Armenia and Turkey sign normalisation protocols

On Saturday 10 October the Foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia, Ahmet Davutoglu and Edward Nalbandian, met in Zurich to sign the protocols which would see a normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two countries. After a last-minute disagreement over the wording of the statements to be made after signing, the accords were finally signed without any speeches or statements, in the presence of the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner. The parliaments of both countries must now approve the protocols before an agreement can come into effect.

 

The same day, the Presidency of the European Union issued a statement on the signing of the protocols. “The European Union encourages Armenia and Turkey to remain committed to the process of normalisation and calls for the ratification and implementation of the protocols as soon as possible.

The European Union believes that the full normalisation of bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey would be an important contribution to the security, stability and cooperation throughout this crucial region and will continue to offer its political and technical support to the process”.

 

However, since Saturday’s events the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has attempted to reintroduce the precondition of the withdrawal of Armenian troops from Nagorno-Karabakh as necessary for a normalisation of relations. Despite initial agreements that the protocols would be free from conditions on both sides, reiterated on several occasions by US President Barack Obama, Mr Erdogan told his party on Sunday that “Turkey cannot take a positive step towards Armenia unless Armenia withdraws from Azeri land”. Such statements will complicate the process of bilateral normalisation of relations.

 

 

Below we provide you with news articles from the International Herald Tribune and Armenia Liberty. A copy of the protocols is attached at the bottom of the page.

 

 

After Hitch, Turkey and Armenia Normalize Ties

(Source: International Herald Tribune, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/world/europe/11armenia.html?_r=2&ref=world)

 

ZURICH – Turkey and Armenia signed a historic agreement to establish normal diplomatic relations and reopen their borders on Saturday, after a last-minute dispute over wording sent Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other diplomats into frantic efforts to salvage the deal. For Turkey and Armenia, neighbors sundered by a century of bitterness over the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, the tumultuous day illustrated how hard it is to heal the wounds of history. For Mrs. Clinton, nine months into her job, it was a bracing taste of down-to-the-wire, limousine diplomacy.

 

The arduous negotiations between the countries had been actively encouraged by the Obama administration, and with an agreement in sight, Mrs. Clinton flew to Switzerland to witness the signing as a show of American support. Instead, she found herself performing triage. Sitting in a parked, black BMW sedan at a hilltop hotel here, with aides thrusting papers at her, Mrs. Clinton worked two cellphones at once as she tried to resolve differences between the Armenian foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandian, and his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu. Mrs. Clinton continued her efforts inside with Mr. Nalbandian and then gave him a ride to the University of Zurich, where the ceremony was to be held. By her own account, she did most of the talking on the brief trip – appealing to him not to let months of talks go up in smoke.

 

“There were several times I said to all the parties involved, ‘This is too important, this has to be seen through, we have come too far,’ ” she recalled. Mrs. Clinton declined to describe the differences between the two sides. Shortly after 8 p.m., three hours late, the two men sat down to sign the agreements, though in a compromise worked out beforehand, neither delivered a statement. The agreement must now be ratified by the Parliaments of both countries, by no means a sure thing. “We recognize how hard it is, and what courage it takes to move forward in the face of very strong opposition in both countries,” Mrs. Clinton said.

 

Any easing of tension between Turkey and Armenia was bound to be fragile. The deal faces particularly fierce opposition from Armenia’s far-flung and politically potent diaspora. Many Armenians insist that ties should not be normalized until Turkey acknowledges that the killing of more than one million Armenians at the end of World War I constituted genocide. Most scholars agree that those killings fit the definition of genocide. But Turkey has vehemently denied that judgment, and the government has supported prosecution of Turks who have spoken out about the issue.

 

As part of the agreement, the two countries would pledge to establish an international commission to research World War I-era archives to clarify the extent of the massacre. Some Armenians fear this will produce a revisionist history that dilutes the enormity of the killing. The countries would have to open their borders within two months after ratification, and establish the historical commission within four months.

 

For their part, Turks protest that Armenia has yet to settle an ugly fight with Azerbaijan, its neighbor and a close ally of Turkey, over a breakaway Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan known as Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey sealed off its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan after Armenian troops occupied some territories around Nagorno-Karabakh. There are limited charter flights between Turkey and Armenia, but no scheduled traffic and no substantial trade. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose party holds a clear majority in the Parliament, has threatened to delay ratification of the deal until Armenia cedes these territories.

 

Beyond these distant and current disputes, some Turks argue that landlocked, economically struggling Armenia has little to offer the ambitious Turkish economy. Closer ties, they say, will only risk fraying Turkey’s relations with Azerbaijan, which is an energy giant. “We have a lot to sell, but they neither have the money to buy nor a variety of goods to offer,” said Ali Nail Celik, the head of the Businessmen’s Association in the border town of Agri, Turkey.

 

For advocates of the deal, however, normalized relations and open borders would radically improve people’s lives. Kaan Soyak, co-chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council, said that by efficiently using existing rail lines, the two countries could become a “regional business hub.”

