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Independence Day celebrations in Yerevan in 2006
Independence Day celebrations in Yerevan in 2006. Photo: flickr/elmada


In April 1991, Turkish Ambassador to the USSR Volkan Vural holds a three day official visit to Yerevan. Vural's visit to Armenia – still officially part of Soviet Union, but on the way to independence – is the first by a high-ranking Turkish official in 70 years.

In a meeting with Ambassador Vural, Levon Ter-Petrossian – then the President of the Supreme Council (the Parliament) of Armenia – declares:

"Armenia is changing, and in this new world we should be neighbour states with new thinking. We want to become friends. We are ready for any type of mutually beneficial cooperation. Armenia has no territorial claims towards Turkey".[1]

After returning to Turkey, Ambassador Vural tells Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper:

"I can say that the new policy toward Turkey adopted by the current Armenian governing bodies is modern and is in the best interests of the two peoples".[2]

Azg, an Armenian daily, had attentively been following Turkish press coverage of Armenian-Turkish relations and Turkey's stance on Nagorno-Karabakh issue. In a May 1991 issue Azg complained of a great deal of scepticism, if not opposition, towards Armenian-Turkish relations in the Turkish press.

"One of the journalists is even stating that as a precondition the Armenians should officially state that they have no territorial claims towards Turkey. Another journalist says that there is no need to establish economic ties with Armenia while Turkey's 'brother' nation, Azerbaijan, blockades Armenia over the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh".[3]

A June issue of Milliyet, a Turkish newspaper, lived up to such concerns when it reported that Ter Petrossian, in his meeting with Vural, did not utter a single word about Armenia's having no territorial claims toward Turkey. What's more, the newspaper said,

"[Ter Petrossian] did not refrain from saying, insolently, that any foreign interference in the Karabakh issue would make its resolution very hard, and from calling Turkey not to support Azerbaijan – asking, that is to say, for it to betray its brother."[4]

11 September 1991

Receiving a delegation from the US House of Representatives, Ter Petrossian addresses the issue of Armenian-Turkish relations:

"There are serious historical controversies between Armenia and Turkey. The Armenian people cannot forget the Genocide of 1915 committed against it; their demand for the international recognition of the genocide is quite righteous and legal. But in spite of all this Armenia and Turkey should normalize their relations".[5]

23 September 1991

Armenia declares independence.

The AIM journal reports that 77% of Armenians in Armenia reply favour establishing relations with Turkey; the figure among Armenians in the diaspora is 69%.

4 November 1991

Returning from a visit to Armenia (during which he had interviewed Levon Ter Petrossian), Turkish journalist Mehmed Ali Birand shares his impressions on '32 days', a TV program:

"Armenia wants to come out to the outer world, but problems with its closest neighbours are impeding her from doing that. For 4 years it was involved in a civil war with Azerbaijan; the other neighbour, Georgia, is showing a negative attitude towards it; Iran does not have warm attitudes either. […] In a word, Turkey is Armenia's main hope today. But you can see that the people of Armenia have been pushed against Turkey for years, they have been disciplined in an inimical spirit. Can that people change its stance vis-à-vis Turkey?

[…] It would be a mistake to perceive that everyone is filled with love towards Turkey. Everyone defends the views about the historical events of the past in the same manner. In reality, the current Armenian attitude toward Turkey is conditioned not only by today's difficulties. It is a result of long term political planning, as this stance is viewed as a precondition for the republic's independence and the survival of independent statehood."[6]

Levon Ter-Petrossian
Levon Ter-Petrossian

27 November 1991

In an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestiya, Volkan Vural, the Turkish Ambassador to Moscow, declares that Turkey plans to open a consulate in Yerevan.[7]

16 December 1991

The Turkish government recognizes Armenia's independence, though diplomatic relations are not established.

24 December 1991

In a message to Armenian President Levon Ter Petrossian, Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel states that Turkey will develop mutually friendly relations with the Armenian government in accordance with OSCE principles – which, as Demirel underscores, imply accepting the territorial integrity of states and border inviolability.[8]

26 December 1991

The Soviet Union disintegrates.



30 January 1992

Armenia is admitted to the OSCE.

Christian Ter Stepanian, an Armenian Foreign Ministry official who had taken part in the OSCE meeting where Armenia was elected, is later to tell Azg Daily about the backdoor negotiations with the Turkish delegation.

"We talked with the Turkish side. They claimed that the Armenian side had territorial claims towards Turkey and as a proof of that they brought the clauses about the so-called land claims in our independence declaration. They required that Armenia: (1) endorse the inviolability of borders and endorse the Kars and Moscow Treaties; (2) not sponsor terrorism and not support organizations that have territorial claims; (3) adopt laws that would exclude racial, ethnic, religious intolerance in Armenia, as well as towards OSCE states.

To our question of what would happen if we did not present such a written statement, the Turks said that they would apply their right of veto against Armenia. Then the US representative undertook the responsibility of mediating. We presented out positions in the following manner:

  1. As Levon Ter Petrossian stated in October (1991), Armenia wishes to normalize relations with Turkey without any preconditions;
  2. We affirm that there are issues to be resolved between Turkey and Armenia;
  3. All those issues that Turkey puts in front of us, we can put in front of Turkey in the same manner. We also stated that we are ready to discuss the issues raised by the Turks according to OSCE principles in bilateral negotiations. The Americans took note of those suggestions, after which Turkey, getting acquainted with our positions, stood back […] and Armenia became an OSCE member."[

February 1992

As war rages in Nagorno Karabakh, Turkish-Armenian relations deteriorate rapidly. On 25 February, Armenian forces capture the town of Khojaly. Over 600 Azerbaijani civilians die in the ensuing massacre.

