Turkey – Armenia gate opens for first time to allow aid

A border gate between long – feuding Turkey and Armenia has been opened for the first time in 35 years to allow aid for victims of the devastating earthquakes in Southern Turkey. Turkey’s special envoy for Armenia, Serdar kilic, tweeted photos of trucks passing through the Alican checkpoint at the Turkish side of the Aras river separating the two countries.

The crossing was last used to send aid from the Turkish Red Crescent to earthquake hit Armenia in 1998. Ankara has not had diplomatic or commercial ties with Armenia since the 1990s.

What happened during the Armenia Genocide?

While Turkey disagrees, the consensus among historians is that during the Armenian genocide, between 1915 – 1922, in the first world war, thousands of Armenians perished due to killings, starvation and disease, when they were deported by Ottoman Turks from eastern Anatolia.

 Ottoman Turks has accused Christian Armenians of treachery after suffering a heavy defeat at the hands of Russian forces and began deporting them to the Syrian desert and elsewhere.

It is difficult to estimate the total number of Armenians who died during the genocide, but the Armenian diaspora says that approximately 1.5 million died. Turkey rejects that number and claims that some 3,00,000 Armenians may have perished. The International Association of Genocide Scholars estimates that more than 1 million Armenians may have died. 

What is Genocide?

Article 2 of the UN convention on genocide of December 1948 describes genocide as, carrying out acts intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. Turkish officials accept that atrocities were committed but argue that there was no systematic attempt to destroy the Christian Armenians people. Turkey says many Muslim Turks also died in the turmoil of war.

Who recognized it as a genocide?

Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and Uruguay are among the more than 20 other countries which have formally recognized genocide against the Armenians. 

In some cases the recognition has come in parliament resolution, not from governments. Among the most significant was that of the US Congress in 2019.

US governments had held back for decades, partly because Turkey is the second – biggest military power in NATO and strategically viral for the west.

Why the relations are still frosty?

They have no official diplomatic ties. After decades of hostility there was a slight thaw, but since 2009 there has been no real reapprochement. In 2020 a six – week war over Nagorno – karabakh aggravated Armenian Turkish tension.

Last year, Turkish and Armenian leaders meet informally at a European summit, following a meeting by their foreign ministers, in efforts to mend decades of animosity.

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