 

The United States, along with France and Russia, played a key role in prodding the two sides to come to terms. President Obama placed an encouraging call last week to the president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, while Mrs. Clinton has placed 29 calls to Turkish and Armenian officials since taking office, and pulled Mr. Sargsyan away from a soccer match to talk on Saturday. For the United States, a reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia would alter the strategic balance in southeastern Europe. It could open new routes for oil and gas pipelines to the West, as well as a possible alternative supply line for American troops in Afghanistan, though administration officials insisted that had nothing to do with their eagerness for a deal. As Mr. Obama sought an agreement, he had to balance the strategic importance of Turkey, a NATO ally eager for an agreement to smooth its entry into the European Union, against the political muscle of 1.4 million people of Armenian descent living in the United States. After pledging during his campaign to support a Congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide – a perennial source of friction between the United States and Turkey – Mr. Obama has kept silent as president.

 

Mr. Sargsyan of Armenia received a chilly reception when he recently took a weeklong tour to explain the agreement to the diaspora population in the United States, France and Lebanon. Despite noisy street protests, some influential expatriate groups in the United States – including the Western and Eastern Dioceses of the Armenian Church, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Knights of Vartan and the Armenian Assembly of America – announced they would back the agreement, in a joint statement that was released Oct. 1.

 

Mrs. Clinton said much difficult work remained. But on her way to Zurich’s airport for a flight to London, she got a phone call from Mr. Obama congratulating her on her role in breaking the impasse. Looking tired but energized by the experience, Mrs. Clinton said, “It’s what you sign up for.”

 

Turkey Again Links Armenia Moves With Karabakh

(Source: Armenia Liberty, http://www.armenialiberty.org/content/article/1849079.html)

 

Turkey will not normalize relations with Armenia before a breakthrough in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, raising more questions about the implementation of landmark Turkish-Armenian agreements signed the previous night. “I want to reiterate once again that Turkey cannot adopt a positive attitude unless Armenia withdraws from occupied Azerbaijani territories,” he was reported to tell a news conference held in Ankara after a high-level meeting of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

 

Erdogan made clear that an internationally brokered agreement on Karabakh acceptable to Azerbaijan is critical for the ratification by the Turkish parliament of the two Turkish-Armenian relations envisaging that the establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the border between the two nations. “If the problems between Azerbaijan and Armenia are solved, then it will be easier for the Turkish community to embrace the normalization of the relations between Turkey and Armenia. Also, it will make it easier for the Turkish parliament to adopt the protocols,” he said. The parliament and the Turkish public will therefore be closely following Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, he added.

 

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who signed the protocols with his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian in Zurich late on Saturday, likewise linked their mandatory ratification with a Karabakh settlement. “We, the government, want the protocols to pass through Parliament but they need to be submitted for approval in an appropriate psychological and political atmosphere,” he told the state-run TRT television on Sunday. “Not only Karabakh but also the seven Azerbaijani districts adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh are under occupation. That should come to an end,” said Davutoglu.

 

The remarks came just hours after Azerbaijan criticized Turkey for sealing a deal which it said “clouds the spirit of brotherly relations” between the two Turkic countries. “The normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia before the withdrawal of Armenian troops from occupied Azeri territory is in direct contradiction to the national interests of Azerbaijan,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

 

Official Yerevan did not immediately react to the latest statements by the Turkish leaders. In a televised addressed to the nation on Saturday, President Serzh Sarkisian implicitly threatened to walk away from the agreements if Ankara fails to complete the ratification process “within a reasonable time frame.” Sarkisian has for months been on the defensive at home in the face of persistent allegations by his political opponents that he pledged to make more concessions to Azerbaijan in the fence-mending talks with the Turks. He has been anxious to disprove any connection between the Karabakh issue and his policy of rapprochement with Turkey

 

That should explain why Nalbandian strongly objected to a speech which Davutoglu planned to deliver during the signing ceremony in Zurich attended by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other foreign dignitaries. According to the “Hurriyet Daily News” newspaper, Davutoglu would have declared that the normalization of the historically strained Turkish-Armenian relations “will lead to new reconciliations in the South Caucasus.” The paper said the Turkish side, for its part, protested against Nalbandian’s intention to refer to the 1915 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide in his statement. The dispute delayed the high-profile ceremony by more than three hours. The two sides agreed not to make any statements there in what appears to have been a compromise personally brokered by Clinton. “We had a good night in Zurich,” she said afterwards, according to the Associated Press news agency.

 

U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly telephoned Clinton to congratulate her on overcoming the last-minute hitch that threatened to scuttle the deal welcomed by both the West and Russia. “He was very excited, he felt like this was a big step forward and wanted to check in,” the Associated Press quoted an unnamed senior State Department as telling reporters aboard Clinton’s plane as she flew from Zurich to London.

 

Both Obama and Clinton stated earlier that the Turkish-Armenian agreements should be implemented “without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe.”

 

 

 

Other links:

 

Le Monde: ‘Les enjeux régionaux du rapprochement turco-arménien’

Le Figaro: ‘Accord historique entre la Turquie et l’Arménie’

Reuters: ‘Armenia – Turkey sign peace deal, pitfalls ahead’

Financial Times: ‘Armenia and Turkey sign peace deal’

Euronews: ‘Long and winding road to Armenian-Turkish peace’

Hurriyet: ‘Turkey, Armenia face tough problems in normalization process’

Armenia Liberty: ‘Turkey Again Links Armenia Moves With Karabakh’

Associated Press: ‘Turkey: Armenia must pull out of Nagorno-Karabakh’

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