On 4 March, Turkish President Turgut Ozal demands that Turkey take more decisive steps to counter the "Armenian atrocities". Hinting at the possibility of armed confrontation, he ponders using Turkish military forces "to halt the Armenian progression".[10]

One of the more immediate consequences of the rise in Turkish-Armenian tensions is the cancellation of a project – developed by Ishak Alaton, a Turkish businessman – to open the Turkish harbour of Trabzon to Armenian shipping. The project also included plans to transit Central Asian gas and oil through Armenia to Trabzon.[11]

Although no Turkish official ever confirmed that Ankara had backed the project, such an ambitious plan could not have been initiated without the tacit agreement of the Turkish government.

As the New York Times was later to report, "the venture collapsed when word of the initiative leaked to Turkish newspapers and [Alaton] was widely criticized for ostensibly collaborating with Turkey's traditional foes in the American-Armenian lobby to bolster Armenia"[12].

Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) soldiers from the 8th regiment are  rushing out of a trench during operation on the Agdam front on the most  eastern side of the front. Photo: Jonathan Alpeyrie 2008
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) soldiers from the 8th regiment are rushing out of a
trench during operation on the Agdam front. Photo: Jonathan Alpeyrie 2008

May 1992

The following months see a further increase in tensions between Ankara and Yerevan.

On 9 May, Armenian forces capture the town of Shushi in what is to become a turning point in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. What happened in Shushi, thunders Turkish Prime Minister Demirel, is "Armenian terror against the Azerbaijanis. Henceforth Turkey cannot act as a bystander to the conflict, as it is obvious that the Karabakh conflict is solved through use of force".[13]

As rumours begin to circulate that the Armenians have attacked Nakhijevan – the landlocked Azerbaijani exclave bordering Turkey – the Turkish military goes on high alert. The Chief of the General Staff, General Doghan Güresh, asserts that he is ready to send as many soldiers to Karabakh as the Azerbaijani government will demand.[14] Infantry general Muhittin Fisunoglu announces that "all necessary preparations are done and the army is waiting for a command from Ankara in order to set off."[15]

On 18 May, the Turkish cabinet of ministers adopts a statement warning that "Armenia is heading the wrong way. If it does not stand back from aggressive politics, it will bear responsibility for the consequences." Speaker of Parliament Hikmet Zindoruk then announces, "Turkey's patience has limits. One should not test it too long".[16]

Immediately, Russia decides to check Turkey's ambitions of entering the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Military Commander of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Marshall Yevgeni Shaposhnikov warns that "if another side enters there, we may find ourselves on the threshold of World War III".[17]

June 1992

On 2 June, Armenian President Ter Petrossian causes a stir in Turkey by telling Cumhurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, that Ankara is pursuing Panturanist policies in the Central Asia and the South Caucasus. (The interview is translated into Armenian and published in Azg Daily.)

To the journalist's question about Turkey's policies in the region, Ter Petrossian replies:

"Would Turkey not pursue ideological aims in the South Caucasus and Central Asia but instead develop its policies on the basis of cultural, scientific and economic developments, we would gladly welcome it. Armenia would participate in such cooperation with pleasure. We believe it would be very effective".

The journalist then asks, "By saying ideological aims what do you mean?" "I mean Panturanism," replies Ter Petrossian, "and the aim of filling in the political vacuum that has emerged in the region."

Concerning the normalisation of the Armenian-Turkish relations Ter Petrossian says:

"Both in Armenia and in the diaspora generations were raised with anti-Turkish sentiments. This was pushed by the previous USSR government. The previous governing administration wished to isolate Armenia from Turkey, aiming at further strengthening the Soviet rule in Armenia […]. When democratic forces came to power, Armenia succeeded in overcoming these psychological barriers right away. […] Armenia wishes to see Turkey as a friend and partner state. After all, we are neighbours and our cooperation would be fruitful for both of our countries from an economic and political viewpoint. Would there to have been diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey […] there would be peace in the region. But I think even now it is not late for this."[18]

Suleyman Demirel
Suleyman Demirel

On 5 June, Prime Minister Demirel meets with Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Hrant Bagratian in Istanbul. The two discuss the privatization process in Armenia, the Karabakh conflict, and regional economic cooperation. Through Bagratian, Armenian President Ter Petrossian invites the Turkish Prime Minister to Armenia.[19]

On 14 June, Ter Petrossian meets Demirel in Rio de Janeiro. According to Azg Daily, Demirel tells the Armenian President:

"You cannot reach your purposes by war or clashes. After a thousand years you have gotten an opportunity to create an independent Armenia. But you cannot base that state upon revenge, hatred and war. The states founded on brutal force do not last long. […] You are surrounded by Azerbaijan and Turkey. Unless you establish friendly relations with them you will find yourself in serious problems and difficulties."

Reacting to Ter Petrossian's view that it was Azerbaijan not Armenia that started the Karabakh war, Demirel adds:

"If you want peace, then leave Shushi and Lachin. Moreover, you should know that we are following the events around Nakhichevan with deep concern. We advise you to solve your issues through negotiations with Nakhichevan and Azerbaijan […] Try to govern your country, and do not invite other countries to interfere in your internal affairs. And do not allow the American Armenians to govern you and your affairs."[20]

Meanwhile, the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul begins receiving anonymous threats, warning of attacks against the Patriarchate and other Armenian targets in Turkey. The Armenian Patriarch, Garegin Ghazanchian, sends a letter to the Turkish Minister of Internal Affairs asking for measures to protect Turkish Armenians and their property, as well as to pre-empt any possible attacks on Armenian religious sites in Turkey.

