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Turkey, Armenia resume charter flights amid thawing ties

February 2, 2022 GMT

ISTANBUL (AP) — Charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan resumed after a two-year hiatus on Wednesday amid efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize strained ties.

A Fly One Armenia plane, with 64 passengers on board, landed at Istanbul Airport Wednesday evening, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. A plane belonging to Turkish low-cost Pegasus Airlines was scheduled to take off from Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen, for Yerevan at 11:55 pm (2115 GMT).

Turkey and Armenia have appointed special envoys in a bid to end their decades-long hostile relationship and to establish diplomatic ties. The envoys held their first meeting in Moscow last month and both nations said their talks were held in a “positive and constructive atmosphere.”

Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Armenia’s independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but the two neighbors have no diplomatic ties.

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Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, shut down its border with Armenia in 1993, in a show of solidarity with Baku, which was locked in a conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In 2020, Turkey strongly backed Azerbaijan in the six-week conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, which ended with a Russia-brokered peace deal that saw Azerbaijan gain control of a significant part of the region.

Turkey and Armenia also have a more than century-old bitter relationship over the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians in massacres, deportations and forced marches that began in 1915 in Ottoman Turkey.

Historians widely view the event as genocide. Turkey vehemently rejects the label, conceding that many died in that era, but insisting that the death toll is inflated and the deaths resulted from civil unrest.