Turkey, Armenia agree to accelerate normalization of relations
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia announce that one of the historic crossings between the neighboring countries will be repaired and opened.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu discussed with his Armenian counterpart the required steps to proceed with normalizing the relations between both countries and the means to accelerate the process.
"Today we discussed with my colleague [Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat] Mirzoyan the steps necessary to continue the normalization of relations... We agreed to accelerate them," Cavusoglu told reporters in a joint press conference with the Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.
Turkey's top diplomat also thanked Armenia for its position during the difficult period that his country is going through following the devastating earthquake.
Read more: Erdogan: recent earthquake worst in Turkey's history
“Armenia has sent a search and rescue team of 28 people to our country. They have rescued one of our little girls and a teenager in Adiyaman since 8 February. They worked hard, we saw how happy they were while doing this. On the other hand, Armenia has sent a humanitarian aid. Armenia extended a hand of solidarity in our difficult time,” Cavusoglu added.
"I want to thank you for this visit... I think it is important. Armenia has extended a helping hand to us at such a difficult moment," Cavusoglu said addressing Mirzoyan.
Aremnia's Foreign Minister announced that the neighboring nations have agreed to jointly rebuild the historic Ani Bridge crossing that passes over the Akhurian River on the Armenian Turkish border.
“Armenia decided to send teams and humanitarian aid to Turkey right after the terrible earthquake. I am very happy that Armenian search and rescue teams, together with their partners, saved lives. Symbolically, a historical event took place, humanitarian aid was sent through the border that had been closed for 30 years,” Mirzoyan said.
"Today, we discussed certain details regarding this process. There is an agreement to jointly repair the Ani Bridge, take care of the relevant infrastructure until the full opening of the border," he announced.
"One is the restoration of the historic Silk Road bridge between Armenia and Turkey. Besides, we are considering steps to restore the roads leading to the border checkpoint," Turkey's Foreign Minister added.
Over 41,000 have been killed so far and tens of thousands injured after a powerful earthquake rocked Turkey and Syria on Monday, February 6.
The magnitude 7.8 quake was one of the strongest to strike the area in more than a century. Rescue missions are still ongoing despite passing the "critical period" following such an event, which is around 72 hours, while workers are digging through unrecognizable debris in freezing conditions.
Armenia's aid to Turkey breaks years-long diplomatic tension
The relationship between the two countries, who have never established diplomatic ties, has been strained due to Turkey refusing to recognize Armenia's accusations of genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire during WWI and has further deteriorated because of the Nagorno-Karabakh war when Turkey supported Azerbaijan's claim to sovereignty over the region.
However, the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria last Monday has led to some firsts in many years as countries around the world have been raising efforts to send aid and resources to help with the disaster relief efforts.
One of such events was observed on February 11 at one of the Turkish-Aremnian border crossings where, for the first time in 35 years, the crossing was opened to allow aid to pass into quake-struck Turkey.
Turkey's special representative for dialogue with Armenia said five trucks holding aid, such as food and water, in addition to a team that will participate in the search-and-rescue efforts, crossed into Turkey through the Alican border crossing.
On February 7, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan thanked Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for Armenia's assistance after the devastating earthquake, emphasizing how much the Turkish government values Yerevan's assistance, according to sources in the Armenian government.
On February 8, Hakob Arshakyan, the deputy speaker of the Armenian National Assembly, said the Turkish and Armenian nations should attempt to amend their grievances to attend to the respective countries' pertinent challenges.