On 25 June, during a Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) summit in Istanbul, Ter Petrossian tells Demirel that "Azerbaijan and Karabakh should stop being the main factors in defining relations between Turkey and Armenia; the two neighbourly states should establish direct relations with one another over the issues of concern."[21]

17 August 1992

The US Embassy in Ankara asks the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify its position as to the inspection of planes carrying humanitarian aid to Armenia. (Turkey had started inspecting such flights as of March, drawing protests from the West).[22] In its reply, the Ministry defiantly noted that "Turkey has no intention of changing its policy of checking planes flying to the region of Karabakh conflict under any outside pressure."[23]

According to an article that appeared in a 2000 issue of Survival magazine, Turkey had arranged "a secret airlift of 5000 rifles, ammunition and mortars to Azerbaijan via Nakhijevan" in mid-1991 and, in March-April 1992, trained 450 volunteers "at a Ministry of Internal Affairs base near the town of Gabbala, in northern Azerbaijan."[24] The Russian press even claimed that approximately 5-6 thousand Turkish troops had entered into Azerbaijan by the end of 1992.[25]

23 August 1992

A delegation of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs visits Yerevan to discuss, among other things, the peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict. When told that Armenia is ready to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey right away, Bilgin Unan, the head of the Turkish delegation, replies that Ankara also favours improving bilateral relations – but that Armenia should take the first step by confirming the inviolability of the Turkish and Azerbaijani borders.[26]

The Dashnak Central Committee had organized a protest at the airport to greet the Turks. "The Genocide perpetrator Turk is not our friend", "The generation of murderers has no place in Armenia" and "Hands away from the Republic of Karabakh", some of their posters read.[27]

Dashnak demonstration in Yerevan
Dashnak demonstration in Yerevan Dashnak demonstration in Yerevan.
Photo: flickr/onewmphoto

4 September 1992

Armenia, reeling from economic meltdown, asks Turkey for a loan of 100,000 tons of grain. On September 18, Prime Minister Demirel agrees. "Our sincere wish," he says, "is to see our neighbouring region as an island of cooperation, stability, prosperity and concord. I can assure you that Turkey will continue its constructive activities in that sphere."[28]

10 September 1992

During a Council of Europe summit in Istanbul, Armenian Foreign Minister Raffi Hovhannisian blasts Turkey for not establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia, taking sides in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, and obstructing Armenia accession to the OSCE. He also makes reference to the Armenian genocide.

"Armenia has always perceived that the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations is important not only for the future prosperity of Armenia and Turkey, but also for European stability and security. Despite the tragedy of the Genocide, President Levon Ter Petrossian has actively and consistently sought good relations with Turkey. To date, however, Turkey has declined Armenian offers to establish diplomatic relations and open the border. Quite the opposite, Turkey has often hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid to Armenia and has not been able to maintain neutrality [in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict], thus becoming privy to the Karabakh issue. There are Turkish military advisers and officers in Azerbaijan, there are reports about the transfer of weapons from Turkey into Azerbaijan, and Turkey would have hardly paid any constructive role in the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict during the OSCE discussions.

[…] Briefly, despite the fact that some consider Turkey as a model for the new Central Asian republics, Turkey cannot yet claim that it is a model of European values and cultural identity. In our view, Turkey is clearly in no position to oppose the Council membership of a country which has already expressed commitment to those values and identity during the brief period of its independence."[29]

November 1992

Under pressure from Azerbaijan, Turkey annuls an agreement to deliver 300 million kilowatts of electricity to Armenia.[30]



3 February 1993

Despite furious reactions from Azerbaijan, Turkish Prime Minister Demirel confirms that Turkey will allow the delivery of 100 tons of humanitarian aid to Armenia. Azg daily publishes an article denouncing Ter Petrossian's policy of 'begging' for Turkish support.

Gerard Libaridian, Ter Petrossian's influential adviser, states that Armenia and Turkey are very close to establishing diplomatic relations.

"The protocol text for establishing diplomatic relations is very close to being mutually agreed upon. There is very little disagreement. The Turkish side assured us that the little disagreement there is will disappear after a few hours of discussion. For them it is important to open relations in an atmosphere of stability. They think that it would be much worse if after having established diplomatic relations they would be forced to cut those relations as a result of some military actions […]. They told us that as soon as there is a ceasefire they would establish relations the next day."

Asked whether Armenia could make some concessions to Turkey for the sake of opening relations, Libaridian answered that "up until now" he "could not imagine that such a thing could happen. Good relations must be based on mutual understanding. Making some concessions does not mean good or friendly relations."[31]

April 1993

On 5 April, after the Armenians capture Kelbajar, an Azerbaijani region, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs warns:

"Armenia is trying to violate the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan by use of force and change the borders recognized by the whole world."

The same day Turkey closes its airspace to Armenia-bound flights (humanitarian or other), stops all regular or charter flights to Armenia, and shuts down the Kars-Gyumri railway. The Turkish-Armenian border is effectively closed.

Hurriyet reports that the forces of Turkey's Third Army have been mobilised and are ready to engage.[32]

Turkish President Turgut Ozal, meanwhile, issues a threat to Armenia:

"What would happen if during military exercises three of our bombs fall in the Armenian territory? What would happen if we sent 1-2 military brigades to Nakhijevan? We are bound to Nakhijevan with an agreement. What would happen, who would do us anything, who would come to intervene? Who could intervene in Bosnia? In world politics we can reach nothing without resorting to risk."[33]

"[The Armenians] learn nothing from history. In Anatolia, they also tried it. But they got an incredible slap in the face. And they have not forgotten the pain to this day. If they try it again here [in Azerbaijan], relying on this or that foreign country for help, they have something coming.[34]

"There is no more a Karabakh issue, there are the Armenian wishes about the Great Armenia. […] Do not ask me whether we would invade Armenia or not. But Turkey should calculate its steps well."[35]

On 15 April, however, the Turkish President excludes the possibility of war against Armenia.

