Turkish official: Direct trade between Armenia and Turkey will benefit both

Turkish official: Direct trade between Armenia and Turkey will benefit both
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The first step towards direct trade between Armenia and Turkey will likely be commencement of commercial cargo flights, a senior Turkish FM official has told journalists.

A senior Turkish foreign ministry official said that commencing direct trade between neighboring Turkey and Armenia will be a "win-win" move for both sides, Turkish state news agency AA reported on Thursday.

Speaking to a group of journalists on condition of anonymity during the annual ambassadors' meeting in Turkey, the official noted that the trade between the two countries currently goes indirectly through neighboring Georgia and is worth $230 million, with approximately 15,000 trucks making the journey annually.

The first concrete step agreed upon so far since the sides began meeting in January are to commence commercial cargo flights between the two countries, and open their long-sealed land border to third-country nationals, Amberin Zaman of Al Monitor cited the official saying.

The Turkish official also noted that launching the cargo flights involved technical steps with a lot of details. The next step would therefore be for the sides to do their "homework" before they meet again in September to work out a strategy. The aim is to commence the flights as soon as possible, the official added.

As for opening the land border, the official said that a delegation from the Turkish Foreign Ministry had toured the area and it was clear that the current infrastructure would not support travel between the two sides.

It remains unclear whether the bridge in the border province of Igdir that was built in 1940 was robust enough to carry buses.

The official also mentioned the historic bridge that is part of the ruins of the Armenian kingdom of Ani on the Turkish side. All that remains of the stone bridge that connects the two sides over the Akhurian river are two stubs. Work to restore the bridge would take a long time, the official noted, adding that repairing the bridge would constitute “a very strong confidence-building step.”