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Turkish-Armenian Accords Signed After Last-Minute Snag


Switzerland -- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (2ndR) and Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandiana (2nd L) shake hands as they hold signed documents after a signing ceremony in front of (L to R) European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Sol

Switzerland -- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (2ndR) and Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandiana (2nd L) shake hands as they hold signed documents after a signing ceremony in front of (L to R) European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Sol

Armenia and Turkey signed landmark agreements paving the way for the normalization of their relations late on Saturday after a last-minute dispute that threatened to derail their unprecedented rapprochement welcomed by the international community.

The signing ceremony held in Zurich, Switzerland was delayed by more than three hours, with Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian apparently objecting to a statement that was due to be read out by his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu. The content of that statement was not immediately known.

Switzerland -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leaves as she speaks with Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian (R) after a signing ceremony of protocols between Turkey and Armenia was delayed, 10Oct2009
In the event, neither minister made any statements after sealing the two Turkish-Armenian protocols in what appeared to be a compromise arranged by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She and Nalbandian arrived at the University of Zurich, the ceremony venue, in the same car.

The Armenian minister looked stern as he put pen to paper and shook hands with a smiling Davutoglu in the presence of Clinton, the foreign ministers of Switzerland, Russia and France as well as the European Union’s foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana. Their attendance underscored the strong support for the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement shown by the world’s leading powers.

The signed protocols envisage the establishment of diplomatic relations and reopening of the border between Armenia and Turkey within two months of their entry into force. The documents need to be ratified by the parliaments of the two neighboring states.

Speaking to journalists in Istanbul earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave fresh indications that his government will not rush to reopen the border before a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would satisfy Azerbaijan. “We are in favor of developing relations with Armenia by protecting our good intentions and in a way that will not hurt Azerbaijan,” he said, according to “Hurriyet Daily News.”

In a televised address to the nation aired hours before the signing ceremony, President Serzh Sarkisian warned Ankara against “dragging out” the ratification process. “If Turkey does not ratify the protocols within a reasonable time frame and fails to fulfill all of their provisions within the defined period or breaches them in the future, Armenia will not hesitate to take adequate steps corresponding to international law,” he said without elaborating.

Sarkisian also defended his conciliatory line on Turkey, insisting that it has not split the Armenian people or driven a wedge between Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora despite his critics’ claims to the contrary. He again sought to disprove, line by line, their main arguments against that policy and, in particular, their claims that it has dealt a massive blow to efforts at greater international recognition of the Armenian genocide.

“The genocide wound does not heal,” said Sarkisian. “The memory of our martyrs and the future of our generations require having a stable and firm statehood, a powerful and prosperous country, a homeland that embodies the dreams of all Armenians. We consider the establishment of normal relations with all neighbors, including Turkey, one of the important steps on that path.”

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