Turkey’s proposal clears last-minute snag in Zurich
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian (2nd L) and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (2nd R) shake hands while European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana (L), French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (C) and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applaud during the signing ceremony of the protocols and statements between Armenia and Turkey in Zurich on Saturday.
The disagreement stemmed from the Armenian delegation's objection to an implicit reference to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a speech intended to be delivered by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at the end of the signing ceremony.
At a point where the holding of the ceremony seemed deadlocked, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped in, and Davutoğlu proposed that no speeches be delivered by him or his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian, and the crisis was overcome. The signing took place in Zurich University's Churchill room, where Winston Churchill gave a speech in 1946. Clinton played an important role in resolving the crisis, serving as an intermediary and conferring via telephone with both the Armenian and Turkish sides. Diplomats said that the ceremony had turned away from the edge of the cliff.
Amid heightened tension in Zurich, the chess match between Turkey and Armenia came to a head when Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu said ‘check,' noting that he would ‘explicitly’ refer in his speech to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict if the Armenian side insisted on referring to ‘negotiations without preconditions’ in its text
Ankara's proposal for the delivery of no speeches by both Armenian and Turkish sides was found reasonable by the foreign ministers of France, Russia and the United States, the three co-chair countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group, which has been working for a decade and a half to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Clinton, as well as Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, encouraged Nalbandian to accept Davutoğlu's proposal.
Sources said the Armenians' main objection was to a particular sentence in Davutoğlu's speech which referred to peace in the Caucasus. Upon Armenia's objection, Turkey also objected to an expression in Nalbandian's speech which mentioned “negotiations without preconditions.”
“This road is long and full of difficulties. However, this road is worthy of investing labor; this journey can only take place with our partners who are now here and all peoples in Caucasus marching hand-in-hand,” Davutoğlu's sentence subject to Armenian objection read. The Armenians interpreted it as a direct link between normalization efforts and the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Amid heightened tension, Davutoğlu said “check” in the ongoing chess game, and said that he would “explicitly” refer to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in his speech if the Armenian side insisted on referring to “negotiations without preconditions,” in their text.
FM Davutoğlu (R) and his Armenian counterpart, Edward Nalbandian, sign an accord to normalize ties and establish diplomatic relations in Zurich on Oct. 10. American, Russian, French and Swiss foreign ministers also attended the signing ceremony, along with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Following negotiations between Clinton, Davutoğlu and Nalbandian, the Armenian and Turkish sides agreed to not deliver any speeches at the ceremony.
Davutoğlu appeared the far happier envoy, as he smiled broadly while posing for photographs and greeted the other foreign ministers in attendance, who also seemed joyful, while Nalbandian, by contrast, only grudgingly smirked as he shook Davutoğlu's hand.
Upon his return to Ankara, in an interview with the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) Davutoğlu played down the tension in Zurich, calling it “a procedural issue,” and “a natural element of the process.”
What matters is the fact that the two countries have been determined to resolve issues related to the essence of the matter, and these kinds of crises will not be remembered by anyone after a while, Davutoğlu noted.
Armenia and Turkey announced on Aug. 31 that they had agreed to start 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 had been initiated through the course of Swiss-mediated diplomatic efforts.
“The two protocols provide for a framework for the normalization of their 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 foreign ministries of Armenia, Switzerland and Turkey said at the time in a joint statement which was released simultaneously.
On April 22, Turkey announced that it had reached an agreement with Armenia on a roadmap for normalizing relations, drawing praise from the United States and deepening concerns in Azerbaijan. During a subsequent visit to Baku, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Turkey would not open its border with Armenia unless Armenia withdraws its troops from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Turkey was actually one of the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence in 1991. The two countries have been holding closed-door talks for around one-and-a-half years on ways to restore diplomatic relations and open their mutual border, closed by Turkey in 1993 in protest of the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory during a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In his address to the people of Armenia, delivered on Saturday ahead of the signing ceremony, Sarksyan said his choice in relations with Turkey was based on “pragmatism and forward-looking sustained work.”
