KARS, Turkiye

Amid the normalization process between Turkiye and Armenia, businesspeople in the Turkish eastern province of Kars, located near the Armenian border, are waiting for the opening of the border between the two countries.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the businesspeople said that the opening of the Dogukapi border gate, which is a freight station near the Turkiye-Armenia border and has been closed for 29 years, could boost the trade in the region.

Turkiye closed the border gate in 1993 after Armenia occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. The railway line was renewed in 2009 when the two neighboring countries signed “Zurich protocols” in an attempt to normalize relations, but the border was never opened as the protocols failed to be ratified at national parliaments.

Turkiye and Armenia held the first round of talks to normalize relations on Jan. 14, and the second meeting of special representatives set for Feb. 24 in Vienna.

Ertugrul Alibeyoglu, head of the Kars Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Anadolu Agency that they expect a “massive influx of tourists” from Armenia to historical and religious sites in Kars, in case the ongoing diplomatic contacts with Armenia are concluded positively and as a result, a connection between Kars and Armenia by road and railway is established.”

“Tourism will develop mutually and this tourism boom will benefit both countries,” he said.

Adem Ertas, head of the Chamber of Agriculture in Kars, said Dogukapi “was one of the most important gates that connected our country with Russia in the past. Livestock and agricultural materials were traded from here, grain and wheat were imported and exported.”

“The normalization process with Armenia is good news for us. I hope Dogukapi will open as soon as possible,” he added.

Adem Burulday, head of the Union of Craftsmen and Artisans Chambers, said opening the door to Armenia will also benefit shopkeepers in Kars and Akyaka.

Restaurant owner Alpay Kurt said: “We would be very happy to see Dogukapi is open. It will both contribute to tourism and be good for shopkeepers here.”

Murat Kocak, another shopkeeper, said: “The door of a new country means new people… With the opening of the door, there will be trade between the two countries.”

* Writing by Iclal Turan

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