With the Turkish parliament on the verge of discussing a military treaty with Azerbaijan, the White House warns "that it will not tolerate a third country's interference in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict."[36]

On 17 April, President Turgut Ozal dies of a heart attack. An Armenian delegation that includes President Ter Petrossian, Foreign Minister Papazian, and Deputy Foreign Minister Libaridian travels to Turkey to attend his funeral.

Turgut Ozal. Photo: Time inc
Turgut Ozal. Photo: Time inc

May 1993

On 16 May, Süleyman Demirel becomes President of Turkey.

June 1993

In an interview with Turkish Daily News on 15 June, Mete Geknel, President of Botas, Turkey's state-owned gas and oil company, mentions the possibility of building a pipeline through Armenia and Azerbaijan to deliver Turkmen gas across the Caspian to Turkey and Europe.[37]

In August, the Azerbaijani government is to reject the possibility of building a pipeline through Armenia.

On 17 June, Azg Daily quotes Congressman Joseph Kennedy as calling on the Clinton administration to "delay the provision of the promised aid of 500 Million USD to Turkey until Turkey lifts its blockade against Armenia."

On 29 June, the governor of Kars visits Armenia with a delegation. On 7 July, the head of the Akhurian region (in Armenia) travels to Turkey. Their discussions centre on trade relations between Gyumri and Kars and the possibility of reopening the Gyumri-Kars railway.

26 July 1993

After Turkish Minister of Interior Mehmet Gaziogli accuses the Armenian government of ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Armenia avows that it has no connection whatsoever with the PKK, and that there is no PKK office in Yerevan. In its statement, the Armenian Foreign Ministry adds:

"By such distortions some circles in the Turkish administration are attempting to disseminate anti-Armenian sentiments in the Turkish public opinion, defame Armenia in the international community, as well as hinder the establishment of friendly relations between the two countries." [38]

August 1993

On 18 August, after Armenian forces attack Fizuli, Jebrayil and Agdam in Azerbaijan, the UN Security Council calls for immediate withdrawal of Karabagh Armenian forces from the recently occupied areas of Azerbaijan.

A day later, foreign affairs ministers Hikmet Cetin and Vahan Papazian meet in Moscow to discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Papazian expresses his concern about the biased coverage of the Karabakh conflict by the Turkish press. Both ministers agree to hold similar meetings in the future.[39]

On 24 August, an article in Hurriyet alleges that the US, Russia and France are backing Armenia; that Yerevan is receiving modern weaponry from around the world; and that international groups – including "ASALA terrorists, French legionaries and PKK groups" – are fighting on the Armenian side.

October 1993

On 18 October, Turkish Ambassador Ayhan Kamel meets Armenian president Ter Petrossian in Moscow. After the meeting Kamel states that Armenia must stop referring to the events of 1915 if it wants to see relations with Turkey improve.[40]

On 30 October, Azg Daily cites Turkish Minister of Interior Megmet Gaziogli as having said that "the PKK is an Armenian organization," while "PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is an Armenian."[41]



February – March 1995

On 18 February, Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Murat Karayalcini states that his government does not oppose the possibility of a Caspian oil pipeline passing through Armenia.[42]

On 12 March presidents Demirel and Ter Petrossian meet in Copenhagen on the sidelines of a UN summit on social issues. The Karabakh conflict, Demirel tells the Armenian president, "delays the realization of oil pipelines […]. Would it be bad if the oil pipeline passed through your country? Solve your problems with Azerbaijan. They [the existing problems] are hurting us."[43]

20 May 1995

The Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry announces that the international air corridor between Armenia and Turkey, closed since 1993, has been re-opened.[44]

27-29 June 1995

A delegation headed by Gürbüz Capan, mayor of Esenyurt, a district of Istanbul, visits Yerevan. The delegation visits the Genocide Memorial, paying their respect to the victims of 1915. (Capan's is the first and so far, only, visit by a Turkish official to the Genocide Memorial.).

Genocide Memorial in Yerevan
Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. Photo: flickr/azkid2lt

15 August 1995

A decision is taken permitting Armenian citizens to obtain Turkish visas at Turkish border gates.

25 October 1995

During the UN's 50th anniversary summit, presidents Demirel and Ter Petrossian meet in New York. Demirel says:

"Relations between Armenia and Turkey would be more effective if Armenia were to withdraw its forces from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, specifically from the Lacin corridor […]. The withdrawal of forces from the Lacin corridor is very important for Turkey, and the withdrawal of a handful of forces from there would be a signal of cooperation."[45]



May 1996

The Turkish government, claiming that Kurdish insurgents are using Armenian territory, announces that it is tightening up the Turkish-Armenian border regime. According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, the decision had to do with increasing Turkish anxiety over Russia's growing influence in the Caucasus. The tightening of the blockade on the Armenian-Turkish border, noted the newspaper, was announced on the eve of the Russian Defence Minister's visit to Armenia and the signing of Russian-Armenian military agreements.[46]

12 September 1996

President Ter Petrossian, visiting the Metsamor nuclear plant, makes several comments regarding relations with Turkey.

"The biggest Armenian foreign policy achievement is that Turkey remained neutral in the Karabakh conflict and also the fact that in the last six years the Armenian-Turkish relations added no new contradictions to the existing ones […]. We are neighbours and have to establish normal trade and economic relations."

