Restart Initiative welcomes this week’s resumption of direct charter flights between Istanbul and Yerevan as part of the process of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey.
The first flights in more than two years took place on Wednesday, February 2nd, with FlyOne Armenia departing from Yerevan’s Zvartnots Airport for Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen at 6.30 pm. Pegasus Airlines, a Turkish airline, flew the Istanbul-Yerevan route later the same evening and nearly all of the country’s media covered the flight.
According to reports, there were nearly 60 people onboard on the FlyOne Armenia flight, with many of them taking the time to view the photographic work of Ara Güler currently on exhibition at Zvartnots Airport. Nicknamed “The Eye of Istanbul,” Güler, of Armenian descent, is Turkey’s most famous photographer.
Nearly 100 passengers took the Pegasus flight from Istanbul to Yerevan.
FlyOne Armenia will perform two weekly return flights to Istanbul while Pegasus will fly the same route three times a week for the initial period. FlyOne is reported to want to increase the number of flights in the future. Speaking to media in Istanbul, Aram Ananyan, FlyOne Armenia’s Chairman of the Board, delivered the following remarks:
Dear friends, dear colleagues, I am glad to welcome you all and I am grateful for your attention and interest towards our flight and for your work. Our airline operated the first Yerevan-Istanbul flight, which connected our two ancient cities. Now, the passengers aboard our aircraft will travel from Istanbul to Yerevan. We attach importance to the restoration of mutual air connection between Yerevan and Istanbul and on this occasion I’d like to thank the aviation authorities of the two countries, as well as our passengers for their trust. I’d like to take this opportunity to also salute Pegasus airline, which will operate the Istanbul-Yerevan-Istanbul flight later tonight. We represent aviation and don’t want to talk politics. That’s not our mission. Our mission is to offer high-quality, affordable and safe aviation services, which enable people and cities to be connected; economic and business ties get boosted, tourism and mutual visits intensify and we will do everything to fulfill our mission duly. We attach importance to the launch of these flights also in terms of closer connecting the Armenian community with Armenia. I am convinced in our success. I think many of you would like to know how Armenians view various issues back home. In my conviction, you can find the answers to all your questions by visiting Armenia, and we will be twice as glad to see you use our services when you do so.
Turkish media carried photographs of passengers from Yerevan arriving in Istanbul being presented with flowers and chocolates.
“We have to put another side our questions and make a good relationship, coming and making business,” said Artashes Petrosyats, an Armenian passenger taking the Pegasus flight from Istanbul to Yerevan. “We have to sit and talk peacefully.”
“The normalization process with our neighbor is good for all of us,” said Hasan Karaduman, a Turkish passenger.
On 3 February, Ananyan held meetings with the Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul, Sahak II Mashalyan, and representatives of the city’s Armenian community. His Holiness is reported to have welcomed the restoration of direct flights, hoping that they can be a positive factor in the normalization of Armenia-Turkey relations.
Ananyan also planned to meet with the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).
Some regional analysts considered the resumption of flights as “positive but cautious first step.” Others have noted that the effects should not be overestimated. “This is of course good news but it’s also just a restoration of a previous situation,” Carnegie Endowment Senior Fellow Thomas de Waal said.
While more progress remains to be made on political fronts, Restart Initiative agrees with the assessment that the resumption of flights is a positive step in the process of normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey.
I personally am looking forward to flying the Yerevan-Istanbul route in the near future.
Dr. Jeanene Mitchell,
Co-founder and Executive Director, Restart Initiative