Turkey, Armenia agree on road map to normalize ties
The tentative agreement, which must be ratified by both nations' legislatures, creates a framework for bilateral cooperation.
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Turkey and Armenia have tentatively agreed to normalize diplomatic ties amid fierce rancor over the massacre of more than a million Armenians nearly a century ago. Swiss-mediated talks yielded an accord that would, if confirmed by lawmakers, create a road map for bilateral cooperation between the two antagonistic neighbors.
Armenia has been lobbying Western nations to back its claim that the Ottoman Empire committed genocide against its people during World War I. Turkey has long denied that the killings amounted to genocide. On a recent visit to Turkey, US President Barack Obama called on the country to come to terms with its past and reopen its sealed border with Armenia. During his term as a senator, he joined calls for the US government to recognize the genocide. But on his recent trip, he carefully avoided using the term.
Turkey's government said Wednesday that the talks had achieved "tangible progress and mutual understanding," Bloomberg reports. Last September, President Abdullah Gul became the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia. To resolve the dispute over the massacres, Turkey has proposed opening the archives of the Ottoman Empire, the forerunner to the modern nation-state, to foreign historians.
The Foreign Ministry said Turkey and Armenia "have agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations in a mutually satisfactory manner," according to the statement on its Web site. "In this context, a road map has been identified."
Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that a joint statement by the foreign ministries of Switzerland, Turkey, and Armenia did not refer to the mass killings that have poisoned relations between the two neighbors, but spoke more broadly of strengthening "peace, stability, and security" in the region. Turkish and Armenian envoys have held closed-door talks in Switzerland for two years, according to Novosti.
The Washington Post reports that Mr. Obama met the leaders of Turkey and Armenia during his visit earlier this month to Istanbul and was supportive of the diplomatic overtures between the two neighbors. Nationalists in both countries may try to scuttle the accord, however, which must be ratified by the two legislatures. The road map would set up joint committees to handle economic affairs as well as historical issues, principally the massacres that began in 1915.
The announcement came just two days before what Armenians will mark as the 94th anniversary of the start of the massacres of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians in Turkey during the demise of the Ottoman Empire. President Obama is expected to give an annual White House statement on the killings on Friday, and had promised during his campaign to describe them as "genocide." In recent years, US presidents have resisted using such language, which Turkey rejects.