30 September 1996

Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vahram Papazian meets with Tansu Ciller, Turkish deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in New York. During the meeting Ciller notes that Turkey is interested in having good relations with Armenia, and even in opening the border. For that to happen, Armenia needs only to make some small concessions on the Nagorno Karabakh issue.[47]

Tansu Ciller
Tansu Ciller

25 October 1996

Ter Petrossian and Demirel met in Moscow. Levon Zurabian, Ter Petrossian's spokesman, notes that Turkey regards the settlement of relations with Armenia, in particular the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, as inseparable from progress in negotiations over Nagorno- Karabakh. Zurabian quotes Ter-Petrosian as saying that opening the borders would only promote the settlement of the Karabakh problem.[48]



26-28 February 1997

A delegation of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry visits Yerevan, meeting deputy foreign ministers Vardan Oskanian and Sergey Manasarian. Discussions centre on Armenian-Turkish relations and the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

1-5 August 1997

A group of Turkish businessmen, guests of the Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia (UMBA), visits Yerevan. The delegation, led by the Chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council (TABDC), meets with Deputy Foreign Minister Oskanian and the Minister of Trade and Industry, travels across Armenia, and holds meetings with Armenian businessmen.

30 October 1997

During a speech in Kars, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel says that the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border is conditional upon "the complete withdrawal of the Armenian forces from the Azerbaijani territories […]. The opening of the Turkish-Armenian border is a political issue. We can not put the Azerbaijanis in difficult conditions in exchange for trade that is worth a few coins."[49]

21-28 November 1997

A delegation of Armenian businessmen visits Istanbul. As in Yerevan four months earlier, a joint business protocol is signed. The signing of the protocol upsets Baku. "It is not a government action but rather the initiative of some individual businessmen," says Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs Hasan Hasanov. "We condemn this action and believe that they have put personal profit above state interests."[50]



New strains in the Turkish-Armenian relationship became noticeable in the beginning of 1998 after the forced resignation of Levon Ter Petrossian in February and Robert Kocharian's rise to the Armenian presidency on 10 March. In Turkey, a sense of disappointment sets in. "Turkey should have supported a moderate president like Ter Petrossian," writes Hurriyet, "instead of abandoning him to his fate."[51]

Also in 1998, as the TABDC was preparing to organize a trip of Turkish businessmen to Armenia – 150 Turkish firms were ready to participate in the exposition of Turkish and Armenian products in Yerevan – the visit was cancelled at the last moment by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs."[52]

3 February 1998

25 Turkish journalists and businessmen visit Yerevan. At the end of the visit, plans are made to organize an Armenian-Turkish business forum in Yerevan, as well as an expo of Turkish products. The Istanbul Chamber of Commerce pledges to cover expenses for the reconstruction of the Akhtamar Church on Lake Van. Istanbul and Yerevan universities agree to cooperate in student exchange programs.

30 April 1998

The French National Assembly recognizes the Armenian genocide.

5 June 1998

Presidents Kocharian and Demirel meet in Yalta during a high-level Black Sea Economic Cooperation summit. President Kocharian speaks about the need to form a working group to address problems between Armenia and Turkey. Armenian-Turkish relations, he also notes, should not be affected by other issues or problems with other countries, particularly with Azerbaijan.

Robert Kocharian
Robert Kocharian

26 August 1998

Arsen Gasparian, the Press Secretary of the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses "surprise" at the "hypocrisy of Turkish Minister of State Hikmet Sami Turk, who has stated that the Turkish authorities link the normalization of relations between the two states and the opening of the Armenian-Turkish border to the question of recognizing the Armenian genocide of 1915." Gasparian adds:

"Although over the seven years since it acquired independence Armenia has not raised the issue of the genocide and has carried out a policy aimed at normalizing relations with Turkey, the Turkish side nonetheless has found in the Nagorno-Karabakh problem a reason to ignore the hand of goodwill stretched out by Armenia"

"We have stated frequently that putting the genocide issue on the agenda of the Armenian-Turkish political dialogue is not a prerequisite for the normalization of relations between the two states and is not aimed at spreading hatred between the Armenian and Turkish peoples, as the Turkish authorities say. On the contrary, it pursues the aim of getting rid of the psychological barriers which exist between the peoples."[53]

6 November 1998

In response to new allegations by Ankara (of Armenia's links with the PKK), Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian stresses that "the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, Abdullah Ocalan, has not been, is not, and will not be on Armenian territory."[54]



16 February 1999

A delegation from Yerevan State University, headed by Rector Radik Martirosian, visits Turkey. Yerevan State University and the Middle Eastern Technical University of Ankara sign an agreement on cooperation under the framework of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

27 August 1999

Armenia sends humanitarian aid to Turkey after a massive earthquake hits Izmit. An official Armenian delegation led by head of the Emergency Situations Department arrives in Turkey to deliver the aid.

30 October 1999

A Turkish delegation headed by State Minister Mehmet Ali Irtemcelik visits Armenia to attend the burial of the recently assassinated Armenian Prime Minister, Parliamentary Speaker, Deputy Speaker and MPs. It is the highest-level visit to Armenia by Turkish officials.

17-19 November 1999

Armenian president Robert Kocharian participates in the BSEC summit in Istanbul and meets with Turkish president Demirel. The Turkish leader emphasizes that establishing diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey depends on the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

"Turkey wishes peace in the region. And if peace is established that will support the development of relations between Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Particularly with the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, Armenia may be included in the oil pipeline projects".

Kocharian replies: "No one has illusions that we would make concessions for the sake of those regional projects."[55]



12 January 2000

In Aksham, Shadan Eren, president of the Trabzon Chamber of Commerce, argues against placing conditions on normalising relations with Armenia:

"The establishment of relations and opening of borders between Turkey and Armenia should not be conditioned by other factors. Due to the softening of Azerbaijani positions the would-be opening of border gates with Armenia would bring great benefit to Turkey. Armenia is an ideal market for Turkey."[56]

28 June 2000

An Armenian delegation visits Kars to participate in a conference on the 'Caucasus Initiative Pact'. As soon as they arrive, members of the delegation are barred from participating in the conference and immediately deported from Turkey. The incident sparks criticism, including in Turkey. Murat Karayalcin, the former Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tansu Ciller, the ex- Prime Minister, criticize the incident. Ciller also criticises Ankara's policy vis-à-vis Yerevan:

"The linking of Armenian-Turkish relations to Azerbaijan has brought about problems until now. In order to reach an agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia through dialogue it is necessary that Turkey have an influential role. Turkey must clarify its positions in this region. From this viewpoint, what happened in Lars is very bad, and it is impossible for us to accept it."[57]

Murat Karayalcin
Murat Karayalcin

October 2000

In the second half of 2000, Turkish-Armenian relations become more strained owing to the Armenian government's intensified pursuit of international recognition of the 1915 genocide. Turkey toughens its stance towards Armenia; in October Ankara tightens its visa regime vis-à-vis Armenian citizens.