"Today, we are trying to put on a normal track relations with a country where, under the Ottoman rule, our nation fell victim to the policy of patricide and genocide. The scars of the genocide do not heal. And the memory of our martyrs and future of our generations dictates the need for a solid and stable state, a powerful and prosperous country, a country which is the rebirth of the dreams of the whole Armenian nation. One of the significant steps along that road is having normal relations with all our neighbors, including Turkey. Independence dictates the will and determination to make responsible decisions; it dictates pragmatism and forward-looking sustained work. That is the road I have selected. I have done it with the strong understanding of the historical reality and a strong belief in the future of our people,” Sarksyan said.
“There is no alternative to the establishment of the relations with Turkey without any precondition. It is the dictate of the time. It is not this need that is being debated today. The concern of individuals and some political forces is caused by the different interpretation of certain provisions contained in the protocols and their historic mistrust towards Turkey.”
Today we are here as Turkey and Armenia to take an important step in embarking on a journey towards a new horizon of hope. This journey is long. This journey is fraught with difficulties. However, it is worth taking. This journey can only be made hand in hand with our partners present here, as well as all the peoples of the Caucasus.
I consider myself to be fortunate enough to see that a vision, a courageous step that has taken a considerable time to develop, has finally reached maturity. Indeed, this is a historic moment that we need to cherish and be proud of.
A few years ago there were those who did not believe that we could ever reach this stage. We have proven them wrong.
Today we celebrate an important stage in the process of normalizing relations between Turkey and Armenia.
The initiative launched in the Autumn of 2007 that has made this ceremony possible, has brought two neighbouring countries closer together.
At this historic juncture, I would like to make the following call upon the Turkish and Armenian nations across the world and the international community:
- let us live without conflicts that affect the stability of our neighbourhood.
- let us resolve issues and eradicate animosities.
- let us resolve all bilateral problems and achieve peace and harmony among all nations in our region.
- let us help establish a new order that is beneficial for all.
- let us achieve a new perspective and shared vision for the Caucasus that entails comprehensive normalization.
- let us have prosperity in our region. Our neighbours’ prosperity is our prosperity.
- we had proposed the establishment of the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform for this reason. This was also the motivation for our efforts in the Middle East and the Balkans.
- we all have responsibilities to achieve comprehensive peace, including those present here today.
- we all know that achieving peace is not easy. Only the visionary and courageous can take such steps under difficult circumstances. Turkey and Armenia have taken this step.
Our host, Switzerland, competently assumed a very important and constructive role in this process. I would like to express through the Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Her Excellency Madame Micheline Calmy-Rey, my sincere gratitude to Swiss diplomacy for this invaluable contribution and her warm hospitality.
I would also like to thank those guests who are present at this ceremony; our dear colleagues, Hillary, Sergey; Bernard, Samuel and Javier. Your participation reflects the utmost importance and significance of this event.
This is not only a historic moment for the future of the relations between Turkey and Armenia, but also between the Turkish and Armenian peoples. The signatures we have placed on the Protocols today represent a first step towards the effective normalization of our bilateral relations. We genuinely believe that this process will be crowned with success.
The normalization of relations between the two countries and peoples constitute an exemplary achievement of a new civilizational policy, in line with the requirements and expectations of the 21st century.
The success of the normalization of our relations, no doubt, will depend on the continuation of the courage and determined political will displayed by the parties today. Turkey is ready to build with her neighbor Armenia a common vision for the future.
We expect that this joint initiative which seeks to cultivate compromise and good-neighborly relations will foster other reconciliations and a culture of harmony and understanding in our region. This is what we should do to shape the present and prepare the future of our common region.
The documents that we have just signed create important ground for the Turkish and Armenian peoples to rekindle their friendship, to offer next generations the spirit to living and working together towards a common and prosperous future.
These Protocols provide us opportunities that will serve the interests of both Turkish and Armenian peoples. We look forward to working together with Armenia in order to make the most of these opportunities.
Turkish and Armenian peoples have a different perception of the events of a very tragic period of our common history. We should not leave to the future generations a legacy of prejudice and vengeance.
The Protocol on Development of Relations also addresses this issue.
We are confident that the Sub-Commission foreseen in this Protocol will scientifically examine the painful episode of our common history and shed light on the truth.
This is the only way for these two great and dignified nations to leave behind the conflict of their collective memories and reach together a just memory.
It is an honour to sign these Protocols on behalf of the Republic of Turkey. I hope they will pave the way for a wide normalization and comprehensive peace in the region.
This is the day for peace.
This is the day for courage.
This is the day for wisdom.
And I truly believe that everybody in this hall shares this vision.