November 24, 2008 - 13:02 AMT
Turkish Airlines preparing for charter flights to Yerevan
In a move likely to contribute to the recent thaw in bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey, which gained momentum when President Abdullah Gul visited Yerevan in September, Turkey's national airlines has been preparing to launch charter flights to the Armenian capital, Today's Zaman reports.
Turkish Airlines (THY) has recently sent unofficial letters to both the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (SHGM) and the Foreign Ministry, asking for information regarding charter flights by Armenian national carrier Armavia from Yerevan to Istanbul and the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya.
THY asked about the arrangements and agreements involving these flights. In its response, the SHGM said the flights have been taking place with the Foreign Ministry's approval and that permission for Armavia's charter flights to Turkey is renewed every two or three weeks. In the coming days, THY is expected to send another letter to the Foreign Ministry asking whether launching charter flights to Yerevan would "comply with the national interests" of the country. The final decision will be made after receiving the Foreign Ministry's response outlining Ankara's stance on the issue.
Currently, Atlasjet, a private Turkish airline company, has been conducting charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan.
Turkey severed its ties and closed its border with Armenia in 1993 as a sign of solidarity with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno Karabakh problem.
As part of intensifying contacts between Armenia and Turkey, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian is scheduled to arrive in Istanbul today for a meeting of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). The Istanbul BSEC meeting will also offer an opportunity for a bilateral meeting between Nalbandian and his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan.
A senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said THY has been assuming an important role in Turkish foreign policy. Describing THY as "an important tool of Turkey's policy of strategic initiatives." He said the company always requests the Foreign Ministry's view when it prepares to launch a new flight route abroad.