The talks still face pitfalls, and will follow months of inactivity after signs of promise earlier in the year when President Obama appealed for reconciliation during a visit to Turkey.
The parliaments of the two countries must ratify a deal on diplomatic normalization, and in Turkey, nationalist sentiment and suspicion about Armenian intentions is particularly high.
Also, despite an agreement that the process should proceed without preconditions, Turkey's prime minister has linked it to a resolution of the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azeri region that was occupied by Armenian troops. The Turkish population shares close cultural and linguistic relations with Azerbaijan, which is pressing Turkey for help in recovering its land.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Monday that Turkey would “guard” Azerbaijan's interest during its reconciliation with Armenia, saying in comments that “our aim is to establish stability in the Caucasus.”
Turkey, however, clearly seeks to enhance its growing image as a regional statesman and a coveted ally of world powers in a strategic and often unstable region. The rapprochement with Armenia coincides with efforts to resolve a long-running feud with Kurdish citizens _ issues that are vital to Turkish efforts to earn membership in the European Union.
Turkish government is not immune to domestic pressure, especially from nationalists who believe Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to undermine secular principles. That internal division has contributed to slow progress on the Armenian issue.
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian indicated the dispute would not be a deal-breaker between the two neighbors. “It's important that historical justice be restored. It's important that our nations are able to establish normal relations,” Sarkisian said in an interview published Monday by the BBC Russian service. “But we do not regard a recognition of genocide as a preliminary condition for establishing relations.”
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence in 1991, but the two countries never established diplomatic relations and their joint border has been closed since 1993.
The joint statement released by the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries Monday said the two countries would start consultations to sign two protocols _ one to establish diplomatic ties, the other to develop relations. The talks, with continued mediation by Switzerland, are to last six weeks.
In agreeing to move forward and normalize relations, landlocked Armenia is eager for a reopening of the border and the trade opportunities it would bring. The border was closed after Armenian forces took control of the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Turkish foreign minister said, however, that opening the border was out of the question for now. “A longer process is required for that,” Davutoğlu said Monday.
Turkish-Armenian ties began to improve after a so-called soccer diplomacy campaign last year, when Turkish President Abdullah Gül attended a World Cup qualifier in Armenia.
Sarkisian in the past has said he wants progress on the reopening of the border before he agrees to attend an Oct. 14 match in Turkey _ about six weeks away.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement that “normalizing relations between Armenia and Turkey would constitute an event of historic import that would contribute to regional stability.” Sarkozy opposes Turkey's entry into the EU.
The Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia,
Guided by the Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia signed on the same day,
Considering the perspectives of developing their bilateral relations, based on confidence and respect to their mutual interests,
Determining to develop and enhance their bilateral relations, in the political, economic, energy, transport, scientific, technical, cultural issues and other fields, based on common interests of both countries,
Supporting the promotion of the cooperation between the two countries in the international and regional organisations, especially within the framework of the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the BSEC,
Taking into account the common purpose of both States to cooperate for enhancing regional stability and security for ensuring the democratic and sustainable development of the region,
Reiterating their commitment to the peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes and conflicts on the basis of the norms and principles of international law,
Reaffirming their readiness to actively support the actions of the international community in addressing common security threats to the region and world security and stability, such as terrorism, transnational organised crimes, illicit trafficking of drugs and arms,
1. Agree to open the common border within 2 months after the entry into force of this Protocol,
2. Agree to
conduct regular political consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the two countries;
implement a dialogue on the historical dimension with the aim to restore mutual confidence between the two nations, including an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations;
make the best possible use of existing transport, communications and energy infrastructure and networks between the two countries, and to undertake measures in this regard;
develop the bilateral legal framework in order to foster cooperation between the two countries;
cooperate in the fields of science and education by encouraging relations between the appropriate institutions as well as promoting the exchange of specialists and students, and act with the aim of preserving the cultural heritage of both sides and launching common cultural projects;
establish consular cooperation in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 in order to provide necessary assistance and protection to the citizens of the two countries;
take concrete measures in order to develop trade, tourism and economic cooperation between the two countries; engage in a dialogue and reinforce their cooperation on environmental issues.
3. Agree on the establishment of an intergovernmental bilateral commission which shall comprise separate sub-commissions for the prompt implementation of the commitments mentioned in operational paragraph 2 above in this Protocol. To prepare the working modalities of the intergovernmental commission and its sub-commissions, a working group headed by the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs shall be created 2 months after the day following the entry into force of this Protocol. Within 3 months after the entry into force of this Protocol, these modalities shall be approved at ministerial level. The intergovernmental commission shall meet for the first time immediately after the adoption of the said modalities. The sub-commissions shall start their work at the latest 1 month thereafter and they shall work continuously until the completion of their mandates.
Where appropriate, international experts shall take part in the sub-commissions.
The timetable and elements agreed by both sides for the implementation of this Protocol are mentioned in the annexed document, which is an integral part of this Protocol.
This Protocol and the Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia shall enter into force on the same day, i.e. on the first day of the first month following the exchange of instruments of ratification.
Signed in (date, place) in Turkish, Armenian and English authentic copies in duplicate. In case of divergence of interpretation, the English text shall prevail
FOR THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY FOR THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA
Annexed document: Timetable and elements for the implementation of the Protocol on development of relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia
Timetable and elements for the implementation of the Protocol on development of relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia
Steps to be undertaken
1. to open the common border
within 2 months after the entry into force of the Protocol on the development of relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia
2. to establish a working group headed by the two Ministers of Foreign Affairs to prepare the working modalities of the intergovernmental commission and its sub-commissions
2 months after the day following the entry into force of the Protocol on the development of relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia
3. to approve the working modalities of the intergovernmental commission and its sub-commissions at ministerial level
within 3 months after the entry into force of the Protocol on the development of relations between the Republic of Turkey and the Republic of Armenia
4. to organize the first meeting of the intergovernmental commission
immediately after the adoption of the working modalities of the intergovernmental commission and its sub-commissions at ministerial level
5. to operate the following sub-commissions:
- the sub-commission on political consultations;
- the sub-commission on transport, communications and energy infrastructure and networks;
- the sub-commission on legal matters;
- the sub-commission on science and education;
- the sub-commission on trade, tourism and economic cooperation;
- the sub-commission on environmental issues; and
- the sub-commission on the historical dimension to implement a dialogue with the aim to restore mutual confidence between the two nations, including an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations, in which Turkish, Armenian as well as Swiss and other international experts shall take part.
at the latest 1 month after the first meeting of the intergovernmental commission
»» Click here to access the original source of the protocol from Turkish Foreign Ministry Web site