Turkey, Armenia set to establish ties

Turkey, Armenia set to establish ties

5th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Turkey and Armenia will sign a landmark deal on 10 October in Switzerland to establish diplomatic ties.

Ankara -- Turkey and Armenia will sign a landmark deal to establish diplomatic ties in Switzerland in an effort to end decades of hostility over World War I massacres, Turkish officials said Sunday.

"The foreign ministers will come together on 10 October and sign the drafted document," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters, without giving details.

The signing is to take place in Zurich, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Foreign ministers Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey and Eduard Nalbandian of Armenia will sign two agreements, the texts of which were agreed earlier and internationally praised as a major breakthrough, he said.

Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, whose country acted as a mediator in reconciliation talks between the two neighbours, is also likely to attend the ceremony, he said.

Long divided by a violent history, Turkey and Armenia announced in August the talks resulted in two agreements calling for the establishment of diplomatic ties and re-opening their border.

They also set a timetable for a series of steps to improve ties.

Turkey's Prime Minister and the AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R), flanked by his wife Emine Erdogan (L), greets his supporters as they arrive to attend the third congress of AKP in Ankara on 3 October 2009

A Swiss foreign ministry official said the signing ceremony "will probably take place in Switzerland," while Armenian officials were not available for comment.

The agreements, however, will not take effect immediately.

Both governments will submit the documents to their respective parliaments for approval, a process expected to take considerable time.

The United States and the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, have both repeatedly urged Ankara to end the conflict with Yerevan.

The deal, however, was criticised by opposition groups in both countries, which accuse their governments of giving up control.

Turkey refused to establish diplomatic ties with Armenia over Yerevan's international campaign to recognise the World War I massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were killed in a genocide. A number of other countries support Armenia, angering Ankara.

Turkey rejects the genocide label and argues that 300,000-500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil conflict when Armenians fought against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

In 1993, Turkey also closed its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity with close ally Azerbaijan.

The move came over Yerevan's support of ethnic Armenian separatists in Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region. It hurt Armenia’s already-impoverished economy.

The Ankara government is being criticised for reconciling with Yerevan without progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, facing accusations of surrendering Azerbaijan, which has close ethnic and political bonds with Turkey.

French anti-riot policemen clash with Armenians demonstrating on 2 October 2009 in Paris to protest against Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian's will to establish ties with Turkey, before Sarkisian put flowers at the Memorial to Komitas and victims of Armenian Genocide

Analysts say the government is unlikely to seek a parliamentary vote to approve the agreements before progress is made in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

In Armenia, the deal is being criticised for including plans to create a commission to examine historical complaints -- a point that critics say questions Yerevan's genocide claims.

The signing of the agreements will precede an eagerly anticipated football game between the two countries.

The reform process progressed in September 2008 when Turkish President Abdullah Gul paid a historic visit to Yerevan to watch a World Cup qualification match between Turkey and Armenia.

It is unclear whether his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian will return the gesture when the second leg is played in the northwestern Turkish city of Bursa on 14 October.

AFP / Sibel Utku Bila / Expatica

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