Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who just announced his candidacy for presidency, is preparing to take the second step to normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia. Instructions have been issued to prepare the Alican border crossing, which was closed in 1993 because of the Armenian-Azeri conflict over the Nagorno Karabakh region, for opening in September. With the opening of the Alican border crossing, Turkey hopes to improve relations with Armenia and the United States.
The Armenian diaspora is engaged in comprehensive efforts to tell the world in 2015 about the tragedy Armenians suffered a century ago. The AKP government is working hard to minimize the effects of the campaign. The first step in that direction was the condolences message Erdogan addressed to Armenians last April when, a day before the 99th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Erdogan expressed his condolences to the grandchildren of Armenians who lost their lives and used the term “our common agony.” This was the first ever such declaration.
The government is planning, as the second step, to reopen the Alican border crossing that has been closed for years. Erdogan has given orders to complete all preparations for the reopening of the crossing.
The Alican border crossing was closed in 1993, after the Nagarno-Karabakh battles. Work has been in progress for two years to reopen it. The seven-kilometer [4.3-mile] road to the crossing has been upgraded. X-ray equipment and automation systems to operate the crossing are largely in place. The official opening date has not been announced, but it is widely expected to be in September.
Hillary Clinton, the then-US Secretary of State, had requested the opening of the crossing when she visited Ankara in 2009. President Barack Obama has not been responding to Erdogan’s phone calls for some time, instead preferring to speak to President Abdullah Gul. There is some concern that Obama could maintain the same attitude and refrain from congratulating Erdogan [if] he is elected president.
With the opening of the Alican border crossing, improvements are expected not only in Turkey-Armenian relations, but also in Turkey-US relations.
At the moment Turkey operates 30 border crossings. Alican will be the 31st. Opposite Alican crossing there is the Armenian town of Margara. Armenia will respond by opening its side of the crossing. Bilateral talks were held between Turkey and Armenia on the issue.