In early October, following the recognition of the genocide by the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Armenian TV reports that Turkish troops have begun to concentrate on the Armenian border. The Armenian government soon discredits these reports, however.[58]

3 November 2000

Commenting on the genocide recognition debate in the US Congress, President Kocharian said that Armenia has nothing to lose:

"It has no diplomatic relations with Turkey, Turkey is maintaining its blockade of Armenia, and Turkey has not even given Armenia a chance to make a choice on this issue. […] Armenia's aim is not to aggravate relations, but first of all to attract attention to the problem. The entire world can recognize the Armenian genocide, but it is more important that a dialogue opens with Turkey. It is very important that the Turkish people know the truth about those events."[59]



January 2001

Turkey further tightens the visa regime for Armenians after the French Senate recognizes the Armenian genocide on 18 January 2001 (President Jacques Chirac endorses the bill on 29 January). From January 2001 until January 2002 Armenian citizens will have to wait one to four weeks to receive a visa to enter Turkey from Georgia.[60]

9 July 2001

The Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) is founded. It includes 6 Turkish and 4 Armenian members.



January 2002

Armenian citizens are granted the possibility to obtain visas at the airport when travelling to Turkey.

On 29 January, the Turkish National Security Council, headed by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, discusses the possibility of establishing economic relations with Armenia. During that meeting, according to Cumhurriyet, a newspaper, NSC members cite two preconditions for establishing relations with Armenia: the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijani territories; and the rejection of a policy that favours international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. [61]

2 February 2002

Foreign Affairs Ministers Oskanian and Cem meet in New York to discuss issues of bilateral and regional importance. The pair agree to have regular meetings on bilateral (Armenia-Turkey) and trilateral (Armenia-Turkey-Azerbaijan) issues. Five days later, in the course of an official visit to Baku, Speaker of the Turkish Grand Assembly Omer Izgin declares that "until Armenia withdraws from the usurped lands of Azerbaijan, until the refugees are returned to their fatherland, let no one expect a softening of Armenian-Turkish relations."

Ismail Cem
Ismail Cem

15 May 2002

Oskanian and Cem meet in Reykjavik. According to Hurriyet, Ankara's demands, as put forward by Cem, include putting an end to accusations that Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians; giving up territorial claims against Turkey; ensuring a quick resolution to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict; and providing a security corridor connecting Nakhicevan with Azerbaijan. Oskanian flatly denies that Cem has put forward such conditions. According to him, a full range of problematic issues were discussed, but no conditions were put forward.[62]

Later that day, a tri-partite meeting between Oskanian, Cem and the Azerbaijani foreign minister, Vilayat Quliyev, takes place. It is the first such meeting between the three foreign ministers.

25 June 2002

Oskanian and Cem meet in Istanbul during the BSEC's 10th anniversary summit. Oskanian denies that Cem has reiterated the preconditions that Turkey had put forward in Reykjavik; implying that the talks were not successful, he notes that "one should cherish no illusions."

3 November 2002

The Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sweeps the Turkish parliamentary elections, receiving 34.2 percent of the vote, and winning 363 of the 550 seats in the parliament.

27 December 2002

At a press conference, Turkish foreign minister Yasar Yakis hints at the possibility of opening ties with Armenia:

"We will develop our relations with Russia, Iran and Armenia. We will take into consideration the Azerbaijani concerns in establishing relations with Armenia, but if our economic interests require the establishment of relations with Armenia, we will do that."[63]



January 2003

On 7 January, during a two day visit to Azerbaijan, AKP leader Tayyip Erdogan notes that "Turks and Azeris are brothers, but strategic interests are above anything."[64] A day later, in an interview with the Azerbaijani newspaper 525, Turkish foreign Minister Yasar Yakis reassures Baku:

"Turkey's policy towards Armenia will not change. Turkey longs for friendly relations with its neighbours, but is not going to widen its relations with Armenia. Turkey will not open its border with Armenia without the consent of Azerbaijan."[65]

Tayyip Erdogan
Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: World Economic Forum

June 2003

On 3 June, Foreign Affairs Ministers Abdullah Gul and Vardan Oskanian meet in Madrid during a NATO foreign ministers summit.

Later the same month, Turkish troops take part in a NATO military exercise in Armenia. Armenian society has always taken a sceptical view of the Atlantic Alliance; partnership and alliance with Russia has seemed incompatible with deeper cooperation with NATO. The military exercise, therefore, provokes some negative reactions among Armenians. Turkey's participation further deepened the criticism. "For the first time after Sardarapat,[66] the foot of Turkish asqyar (army-man) has set on Armenian soil," read an article in Golos Armenii. "We know what sort of 'brotherly' feelings emanate towards us from our neighbour beyond Araks."[67]

October 2003

A private company receives permission to fly direct between Istanbul and Yerevan.[68]



January 2004

On 12 January, at a joint press conference with Vilayat Guliyev, the Azerbaijani foreign minister, Abdullah Gul re-iterates Ankara's official line that the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict must be resolved on the basis of the Azerbaijani territorial integrity.[69]

During an official visit to the US at the end of the month Prime Minister Erdogan remarks:

"It is possible that the Turkish government will make a decision to open the border with Armenia if Turkey's friendly initiative has reciprocal repercussions. Turkish citizens living in regions neighboring Armenia wish to see the borders open so that they can trade quietly with Armenia."[70]

16 December 2004

The Armenian Foreign Affairs Ministry welcomes the European Parliament's 15 December decision to call on the Council of Europe and the European Commission to demand that the Turkish Government recognize the historical fact of the Armenian genocide and open the borders with Armenia as soon as possible.


