The FINANCIAL — According to Today's Zaman, in a move likely to contribute to the recent thaw in bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey, which gained momentum when President Abdullah Gül visited Yerevan in September, Turkey's national airline company has been preparing to launch charter flights to the Armenian capital.
Turkish Airlines (THY) has recently sent unofficial letters to both the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (SHGM) and the Foreign Ministry, asking for information regarding charter flights by Armenian national air company Armavia from Yerevan to İstanbul and the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya.
THY asked about the arrangements and agreements involving these flights. In its response, the SHGM said the flights have been taking place with the Foreign Ministry's approval and that permission for Armavia's charter flights to Turkey is renewed every two or three weeks. In the coming days, THY is expected to send another letter to the Foreign Ministry asking whether launching charter flights to Yerevan would "comply with the national interests" of the country. The final decision will be made after receiving the Foreign Ministry's response outlining Ankara's stance on the issue.
Currently, Atlasjet, a private Turkish airline company, has been conducting charter flights between İstanbul and Yerevan.
Turkey severed its ties with Armenia and closed its border with the landlocked country in 1993 as a sign of solidarity with Azerbaijan. There have been no formal ties between the two countries since then, and Ankara says the normalization of relations depends on Armenia's withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh and an end to Yerevan's support for the Armenian diaspora's efforts to win international recognition for claims that Armenians were subjected to genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Gül broke the ice when he visited Yerevan to watch a soccer match between the two countries' national teams in early September. Gül invited Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan to Turkey for the next game between the two countries' teams next year.
As part of intensifying contacts between Armenia and Turkey, Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian is scheduled to arrive in İstanbul today for a meeting of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). The İstanbul BSEC meeting will also offer an opportunity for a bilateral meeting between Nalbandian and his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan. Babacan and Nalbandian had three-way talks with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in September to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. While trying to re-establish relations at the official level through meetings, Turkey has been also making certain gestures that it hopes will eventually help to normalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.
A senior Turkish official, speaking with Today's Zaman, said THY has been assuming an important role in Turkish foreign policy. Describing THY as "an important tool of Turkey's policy of strategic initiatives," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the company always requests the Foreign Ministry's view when it prepares to launch a new flight route abroad.