Review by Christos T. Panagopoulos –
Turkey is likely to reopen the long-closed railway link between Kars and Armenia if Yerevan and Baku make progress in solving the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, diplomatic sources have said.
Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev will visit Turkey on Nov. 12, during which “creative ideas” to create peace and stability in the region will be high on the agenda, according to diplomatic sources. One of those “creative ideas” is to reopen the Turkey-Armenia railway, contingent upon parallel progress in solving the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been occupied by Armenia for two decades, diplomatic sources told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.
The Kars-Gyumri section of the Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railway line has not been operational since 1993, when Turkey closed the border with Armenia amid its war with Azerbaijan for Nagorno-Karabakh.
The idea of reopening the railway came as a question to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at a closed-door Parliament briefing on Nov. 6. The minister said opening the border with Armenia and reopening the railway could be brought to the agenda under the framework of a peace plan that includes the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The minister earlier said Turkey was looking for “creative ideas” to develop relations with Armenia, adding that Ankara was intent on normalizing ties. “Now we are looking to develop it and advance with creative ideas and new ways of thinking. We will increase our works in the coming period. When relations between Turkey and Armenia are normalized, most of the issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia will also be within the framework of a solution,” Davutoğlu said last month at a press conference in Switzerland, which had hosted a signing ceremony in 2009 for a protocol between Turkey and Armenia to normalize ties.
Turkey would consider all steps taken in parallel to other steps in the region in a positive way, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Levent Gümrükçü said at a press briefing yesterday. In this regard, Turkey is in cooperation and in coordination with Azerbaijan, he added.
Turkey introduced the Integrated Transportation Corridors Project to the Minsk Group in November 2012, to be implemented in peace time and particularly after Armenia moves to end its occupation of seven regions bordering Nagorno-Karabakh.
The first part of a plan to renew transport linkages among regional countries will focus on linking Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia by fixing unused railways and building new ones.
Transportation from Turkey to Armenia would be supported by railway and a new highway in order to increase trade and human traffic between the two countries.