The governments of Armenia and Turkey will sign a peace agreement in Zurich on Saturday that would normalize relations after nearly a century of animosity between the neighboring nations, the Swiss government said Friday.
The signing ceremony comes more than a month after Armenia and Turkey announced they had agreed to start six weeks of “internal political consultations” on two protocols aimed at establishing diplomatic and bilateral relations. The Swiss-mediated peace deal would also open the border between the countries, which has been shut since 1993. The border was closed after Turkey objected to Armenia’s war with Turkish ally Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabagh. Neither country has an embassy in the other’s capital. Turkish-Armenian relations have often been overshadowed by the dispute over the massacre of ethnic Armenians in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, more than 90 years ago. Armenians accuse Ottoman Turks of committing genocide, killing more then a million Armenians starting in 1915. Modern-day Turkey vehemently rejects the allegations. The proposed protocols for normalizing relations call for creating a committee of international experts to research archives and “restore mutual confidence between the two nations.” There is no mention of the disputed territory of Karabagh, which Armenian troops have controlled since the 1993 Armenian-Azerbaijan war. But the success of the protocols is still uncertain, as the parliaments of both countries still must ratify the agreement. A senior U.S. State Department official — authorized to brief reporters without attribution because of diplomatic sensitivities — said the situation remains “difficult.” “There’s opposition both in Turkey and in Armenia,” the senior official said Thursday, “but both governments realize ultimately it’s in their interest to have normalized relations and an open border after years of tension and the economic isolation, particularly of Armenia.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the signing, along with dignitaries from several other countries, including the European Union, according to the Swiss government.