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01/05/2022 United States (International Christian Concern) – This week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu regarding the relationship between their two countries, which has been filled with tension as of late. Among other topics addressed, the two discussed Turkey’s recent appointment of a special envoy to normalize relations with Armenia following its several transgressions against the small Caucasus country in the past few years.

The new envoy leading up the normalization of relations with Armenia, Serdar Kilic, is the former Turkish Ambassador for the United States. Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, in consultation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appointed him to the new position last month in an ongoing effort by both Turkey and Armenia to mend a bilateral relationship.

During the 2020 Karabakh War, Turkey provided Azerbaijan with drone support and Syrian mercenaries, many of whom were formerly ISIS fighters, to fight against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh). Government officials from the United States and several human rights organizations have condemned both Turkey and Azerbaijan for committing a litany of war crimes during the conflict, including the continued detention of prisoners of war, killing of civilians, and destruction of Christian heritage sites in Artsakh.

Recently, the United States has pushed back on some of Turkey’s religious freedom violations, condemning the detention of Armenian activist Osman Kavala and hosting the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church. In its 2021 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended that Turkey be placed on the State Department’s Special Watch List for engaging in or tolerating “severe” violations of religious freedom. However, the State Department excluded Turkey from this list when announcing its designations in November.

Although the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia may mean peace for the region, Turkey’s religious freedom transgressions against Armenian Christians must not be erased from collective memory, and the United States must hold Turkey and Azerbaijan accountable for their human rights violations.

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