Messages of support and offers of help poured in from all over the world after the Kahramanmaras earthquake that shook Turkey, devastated ten provinces and killed more than forty-three thousand people. Foreign Ministers of many countries paid support visits to Turkey. Among the most notable visits was undoubtedly that of Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.
Following the 7.7 magnitude earthquake centered in Kahramanmaras, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturian expressed their support for Turkey and earthquake-hit Syria on social media.
Pashinyan said on his Twitter account, “I am deeply saddened by the news of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria, which resulted in many casualties. Armenia is ready to provide assistance.
Following this statement, Armenia sent 28 search and rescue teams and more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid on February 11. The trucks passed through the Andijan border crossing, which has been closed for 30 years, and reached Adıyaman, the earthquake zone.
In 1993, after the Armenian army invaded Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar rayon, the Armenian-Turkish border crossings were closed and both countries welcomed the opening of the border crossings for humanitarian aid. It is hoped that this step will create an impetus for the normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations, which have been progressing slowly due to the impact of the process towards the hoped-for peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Despite the lack of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey, both countries have been sensitive to humanitarian aid in the past.
For example, Turkey sent humanitarian aid to Armenia in 1988 after the earthquake disaster in the Spitak Region of Armenia, which killed 20,000 people. The aid collected by the Turkish Red Crescent was delivered to the earthquake zone through the Alican border crossing.
In 1999, following the Marmara earthquake, Armenian President Robert Kocharian sent a telegram to then President Süleyman Demirel expressing his condolences and stating that Armenia would send a search and rescue team if requested.
After the 2011 Van earthquake, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan sent a message of condolences to President Abdullah Gül and stated that Armenian search and rescue teams were ready to provide support.
Armenia’s foreign minister Ararat Mirzoyan paid a support visit to Turkey on February 15 in the aftermath of the earthquake. Mirzoyan was accompanied by Ruben Rubinyan, Armenia’s special envoy to the Armenia-Turkey normalization process. Mirzoyan and Rubinyan were welcomed at Esenboğa Airport by Turkey’s special envoy Serdar Kılıç. This was Mirzoyan’s second visit to Turkey. In March 2022, Ararat Mirzoyan participated in the Antalya Diplomatic Forum and met with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, and both Ministers shared their positive feelings about the normalization process. On February 15, after a brief meeting of the Foreign Ministers, a joint press conference was held. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu expressed his gratitude for Armenia’s support in the following words:
“Armenia sent a search and rescue team of 28 people to our country. Since February 8, they have rescued a little girl and a young man in Adıyaman. They worked hard and we saw how happy they were while doing this.”
Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu stated that they touched upon the normalization process between Turkey and Armenia and also discussed the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Mentioning the importance of Armenia’s assistance, Çavuşoğlu said, “Armenia extended its hand of solidarity in our difficult times.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said at the press conference: “I would like to reaffirm our desire to establish peace by being in Turkey in these difficult times.
After the press conference, Ararat Mirzoyan and Ruben Rubinyan traveled to the earthquake-hit Adiyaman province. Mirzoyan and Rubinyan were welcomed at the airport by Serdar Kılıç, Special Representative of Armenia to Turkey, and Fatma Ceren Yazgan, who served as Ambassador to Tbilisi between 2017 and 2022.
Ruben Rubinyan, Deputy Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly and Armenia’s special envoy to Turkey, told Anadolu Agency that they visited Turkey to show their solidarity with Turkey in the face of a major disaster. Armenian Foreign Minister Mirzoyan and Rubinyan opened the second batch of aid sent by Armenia together. Referring to the normalization process, Ruben Rubinyan said that Armenia is determined to normalize relations between the two neighboring countries:
“Armenia’s assistance to Turkey in the face of the disaster reflects the feelings of the Armenian society. Normalization will, first of all, ensure stability and peace in the region; secondly, it will create opportunities for economic and other cooperation.”
Turkey’s special envoy Serdar Kilic emphasized the importance of Armenia’s assistance and said that the Turkish people will not forget it. “Support from the countries of the region is an important factor in alleviating pain and grief. Like other countries in the region, the people of Armenia stand by the Turkish people in this painful moment.
Turkey’s special envoy Serdar Kılıç emphasized the importance of Armenia’s assistance and stated that the Turkish people will not forget it. “The support from the countries in the region is an important factor in alleviating the pain and grief. Like other countries in the region, the people of Armenia made an effort to be with the Turkish people in this painful moment, sending search and rescue teams as well as cargo trucks carrying humanitarian aid. We will of course not forget this support from Armenia. This is a very important event. Pain brings people together,” he said.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who took part in a panel discussion on the South Caucasus with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili at the 59th Munich Security Conference held between February 17-19, also touched upon the issue of humanitarian aid sent to Turkey and stated that they received a positive response from the Turkish government in this process: “Our decision to send humanitarian aid and search and rescue teams to Turkey was only for relief purposes, but we have seen the positive reaction of the Turkish government in this process. If the step has a positive outcome, so much the better.
Despite this positive development between Turkey and Armenia, experts say the process will proceed in parallel with the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace treaty process. Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan, director of the Yerevan-based Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says Armenia’s assistance will not change the Turkish government’s strategic calculus; “I believe that Turkey will continue to link Armenia-Azerbaijan relations to the Armenia-Turkey process.
Poghosyan believes that a comprehensive normalization will be possible only after the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace treaty. Benyamin Poghosyan noted that there are different opinions about normalization among the Armenian public, with one part of the Armenian public hoping that the economy will revive with the opening of the closed border crossings, while another part thinks that the local producers will suffer from the cheap Turkish products.
The reopening of the border crossing for humanitarian aid 30 years after it was closed following the occupation of Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar rayon in 1993 has also been discussed by political circles in Azerbaijan. Rusif Huseynov, co-founder of the Topchubashov Center, a Baku-based think tank, said that politicians in Azerbaijan are sensitive when commenting on this issue because humanitarian aid is at stake. Huseynov said. Ararat Mirzoyan’s visit created a positive atmosphere. However, the Azerbaijani side understands that it is not possible to resolve many issues at once with one-time humanitarian aid.”
According to Huseynova, Turkey will not take any step that would negatively affect its relations with Azerbaijan:
”Relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey have deepened. Military cooperation, joint projects in the field of transportation and energy, investments of Turkish companies in the liberated regions are all well known. The road to normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia passes through Baku.”
It is true that the relations between Turkey and Armenia are progressing in parallel with the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace treaty process. The pros and cons of this can be discussed, but a step to be taken between Turkey and Armenia will contribute more to Azerbaijan-Armenia relations. Armenia’s humanitarian assistance was recognized by the people of Turkey as a meaningful and important message. Perhaps peace should be given a chance when tragedies bring people together and the necessary steps should be taken without forgetting these feelings.