10 April 2005

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan sends a letter to the Armenian President proposing that the two countries establish a commission of historians. Erdogan writes:

"It is not a secret that we have diverging interpretations of events that took place during a particular period of our common history. These differences that have in the past left behind traces of painful memories for our nations continue to hamper the improvement of friendly relations between our two countries today.

I believe that, as leaders of our countries, our primary duty is to leave to our future generations a peaceful and friendly environment in which tolerance and mutual respect shall prevail.

[…] Within this framework, we are extending an invitation to your country to establish a joint group consisting of historians and other experts from our two countries to study the developments and events of 1915 not only in the archives of Turkey and Armenia but also in the archives of all relevant third countries and to share their findings with the international community.

I believe that such an initiative would shed light on a disputed period of history and also constitute a step towards contributing to the normalization of relations between our countries.

I hope that our proposal, which aims to create a friendly and more peaceful climate to be passed on to future generations, will meet your consent. If we receive a favorable response from your side to our proposal of forming such a group, we will be ready to discuss the details of this proposal with your country."

Kocharian's reply, on 26 April, reads:

"Indeed, as two neighbors, we both must work to find ways to live together in harmony. That is why, from the first day, we have extended our hand to you to establish relations, open the border, and thus start a dialogue between the two countries and two peoples.

There are neighboring countries, particularly on the European continent, who have had a difficult past, about which they differ. However, that has not stopped them from having open borders, normal relations, diplomatic ties, representatives in each other's capitals, even as they continue to discuss that which divides them.

Your suggestion to address the past cannot be effective if it deflects from addressing the present and the future. In order to engage in a useful dialog, we need to create the appropriate and conducive political environment. It is the responsibility of governments to develop bilateral relations and we do not have the right to delegate that responsibility to historians. That is why we have proposed and propose again that, without pre-conditions, we establish normal relations between our two countries.

In that context, an intergovernmental commission can meet to discuss any and all outstanding issues between our two nations, with the aim of resolving them and coming to an understanding."



12 October 2006

The National Assembly of France adopts a bill criminalizing public denial of the Armenian genocide in France. The bill subsequently fails to become law, as it is not endorsed by the Senate or the President.



19 January 2007

Hrant Dink, the Armenian-Turkish editor of the Istanbul-based Armenian-language weekly 'Agos', is assassinated by a Turkish nationalist in front of his newspaper's office. Armenian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Arman Kirakossian, accompanied by other Ministry officials, attends the burial.

Hrant Dink. Photo:
Hrant Dink. Photo:

29 March 2007

The Akhtamar Surp Khach (Holy Cross) Church near Lake Van in Turkey opens (as a museum) after restoration work. An Armenian delegation headed by Gagik Gyurjian, deputy Minister of Culture and Youth, attends the opening ceremony. The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its appreciation of the Turkish initiative, hoping that it is the first of many; the Ministry also states that opening the border would help achieve real progress in Turkish-Armenian relations.

9 April 2007

53 Nobel Laureates address a letter calling for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia:

25 June 2007

Oskanian and Gul meet in Istanbul during a BSEC 15th anniversary summit. Oskanian reiterates Armenia's stance: a normalization of relations without any preconditions. Gul underscores Turkey's interest in a quick resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

10 October 2007

The Foreign Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives passes a non-binding resolution on the recognition of the Armenian genocide.

7 November 2007

During his visit to Baku, Turkish President Abdullah Gul lays the blame for the stalemate in Armenian-Turkish relations squarely on Yerevan:

"Turkey recognized the independence of the Republic of Armenia on 16 December 1991. Despite Armenia not being a Black Sea littoral state, Turkey invited Armenia to join the BSEC. Contrary to that, there emerged problems hindering the establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey. I think Turkey is not responsible for the current situation. It is time that the whole world sees that the reason for the current situation lies in Armenia's hostile attitude towards Turkey on the one hand and, on the other, in keeping the territories of the neighbouring Azerbaijan under occupation. While Armenia is pursuing a policy of labelling the events of 1915 in foreign Parliaments [as genocide], there is no need to expect any progress in the normalization of relations. Currently the peoples of Georgia and Azerbaijan are getting great benefits from regional projects. Only countries that treat the territorial integrity of other states with respect and desire peaceful co-existence can be included in regional projects. Armenia and its people should understand this."[71]

Abdullah Gul. Photo: GMFUS
Abdullah Gul. Photo: GMFUS


[1]  Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russian newspaper), 14.05.1991.

[2]  Hurriyet, 02.05.1991.

[3]  Azg Daily, June 8, 1991.

[4]  Azg Daily, June 8, 1991.

[5]  Azg Daily, September 11, 1991.

[6]  Azg Daily, November 6, 1991.

[7]  Azg Daily, November 27, 1991.

[8]  Armenian National Archive, Fond 326, List 9, Dossier 192, pp. 1-2.

[9]  Azg Daily, February 12, 1992.

[10] Hurriyet, 05.03.1992.

[11] Azg Newspaper (in Armenian), 23.11.1991.

[12] New York Times, March 7, 1992.

[13] Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russian), 13.05.1992.

[14] Turkish Daily News, 27.05.1992  quoted in PhD thesis by  Arshakian Grigor, Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Yerevan, 2008, p. 52 ; "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005, p. 108.

