ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires
Swiss, Turkish and Armenian Foreign Ministries issue a joint statement, pledging Turkey and the latter two countries' intention to establish diplomatic ties after a six-week negotiation process. The deal reached after the talks will be submitted to Parliament's of the two countries. The U.S. welcomed the normalization plan.
Turkish President Abdullah Gül (L.) and Sarkisian (R) wave their hands at spectators at a football match in Yerevan last year.
Turkey and Armenia have decided to begin a six-week negotiation process that will lead to the establishment of diplomatic ties, Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Burak Özügergin said late on Monday.
The agreement, reached through the mediation of Switzerland, was announced in a joint statement by the Turkish, Swiss and Armenian Foreign Ministries and the deal reached at the end of the six-week process will be submitted to Parliaments of respective countries for ratification.
The agreement follows behind the doors discussions on whether Armenian President Serge Sarkisian will return visit Turkey on Oct. 14 to watch the World Cup match between Turkey and Armenia. Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited Armenia last year on Sept. 6 to watch the match, the first Turkish president to visit the neighboring country.
Turkey severed its ties with Armenia in 1994 in solidarity with Azerbaijan, which had fought a losing war with the country over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkish border with Armenia has been closed since then.
Armenia's efforts to get countries around the world to recognize the 1915 deaths of Armenians as a "genocide" had soured the relations even further. Turkey argues the deaths were due to civil disturbance during World War One within the Ottoman Empire and rejects the "genocide" claims.
Turkey and Armenia have been trying to establish diplomatic ties in the last few years.
Sarkisian, under pressure to stop any improvement of ties with Turkey from far-right opposition at home, said over the weekend that he would come to Turkey in October only if the border was opened. The joint statement pledging the establishment of ties is expected to address Sarkisian's concerns.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu confirmed early on Monday that he had a phone conversation late Sunday with his U.S. counterpart Hillary Clinton. The normalization talks between Turkey and Armenia were on the agenda of 35-minute discussion, according to diplomatic sources.
In a previous joint declaration, Armenia and Turkey announced an agreement to normalize their diplomatic relations and a road map was identified on April 22.
Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President İlham Aliyev are likely to meet in September to continue the internationally mediated talks on a framework peace agreement for Nagorno-Karabakh.
US welcomes normalization plan
The United States late Monday welcomed the plan by Armenia and Turkey to establish diplomatic ties, saying it was "ready to work closely" with both sides in support of improved relations.
"The United States warmly welcomes the joint statement made today by Turkey and Armenia," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly, referring to the plans to establish diplomatic relations and re-open their border in a bid to end decades of mutual distrust and resentment.
"It has long been and remains the position of the United States that normalization should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe," Kelly was quoted by AFP as saying in a statement.
"We remain ready to work closely with both governments in support of normalization, a historic process that will contribute to peace, security and stability throughout the region."
The full text of the joint statement:
Press Release of The Ministries of Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Turkey, The Republic of Armenia and The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
Ankara, Yerevan, Berne 31 August 2009
The Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia have agreed to start their internal political consultations on the two protocols – the “Protocol on the establishment of diplomatic relations” and the “Protocol on the development of bilateral relations” – which have been initialled in the course of their efforts under Swiss mediation.
The two Protocols provide for a framework for the normalization of the bilateral relations within a reasonable timeframe. The political consultations will be completed within six weeks, following which the two Protocols will be signed and submitted to the respective Parliaments for the ratification on each side. Both sides will make their best efforts for the timely progression of the ratification in line with their constitutional and legal procedures.
The normalization of the bilateral relations will contribute to regional peace and stability. The Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia are committed to pursuing their joint efforts with the assistance of Switzerland.