correction 11:45 Zurich, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) - The Swiss government is officially mum on whether or not the event will take place, but the US State Department and the Kremlin in Russia have both announced that they are sending top officials to a ceremony in Zurich Saturday 10 October where Armenia and Turkey will formally establish diplomatic and bilateral relations. The signing of two Protocols will end a standoff that has at times flared into serious tensions, which has existed since Turkey recognized Armenia’s independence in 1991 without then establishing diplomatic relations.
Switzerland has served as mediator in the long process of talks that has finally brought the two together.
A senior US State Department official at a press briefing Thursday 8 October said that while the Swiss have not officially announced the meeting, which is opposed by some groups in both Turkey and Armenia, “They have invited the parties, and the parties have agreed to come, including Secretary [Hillary] Clinton.” The foreign ministers of France and Russia are also expected, he says.
There are concerns that a last-minute hitch could result in the signing ceremony being canceled, but the US official told reporters that “both governments realize that ultimately, it’s in their interest to have normalized relations and an open border. And after years of tensions and the economic isolation, particularly of Armenia, I think there’s a great desire on both sides to move forward.”
Once the protocols are signed their parliaments must then approve them, but the two countries have had six weeks of internal consultations since they initialed the agreements 1 September in Switzerland. The Protocols provide for the two countries to open their borders and normalize trade relations.
Clinton is attending the signing ceremony on the first leg of a trip to Europe and Russia.
Background: “Switzerland helps Turkey, Armenia normalize relations, football to follow”, GenevaLunch, 8 October 2009