[15] Hayk Demoian, Turkey and the Karabakh Conflict (Turtsiya I Karabakhskiy Konflikt, in Russian), Yerevan, 2006, p.32, quoting from William Hale "Turkey, the Black Sea and Transcaucasia", in Transcaucasian Boundaries, New York, 1996, p.64.

[16] Azg, May 20, 1992.

[17] Turkish Daily News, 21.05.1992; 'Up Against the Border', Time, June 01, 1992; The Financial Times, 22. 05.1992; Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russian), 22.05.1992.  Please look below for the Turkish PM Demirel's restrained answer, in quotes, 08.06.92. Another Russian official, Gennady Burbullis, Russian State Secretary, when asked about possible Turkish intervention, abruptly answered 'That is excluded!' (Azg, 23, May, 1992).

[18] Azg Daily, June 2, 1992 (in translation from Cumhurriyet article  from June 4, 1992, without any comments).

[19] Azg Daily, June 11, 1992.

[20] Azg Daily, June 18, 1992.

[21] Azg Daily, July 4, 1992.

[22] Hayk Demoyan, Turkey and the Karabakh Conflict (Turtsiya I Karabakhskiy Konflikt, in Russian), Yerevan, 2006, p.76.

[23] Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russian), 23,06,1992.

[24] R. Bronson; R. Bhatty, "NATO's mixed signals in the South Caucasus and Central Asia", Survival, volume 42, issue 3, January 2000, p.134.

[25] Hayk Demoyan, Turkey and the Karabakh Conflict (Turtsiya I Karabakhskiy Konflikt, in Russian), Yerevan, 2006, (quoting 'Literaturnaya Gazeta' (Russian), 23,09,1992).

[26] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005, p. 109.

[27] Yerkir, August 25, 1992.

[28] Yerkir, September 22, 1992.

[29] The full speech  (from English into Armenian) was translated in Azg Daily, October 20, 1992.

[30] Karen Dawisha, Bruce Parrott, Russia and the New States of Eurasia, The Politics of Upheaval, Cambridge, 1995, p. 192.

[31] Azg Daily, February 5, 1993.

[32] It included 1500 tanks, 2500 weaponry  and mortars, 1100 artilleries backed by the Second Tactical Aviation Command including 270 warplanes (Izvestiya, 09.03.1992).

[33] Hurriyet, 08.04.1993.

[34] 'Türkiye', 16.04.1993.

[35] Milliyet, 08.04.1993.

[36] Azg Daily, April 17, 1993.

[37] Azg Daily, June 16, 1993.

[38] Azg Daily, July 27, 1993.

[39] Azg Daily, August 20, 1993.

[40] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005.

[41] Azg Daily, October, 30, 1993.

[42] Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russian) 18.02.1995.

[43] Hurriyet, 01.03.1995.

[44] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005,  p. 109

[45] Azg (Armenian daily) 26.10.1995.

[46] Rossiyskaya Gazeta, May 25, 1996.

[47] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005,  p. 110.

[48] ITAR-TASS, 29 October, 1996 (from

[49] Azg (Armenian daily) 01.11.1997.

[50] Turan News Agency, December 4, 1997  (from

[51] Hurriyet, 14, 2, 1998.

[52] Burcu Gultekin, The Stakes of the Opening of Turkish Armenian Border, Istanbul 2002, p. 10.

[53] Snark, 26, August, 1998 (from

[54] Snark, 6, November, 1998 (from

[55] Mediamax News Agency, 26.11.1999.

[56] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005, p. 112

[57] Hurriyet, 01.07.2000.

[58] Snark News Agency, October 5, 2000; (from

[59] Snark News Agency, November 3, 2000; (from

[60] Azg Daily, 16/01/2002, also available at

[61] Cumhuriyet, 01.02.2002.

[62] Mediamax, "Armenia: Optimism expressed following Azerbaijan-Armenia-Turkey meeting", May 18, 2002; (from

[63] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005, p. 114

[64] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005,  p. 115

[65] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005

[66] In 1918 the Turkish army had attacked Armenia (which after the dissolution of the Tsarist regime in Russia and the revolutionary war and overall chaos in Russia) which was trying to establish an independent state on the Tsarist part of Armenia (then called Eastern Armenia). But in Sardarapat (close to Yerevan) the Turkish forces were defeated and withdrew. After that on May 28, 1918 Armenia founded an independent state which lasted for two years until 1920 (which fell from the attacks of Bolsheviks from the north and the Kemalist attacks from the west).

[67] Golos Armenii (Russian language Armenian newspaper), 07.11.2003.

[68] In correspondence with ESI, Mr. Dikran Altun, Turkish-Armenian businessman noted on the topic of flights

"As far as I remember the Armenian Airlines started charter flights between Yerevan and Ýstanbul from 1996 till 2003. Only Armenian planes were flying between those cities. In 2003 I personally asked the Turkish Civil Aviation to start Ist-Evn flights by a Turkish carrier. After trying very hard, especially to get the permission from the Ministery (T.M. in his interview below it becomes clear that he means Ministry of Foreign Affairs), my company started charter flights by Fly Air (Turkish carrier). Because Fly Air had some economic problems, in 2006 we made an agreement with Atlasjet Air and still are carrying out flights by Atlas aircraft.

Turkish nationalities may get visa at the Armenian airport when entering the country. It is the same for the Armanians while entering Turkey. The only difference is that Turkish visa is 15USD for a period of 1 month. But in Armania they are asking for 50USD for the same period". (Correspondence of ESI with Mr. Dikran Altun, March 11, 2008)."

[69] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005,  p. 116.

[70] "Brief Chronology of the Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1991-2004", in Armenia-Turkey: Open Conversation, published by the Center of Public Dialogue and Development, Yerevan, 2005, p. 116.

[71] See

August 2009

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