World

Turkey, Armenia agree to forge ties

Turkey and Armenia have signed an accord to establish diplomatic ties in an effort to set aside a century of animosity between the neighouring countries.
From left, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, Armenian Foreign Minister Edouard Nalbandian, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov applaud Saturday in Zurich after the signing ceremony of the protocols and statements between Armenia and Turkey. ((Partick B. Kraemer/Associated Press))
Turkey and Armenia have signed an accord to establish diplomatic ties in an effort to set aside a century of animosity between the neighbouring countries.

The signing ceremony took place at Zurich University on Saturday as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped the two sides clear a last-minute snag.

Diplomats said Armenia was concerned about wording in the Turkish statement that was to be made after the signing ceremony.

The accord, reached after several weeks of Swiss-mediated talks, calls for the re-opening of the countries' border, which has been closed since 1993.

The Turkish and Armenian parliaments are expected to ratify the accord, but nationalists on both sides are seeking to derail its implementation and there is strong opposition from the Armenian diaspora.

Opponents of the agreement say the protocol doesn't go far enough in addressing the contentious issue of whether the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. Instead, it calls for the establishment of a joint Armenian-Turkish historical commission to examine events during the First World War.

Turkey has acknowledged that many Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War, but denies their deaths were a result of a systematic campaign.

Speaking in Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was showing "goodwill" to restore ties with Armenia. But he said Turkey was still keen on seeing Armenian troops withdrawn from Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-occupied enclave in Azerbaijan.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia 16 years ago in solidarity with its ally Azerbaijan after Armenian troops occupied part of the region.

With files from The Associated Press