Aviation authorities in Turkey have postponed plans for a landmark direct flight with Armenia hoped to boost tourism and promote cultural exchange between the two neighboring countries.
At the beginning of March, Narekavank Tour, an Armenian travel agency, announced that flights connecting Yerevan and the city of Van in southeastern Turkey would be launched as soon as in early April and expressed hope that they would prove popular among Armenian tourists keen on visiting ancestral lands.
The Yerevan-based company said on Friday, however, that the opening of the flight had been delayed indefinitely following a corresponding decision made by Turkey’s Head Department of Civil Aviation.
On March 5, Ashot Soghomonian, head of Narekavank Tour, said his private firm and its business partners in Turkey had already secured all necessary permissions from the aviation authorities in both countries and that BoraJet, a private Turkish airline, had been contracted to fly between Yerevan and Van twice a week.
Located on the eastern shore of an eponymous lake, Van is an ancient city with an estimated 500,000, mainly Kurdish residents. The city and surrounding areas had a sizable Armenian population until the World War I-era mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
A number of Armenian monuments and historical sights, notably Surp Khach (Holy Cross) Church, are situated in and around Van, making the area a potential draw for Armenians.
“The main goal of the flights was to develop tourism and cultural exchange between the two peoples, as well as to promote economic and business cooperation,” Narekavank Tour said in a statement, emphasizing that the organizers of the project had tried to stay away from politics.
Plans for the Van-Yerevan-Van flight, however, were denounced in neighboring Azerbaijan, which is Turkey’s regional and ethnic ally locked in a bitter territorial dispute with Armenia.
Some officials in Baku, which has been particularly sensitive to any attempts of promoting Turkish-Armenian normalization, said opening such a flight for Turkey would amount to ‘supporting the enemy’.
“We regret to say that the Turkish authorities have failed to stay away from politics,” the Armenian travel agency said in its statement. “We still hope that the Turkish authorities will show reason and will reconsider their decision,” it added.
Turkish-Armenian commercial flights have until now been carried out only between Yerevan and Istanbul.