“Without accountability, there is no justice,” says Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez
December 1, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) stressed the importance of the U.S. holding Azerbaijan accountable for its war crimes and clearly condemning Azerbaijani aggression against Armenians, during the Senate confirmation hearing for Biden Administration nominees for U.S. Ambassador to Armenia and Russia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In questions to U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Lynne Tracy, who has been nominated for the U.S. ambassadorial post in Russia, Chairman Menendez expressed dismay that State Department officials recently evaded inquiries about videos depicting Azerbaijan’s murder and mutilation of Armenian captives, during what the Chairman described as “one of the most disappointing hearings I have ever conducted.” In response to Amb. Tracy’s reference to outreach to the Armenia Human Rights Ombudsperson regarding the investigation of the videos, Chairman Menendez demanded more. “We need our ambassadors, particularly in places of conflict, to be able to pursue what the truth is, so that we, as policymakers, can decide what to do about that truth,” stated Sen. Menendez.
Video of Chairman Menendez’s exchange with Ambassador Tracy is available here:
Later, when U.S. Ambassador to Armenia-designate Kristina Kvien pledged to do her “best to help the Armenians with any requests they have to document” atrocities depicted in these videos, Chairman Menendez was adamant. “I don’t want requests from Armenians, I want us to be proactive so that we can make a determination,” stated Chairman Menendez, explaining that Senators need the facts about the Azerbaijani war crimes and aggression when deciding the enforcement of Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan. “I want an ambassador who is going to pro-actively help us determine whether executions, whether these mutilations, whether these other activities are true or not […] so that we as policymakers can make a decision. Can I depend upon you to do that,” asked Chairman Menendez.
“Yes, Senator, and I will go further to say that accountability for crimes of this nature are very important to me, and I will work to make sure there is accountability as well,” stated, Ambassador-designate Kvien. Offering the last word, Chairman Menendez remarked, “Without accountability, there is no justice.”
Video of Chairman Menendez’s exchange with Ambassador-designate Kvien is available here:
Building on Chairman Menendez’ exchange, Senator Van Hollen stressed the importance of accountability, sharing his dismay at Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried and State Department Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations Philip Reeker’s refusal to clearly identify Azerbaijan as the aggressor during the recent attacks, when the testified at the November 16th hearing. “It was very well documented in September by independent press sources that Azerbaijan launched attacks and engaged in different types of atrocities,” stated Sen. Van Hollen. “I understand the importance of being a mediator, but in order to be a credible mediator, in my view, you have to at least begin with the facts – and be willing to publicly state them.”
Video of Sen. Van Hollen’s remarks is available here:
On U.S. aid to Artsakh, Chairman Menendez noted that he is “deeply concerned that neither the State Department nor USAID have provided the humanitarian assistance necessary to assist the 100,000 displaced by the Nagorno Karabakh war of 2020 or the current needs of those who still reside in the region.” The Chairman went on to secure a public commitment from US Ambassador-designate to Armenia Kvien to support a U.S. humanitarian needs assessment for the victims of Azerbaijan’s aggression in Artsakh and Armenia.
Regarding the proper acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide, Chairman Menendez stated “I am glad to see a nominee who actually calls the Armenian Genocide a ‘genocide,’ noting that he had, in the past, stopped nominees who denied the Armenian Genocide in their responses to Senate inquiries.
Video of the exchange with U.S. Ambassador-designate Kvien is available here:
Senators have a week to submit additional questions to the Ambassador-designates, after which time the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and later the full Senate, will have the opportunity to confirm the nominees.
Earlier this week, the ANCA shared a number of suggested policy priorities to be addressed during the Senate confirmation process for the next U.S. ambassador to Armenia. Topics included strengthening bilateral U.S.-Armenia relations, checking Azerbaijani aggression, securing the release of Armenian POWs, facilitating U.S. assistance to Artsakh, and putting into real-world practice the Administration’s policy recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Suggested questions can be reviewed at: anca.org/ArmeniaAmbassador.
