlut Cavusoglu met in Ankara on Wednesday and pledged to continue the process of normalization of relations between the two countries that began in early 2021.
As a practical step toward the normalization process, it was announced that work will begin on the restoration of the Ani bridge ahead of the potential opening of the land border between Turkey and Armenia.
“Our meeting today is taking place on the occasion of the deadly disaster,” Mirzoyan said at a joint press conference with Cavusoglu following their meeting. “Being here in Turkey, however, at this difficult moment, I’d like to once again reiterate Armenia’s readiness and intention to build peace in the region, and particularly to fully normalize relations and establish diplomatic relations with Turkey and fully open the border between Armenia and Turkey.”
“Today we discussed certain details related to this process. We have an agreement to restore the Ani Bridge through joint efforts, and to take care of the respective infrastructures ahead of the full opening of the border,” Mirzoyan said, according to Armenpress, whose correspondent traveled with Mirzoyan’s entourage.
Mirzoyan’s visit to Turkey is taking place while Azerbaijan continues its more than two-month long blockade of Artsakh. Despite a mutual understanding that the talks to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey would take place without preconditions, official Ankara, including Cavusoglu, has continuously pushed Yerevan to make concessions on efforts to normalize relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, saying every step of the process will be coordinated with Baku.
Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh was not mentioned in any of the public comments made by Mirzoyan, instead much of the topics addressed during the joint press conference centered on the mutual grief caused by devastating earthquakes in both countries, as well as efforts to open the Armenian-Turkish border.
Cavusoglu thanked Armenia for sending a rescue mission to Turkey, while Mirzoyan hailed that the border between the two countries was opened for the first time in 30 years, when Armenian cargo trucks carrying humanitarian aid drove through the border on Saturday.
Cavusoglu said that during the meeting with Mirzoyan the efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan were discussed.
“The process of normalizing relations continues in South Caucasus. We believe that the cooperation that happened during the past several days will contribute to this process. The normalization processes of Armenia with Turkey and Azerbaijan, I believe, will contribute to establishing stability and welfare in our region. With sincere steps our three countries can bring lasting stability to the Caucasian region,” Cavusoglu said.
“I’d like to emphasize, if these three countries take sincere steps, we can establish lasting peace and stability in the South Caucasus, and lasting stability in the South Caucasus is extremely important in terms of economic development of this region,” added the Turkish foreign minister.
He also emphasized the importance of the Ani Bridge rebuilding, saying that the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the Russia-Ukraine war have elevated the need for unimpeded communication in the region.
“I said that today we again discussed what steps we can do in the normalization process. One of them is the reconstruction of the Silk Road Bridge of the historic Silk Road, which is located on the Armenian-Turkish border,” the Cavusoglu said, referring to the Ani Bridge which passes over the Akhuryan River.
“On one hand our preparations aimed for the future continue, there’s research, conclusions and approvals regarding the bridges in the border crossing points on both sides, and there are steps related to the roads leading to the border which we can make. We agreed to speed up these steps,” Cavusoglu added.
At the onset of the effort to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey each country appointed a special envoy to advance negotiations. Ruben Rubinyan, Armenia’s envoy and Serdar Kilic, his Turkish counterpart, spoke to reporters after the meeting between the foreign ministers and emphasized both countries’ commitment to advance the normalization process.
Kilic, once again, thanked Armenia for its earthquake-related assistance.
The European Union and France were quick to welcome what they called the “historic” meeting between Mirzoyan and Cavusoglu.
“This is a historic visit following Armenia’s decision to support its neighbour in need. Hopefully a harbinger of developments to come in the Turkish-Armenian relationship,” the EU’s special representative to the Caucasus Toivo Klaar tweeted on Wednesday.
“As the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, had the opportunity to announce during her visit to Turkey in September, France supports the efforts undertaken by Armenia and Turkey to normalize relations,” a message from the French Foreign Ministry posted on social media said.
Following his meeting with Cavusoglu, Mirzoyan headed to Adiyaman in southeastern Turkey and met with Armenian rescue team dispatched to assist in earthquake efforts.
Captain of the Armenian brigade Vahe Gevorgyan, briefed Mirzoyan on the progress of the team’s efforts.
“Everyone is approaching us and thanking us. Some even get surprised that we’ve come from Armenia, and in that case they say thank you twice. I can say that our work was flawless, because we were able to effectively work together with the rescuers from other countries,” Captain Gevorgyan told Armenpress.