Azerbaijan on Wednesday thanked Turkey for cancelling scheduled flights between Yerevan and the southeastern Turkish city of Van that used to be mostly populated by Armenians.
A spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Elman Abdullayev, said official Ankara thus showed support for Baku after “some discontent” that was voiced in Azerbaijan in connection with the planned launch of the flights.
“Those flights were due to be carried out by a private [Turkish] company, but political and economic factors proved that they would not make sense,” 1news.az quoted Abdullayev as saying.
Citing the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the official added, “Ankara’s pressure on Yerevan is important. On this issue we have always felt Turkey’s support and thank it for that.”
The Turkish airline, BoraJet, planned to carry out the first Van-Yerevan flight on April 3 in accordance with an agreement reached by Armenian and Turkish travel firms. Aviation authorities in both countries gave the green light to the service last month.
The development prompted concern from Azerbaijan, which remains fiercely opposed to any Turkish-Armenian cooperation before a resolution of the Karabakh dispute. Senior government officials in Baku said that the flights would help to prolong Armenian “occupation” of Azerbaijani lands.
Turkey's civil aviation authority stepped in and ordered the flights to be suspended late last week. It declined to give a reason.
Narekavank Tour, a Yerevan-based travel agency that has been trying to organize the flights together with partners in Van, criticized Ankara’s last-minute intervention as politically motivated. There has been no official reaction from the Armenian government.
Plans for the Yerevan-Van flights were first announced by Narekavank Tour and a business association in Van about two years ago. The Turkish government reportedly blocked their launch in September 2011. Some Van-based businessmen openly criticized that move.
Azerbaijani officials protested in a similar fashion after Turkish President Abudllah Gul congratulated his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian on winning a second term in an election held on February 18.
Vehement protests from Azerbaijan are also thought to have been the main factor behind Turkey’s failure to unconditionally implement U.S.-brokered agreements with Armenia signed in 2009. The two protocols committed the two nations to establishing diplomatic relations and opening the Turkish-Armenian border. Ankara subsequently made the normalization of relations with Yerevan conditional on a Karabakh settlement acceptable to Baku.