“It seems to me, the U.S. is in bed with Azerbaijan,” stated Chairman Menendez
November 16, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a stinging indictment of the U.S. policy on Azerbaijan, charging that the State Department witnesses testifying at the November 16th hearing were “wholly unresponsive” to concerns about the ongoing waiver of Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan and the lack of meaningful U.S. assistance to Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Armenia following Azerbaijani attacks, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We want to thank Chairman Menendez for holding this hearing and shining a much-needed spotlight on our State Department’s deeply flawed policies in the Caucasus region,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “The inability of either witness to answer straightforward questions speaks to the incoherence of our present State Department policy – how very far the Administration’s reckless and irresponsible approach toward the region has drifted from actual U.S. interests and core American values.”
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried and State Department Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations Philip Reeker were witnesses at the November 16th Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing titled “Assessing U.S. Policy in the Caucasus.”
Chairman Menendez summed up their responses this way: “This has been one of the most disappointing hearings I’ve ever held, but it has crystalized some things for me. One is, it seems to me the United States is in bed with Azerbaijan.”
Earlier this week, the ANCA submitted testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Senator Menendez announced would be included as part of the record of the hearing. ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan stated that “the oil-rich Aliyev regime must be held accountable, through the immediate cessation of U.S. military aid and the investigation of its invasions, atrocities, and war crimes. These actions must be matched with a robust aid package to meet pressing humanitarian and developmental needs in Artsakh. In terms of U.S.-Armenia bilateral ties, we seek a paradigm shift in relations that prioritizes the security and viability of Armenia and Artsakh in the face of existential regional threats.”
Yerimyan’s testimony addressed a range of ANCA policy priorities including:
— Full enforcement of Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan. — No less than $50 million in direct U.S. humanitarian aid to Artsakh. — Official inquiries into arms export violations related to Turkish drones. — Strict scrutiny of ambassadorial nominations to Armenia and Azerbaijan. — U.S. pressure on Turkey to stop obstructing justice for the Armenian Genocide. — Investigation into Azerbaijani war crimes, including its use of prohibited munitions, recruitment of foreign mercenaries, cultural and religious desecration, and the illegal detention, abuse, and murder of Armenian prisoners of war.
The incident took place on September 13 of 2022 during the large-scale aggression unleashed by the Azerbaijani armed forces on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. The fact is confirmed by the study of the location, the combination of this video with similar videos, as well as the complex combination of weather conditions, uniforms of servicemen, conversation of Azerbaijani soldiers and other parameters.
This is another war crime committed by the Azerbaijani troops, the source of which is the consistent policy of Azerbaijanis’ hatred against Armenian people and culture, which is implemented by Azerbaijan, manifested in all spheres of public life, starting from the educational content, and in the statements of the president of that country.
Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization on September 21 signaled a major escalation of the war and caught the world’s attention. Putin was forced to do this because of battlefield reverses and a shortage of personnel. Other sources of personnel are drying up. Many commentators have pointed to training and equipment challenges, which will be real, but not insurmountable. Mobilization will not turn the tide of war, but may allow Putin to implement his political strategy, which is to outlast the Europeans. What is uncertain is whether Russian popular opposition to mobilization will derail military plans. In any case, Ukraine has a window of opportunity for battlefield success before these mobilized troops arrive.
Today our armed forces . . . are fighting on the line of contact that is over 1,000 kilometers long, fighting not only against neo-Nazi units but actually the entire military machine of the collective West. . . . I find it necessary to support the proposal of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff on partial mobilization in the Russian Federation to defend our Motherland and its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories. . . . Only military reservists, primarily those who served in the armed forces and have specific military occupational specialties and corresponding experience, will be called up. Before being sent to their units, those called up for active duty will undergo mandatory additional military training based on the experience of the special military operation.
The decree implementing partial mobilization adds what is called “stop loss.” Personnel will remain on active duty involuntarily until the end of partial mobilization. This is a sensible step when militaries face personnel shortages and large-scale military operations, as the personnel retained are already in units and trained. However, in the United States, “stop loss” proved to be controversial when implemented during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Critics called it a “backdoor draft.”
Putin declared that this mobilization would be limited to former military personnel. It would not expand conscription or put the nation on a war footing; that requires full mobilization. Putin’s announcement also included an industrial surge to increase weapons and munitions production.
Later, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu elaborated that the mobilization would come in phases. He also described a deliberate training process. Shoigu and Putin stated that students and workers in the defense industry would be exempted.
This action is roughly equivalent to U.S. partial mobilization (10 USC 12302). The United States has used that authority many times in the past for Desert Storm and for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for smaller operations.
Some have speculated that this will severely disrupt the Russian economy, but that is unlikely. Even if 300,000 troops are mobilized, that represents only .4 percent of the Russian labor force.
Initial Reports Indicate Mobilization Is Going Badly
The bureaucracy appears unready to handle the demands of such a complex effort. Personnel must be identified, notified, medically evaluated, administratively brought onto active duty, and then sent to a training establishment. During this administrative period, personnel must be fed and housed. The United States suffered problems with its mobilization mechanisms in 1991, the first large mobilization since World War II, but worked out procedures over time. The Russians may have the same experience.
Like many bureaucratic tasks in Russia, mobilization is being conducted using quotas levied on districts. The quota system decentralizes and simplifies execution but incentivizes local authorities to prioritize output at any cost. This can create abuses.
In addition to bureaucratic problems, security forces seem to be threatening demonstrators with mobilization, contrary to the announced policy.
Russia Is Struggling to Turn Potential Power into Actual Power
From the beginning of the conflict, commentators have pointed out that the Russian population is over three times the size of Ukraine’s (146 million versus 41 million), with larger armed forces and a much larger economy. In theory, it should prevail in a long war of attrition. Russia’s problem has been turning potential power into battlefield capabilities. Putin has described the conflict as a “special military operation” and not a war. That limited his powers. For example, the Russian military has not been able to use many conscripts, even though they constitute the major part of the ground forces. Partial mobilization will tap into some of this potential power. Ukraine, in contrast, has been able to access all the elements of its national power.
Russia Is Mobilizing Because It Is Running out of Soldiers
The Russian army has taken many casualties (some estimate 80,000) out of an initial invasion force of about 190,000 troops. Ground combat troops numbered about 140,000. From the beginning, the Russians have scrambled to maintain the ranks, taking a wide variety of actions, sometimes called “covert mobilization.” They have deployed soldiers from nearly every unit in Russia, mobilized some reservists, brought in ethnic minorities (particularly Chechens), offered large recruiting bonuses to personnel who will enlist or stay in the service, used the private contractor Wagner Group, and even recruited in the prisons. The quality of replacement personnel has not been high, but the numbers and quality have been enough to keep the Russian forces operating in the field.
As Russia analysts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee point out, the Russian army is structured to defend the homeland against invasion, not to invade a neighboring country. Thus, units were typically at about 70 percent personnel strength and had a lot of conscripts who could not deploy outside of Russia proper. For defense of the homeland, reserve call-up would fill the ranks. For a special military operation, where mobilization authorities were limited, there were just not enough troops to deploy. This is a very different military from that of the United States, which is structured for high readiness and rapid deployment outside the country.
The Timing Is Driven by Recent Russian Reverses on the Battlefield
Russia’s attacks in the Donbas region petered out in July having gained some territory, though at high cost. The Ukrainian counteroffensive has begun. In the southwest, the Ukrainians are currently attacking toward Kherson and though they have not taken much territory, they are putting the Russians under considerable pressure. Russian forces are vulnerable, occupying a large bridgehead on the west side of the Dnipro River. Ukrainian precision strikes are squeezing Russian logistics.
In the northeast, the Ukrainian counteroffensive gained much territory east of Kharkiv, though progress has slowed. The Russian generals likely told Putin that they could not hold their gains without additional troops.
Putin did have two other options: use nuclear weapons or negotiate a settlement. The commentariat has speculated endlessly about the use of nuclear weapons. Such use would risk Russian national survival for a sliver of Ukrainian territory. So far, Russia has limited nuclear threats to NATO direct intervention or Ukrainian movement into the Russian homeland.
A negotiated settlement is not possible currently because the two sides are so far apart. Putin cannot give up his conquests without endangering his regime, but Ukraine insists that Russia evacuate all occupied territory, including Crimea.
To further put the Russian force into perspective, the United States sent about 540,000 troops to Saudi Arabia in 1991 to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. Total coalition forces numbered about 750,000. Russia has conducted this invasion on a shoestring.
Russia Lacks a Strong Reserve Force
Russia has tried to create reserve forces like those in NATO, which train regularly, but such efforts have not made much headway. Instead, Russia maintains lists of former soldiers who could be called to service. This is typical of military system that uses conscription because the system produces relatively large numbers of personnel. Those conscripts recently released from active duty have usable skills, but those skills deteriorate rapidly. It is a much less expensive system, but requires time and training post-mobilization.
The United States maintains a similar system called the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). This consists of military personnel who have completed their active-duty commitment but not their full eight-year military requirement. (All servicemembers have an eight-year military obligation, and enlistment contracts are written for that period of time.) These personnel remain on military rolls for possible mobilization. However, this is a second backup force behind the organized reserve units that train regularly and that most people think of as reservists. The United States called some IRR personnel to service during the height of the Iraq war, but it was very controversial, and the numbers were minimized. In effect, Russia is calling up its version of the IRR.
Training Will Be a Challenge
Both Putin and Shoigu stated that reservists would receive additional training, likely two weeks. By U.S. standards, this is not nearly enough. The United States gave mobilized units months of training before sending them to Iraq or Afghanistan, though personnel mobilized as individuals received less training. The Russian military bureaucracy is not prepared to take on so many troops. Unlike the United States, the Russians do not have basic training centers. Most training is done at the combat units, but much of that training cadre has been sent to Ukraine or become casualties.
However, the Ukrainians are not well-trained either. At the beginning of the war, Ukraine created many new units in its territorial army and provided them with only rudimentary military skills. Reports indicate that personnel may have received two or three weeks of training. The troops have gained some skills from six months of combat, but these focus mainly on survival. NATO is training thousands of Ukrainian troops, with some undergoing basic training in United Kingdom and others receiving specialized training at bases throughout Europe, but these troops are a minority. The average level of Ukrainian training is still very low. By way of comparison, the U.S. Marine Corps gives new recruits 22 weeks of training before sending them into combat. Both sides are far below that level. So Russian training will be inadequate and not up to U.S. standards, but the Russians are fighting poorly trained, though highly motivated Ukrainian forces, not the United States.
Equipment May Be Less of a Challenge
Although the Russians will certainly have some equipment problems, that is unlikely to be a major constraint. The problem with the Russian forces to date has been overequipping, not underequipping. As Michael Kofman and Rob Lee documented, the Russians maintained their units with a full set of equipment but only a partial complement of personnel. That is one reason for the high losses―not enough infantry to protect all the vehicles. The Russians, like the Soviets before them, never throw anything away, so they have lots of equipment in storage. This would not be top-of-the-line equipment, but it faces Ukrainian forces that are still armed mainly with Soviet-era equipment.
Further, if most mobilize personnel fill the gaps in existing units, then equipment problems ease. These personnel will fall in on equipment that these units already have.
Logistics has been a problem, but that seems to have eased. In the early days, Russian logistic support was abysmal, causing troops to go hungry and vehicles to be abandoned. Like many militaries, the Russians were not ready for the logistical demands of war, which are much different from the experience of peacetime exercises. However, Russian troops today do not seem to be going hungry, and the fact that the Russians fire thousands of artillery shells every day indicates a logistics system that is operating adequately.
The Purpose of Mobilization Is Ultimately Political Rather than Victory on the Battlefield
It is unlikely that the Russian generals believe this mobilization will shift the initiative and allow Russia to launch major attacks. Ukrainian forces are getting too powerful with foreign equipment and training. Rather, the strategy is likely to hold on to what Russia has already captured and push the war into the winter. Putin aims to put the European populations under enough stress from the cold, inflation, and high energy prices that they demand an end to the war. Survey data indicates that the European populations support Ukraine in its fight for democracy but are ambivalent about providing weapons and becoming involved. (The Baltic countries and Poland are an exception, being on the front line and much more concerned about Russian intentions.) Thus, Europeans might force their governments to push for a cease-fire and negotiations.
The Wild Card Is Political Opposition
Domestic opposition arose at the beginning of the war, with antiwar demonstrations in many cities. However, the Russian security forces successfully suppressed these demonstrations. The government-controlled media dominated the information space, convincing most Russians that the war was defensive and intended to suppress a neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine. Overall, the war seems to be popular with the average Russian. However, mobilization involves more Russian families in the war and has induced fears among many men that they might be called up. Opposition seems to be widespread. However, it remains to be seen whether this opposition will have an operational effect on the war or if it will peter out as earlier antiwar efforts did.
What to Watch for
Several indicators are worth monitoring to see how this mobilization plays out. First, does domestic opposition interfere with the mobilization? From a military point of view, the key question is whether such opposition significantly reduces the number of personnel available for mobilization. Can Russian forces hold out until the mobilized personnel start arriving? Although the front lines seem to have stabilized, the Russian position is fragile. It could crack in the weeks before mobilized personnel arrive. Can Russia train and equip these forces? Although the standards do not need to rise to the U.S. expectations, they do need to achieve a minimum level for personnel to be effective. Finally, does Russian morale maintain at least a minimum level? Russian morale has not been high, but the Russians keep fighting. A thousand years of history indicate that the Russians can continue fighting in conditions other nations might not tolerate.
Mark F. Cancian is a senior fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
YEREVAN, Armenia — Crowds lined the streets of Yerevan hours before Nancy Pelosi’s fleet of seven slick black cars pulled into the center of the Armenian capital on Sunday.
Waving American flags, thousands of people turned out to catch a glimpse of the speaker of the House of Representatives as she paid a historic visit to the Caucasian nation, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Those U.S. flags carried a significant political message about the country’s political allegiances. For years, Armenia chose to be a key strategic ally of the Kremlin, but many are now increasingly questioning whether Moscow can act as guarantor of the nation’s security against the superior firepower of neighboring Azerbaijan, which launched a massive artillery bombardment on Tuesday. Since then 135 Armenians and 77 Azeris have died in a conflict that looks at risk of breaking through a fragile ceasefire.
With Russian President Vladimir Putin mired in a war that is rapidly turning against him in Ukraine, Yerevan is finding that its appeals for help from a Moscow-led security grouping, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, are falling on deaf ears. That’s a pivotal strategic problem as the enemy in Azerbaijan is lavishly supported by Turkey, a regional military heavyweight that Yerevan associates with the genocide of the Armenian people during World War I.
A publication close to the administration of the Azerbaijani President hints at a “special operation” in Artsakh.
In an article with an unambiguous title “How can Azerbaijan get rid of Armenian armed formations in Karabakh?” after a long list of what Armenia supposedly has to do, the authors pose the following question: “As a result, the question becomes more and more topical: what should Azerbaijan do in the current situation? And, most importantly, how long must Baku tolerate the presence of illegal armed formations and Armenian servicemen on its territory?” and they give an answer themselves: “Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov ordered during a meeting with the army command to strictly suppress any provocations both on Armenian-Azerbaijani border and in the areas under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces.
It follows that the Azerbaijani army is ready to carry out a special operation to completely neutralize the illegal Armenian formations operating on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan. If Armenia continues to resort to delaying tactics and not fulfilling its obligations on their disarming and withdrawal from the territories under control of the separatist regime in Khankendi, Azerbaijan has every opportunity and appropriate means to implement a special operation in the shortest possible time”.
Glendale Mayor Ardashess Kassakhian has introduced a resolution in City Council to establish a Sister City relationship with Artsakh’s Martuni.
“As the mayor of Glendale, I decided to establish a symbolic connection between Glendale and the city of Martuni in the Republic of Artsakh. When I assumed the position of mayor in April, I received a letter in which the mayor of Martuni proposed to establish the sister city relation,” Kassakhian told Asbarez’s Nane Avagyan in an exclusive interview. “I presented the proposal at a City Council session, and I hope that it will be approved by October.”
He said that the city of Martuni of the Republic of Artsakh has a special significance, taking into account what the population of Artsakh has gone through and is still going through. “A week doesn’t pass without news that Azerbaijani forces are attacking the peaceful population of Artsakh,” said Kassakhian.
“Just as during the war, when we follow developments from far away, we feel helpless—unable to provide tangible assistance,” said Kassakhian explaining that Glendale Armenians allocated financial assistance during the war and gathered and provided much-needed items. There were also people who traveled to Armenia and Artsakh at the time.
“Several doctors from Glendale were on the frontlines during the war and provided medical assistance to to our soldiers,” Kassakhian said.
He added that, as mayor, he has decided to help Artsakh by establishing a sister city relationship between Glendale and Martuni.
“This effort demonstrates that not only do we have such [sister city] relations with municipalities located with Armenia proper, but also with Artsakh, which I consider to be part of Armenia—our ancestral lands and their heritage,” said Kassakhian.
“The fact that Artsakh is Armenian is beyond doubt. Martuni is an Armenian city that had, has, and should have an Armenian population. By conferring a sister cities status, Glendale, the most Armenian-populated city in America, lights a candle of hope in Artsakh, Glendale, and I also hope in Armenia so that Martuni continues to be an Armenian-populated city,” added Kassakhian.
He assured that after the approval of sister city measure, practical steps will follow, specifically by advancing relations within the education sector by having exchange programs between the two cities.
Avagyan’s exclusive interview with the Glendale Mayor will appear in the Armenian section of Asbarez in the coming days.
10 people were detained in Yerevan on the case of clashes between police and protesters at the intersection of Demirchyan and Proshyan streets, the press service of the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Armenia informed NEWS.am.
On 3 June, there was a clash between law enforcers and supporters of the Resistance Movement at the intersection of Demirchyan and Proshyan streets. The law enforcers used stun grenades against the protesters. In addition, 15 people were brought as defendants. They were charged with organizing mass riots.
Ten of them were placed under arrest as a preventive measure. Four more persons were taken to a non-custodial measure. Apart from the 15 people in question, one more citizen was detained. A petition for his arrest has been filed. The preliminary investigation is continuing.
Russia has introduced sanctions against 398 members of the U.S. Congress in retaliation against punitive measures announced by Washington over Ukraine.
More sanctions are planned, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on April 13 in a statement quoted by Interfax.
“Taking into account the sanctions the U.S. is constantly introducing, further announcements of Russian countermeasures are planned in the near future,” the Foreign Ministry said in the statement.
The sanctions include entry bans on the lawmakers affected.
In a separate statement, the Foreign Ministry said that it had introduced sanctions against 87 members of the Senate of Canada and said more measures will be announced soon due to Ottawa’s “short-sighted” policies.
The ministry said the moves follow sanctions announced by Washington last month against 328 members of the Russian Duma, or parliament.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to pro-Western Ukraine on February 24, the West slapped wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow, including the exclusion of several banks from the SWIFT messaging system, embargoes on Russian exports, new restrictions on investments, and asset freezes for government officials and their families.
Western countries have also announced the coordinated expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats suspected of spying.
Russia said it was expelling a senior Czech diplomat from the EU country’s embassy in Moscow in a retaliatory step.
Foreign ministers of the two countries meet in the first sit-down between the two top diplomats since 2009.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that he held “productive and constructive” talks with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan as they bid to mend ties after decades of animosity.
The two met on Saturday at a diplomatic forum in Antalya on Turkey’s southern coast. Ankara has had no diplomatic or commercial ties with Armenia since the 1990s but they held talks in January in a first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord, which was never ratified.
Saturday’s meeting was the first sit-down meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers since 2009. They spoke briefly on the sidelines of an OSCE meeting in November last year.
“It was a very productive and constructive conversation,” Cavusoglu told reporters after the talks, which lasted 30 minutes. “We are making efforts for stability and peace.”
Speaking through a translator, Mirzoyan said: “We are continuing the process of normalising relations without preconditions … We are making efforts.”
The two countries are at odds over several issues, primarily the 1.5 million people Armenia says were killed in 1915 by the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor to modern Turkey.
Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World
War One, but contests the figures and denies killings were systematic or constitute genocide.
The two countries have said the January talks were “positive and constructive,” raising the prospect that ties could be restored and borders reopened.
Tensions flared during a 2020 war over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Turkey accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying land belonging to Azerbaijan. Turkey has since called for a rapprochement, as it seeks greater regional influence.