ZURICH, Switzerland (Combined Sources)—In a dramatic turn of events, the signing of the protocols on the establishment and development of relations between Armenia and Turkey has been delayed due to reported ‘glitches’ in an announcement to have been made after the signing.
But just as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s motorcade arrived at the University of Zurich for the signing of the accord, she got word of a last-minute glitch. The motorcade reversed and sped to a hotel, where U.S. diplomats tried to satisfy concerns on the Armenian side over language in the two countries’ statements.
The agreement still must be approved by the two countries’ parliaments, where it is likely to face opposition from nationalists.
The agreement his “a last minute hitch” with the Armenians, US State Departement spokesman Ian Kelly said.
“It’s a last minute hitch,” Kelly told journalists as the signing ceremony between Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu in the Swiss city of Zurich was “delayed,” he added.
AFP reporters at University of Zurich, where the two ministers were due to sign two pacts, confirmed that the ceremony due to take place at 5 p.m. (8 a.m. Pacific Time had not begun more than 40 minutes later.
Officials said that only Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, representing the mediators, EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana and Davutoglu had arrived at the site.
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Phil Gordon was meeting Nalbandian in a hotel to try to deal with Armenian concerns about some of the statements to be made during the ceremony, officials said.
Gordon was also talking to the Turkish delegation by phone, they added.
A member of Turkey’s delegation was seen by an AFP reporter arriving at the hotel to deliver a text, escorted by a police car.
Both, Davutoglu and his Swiss counterpart were present in the salon of the university. However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian were absent, opening the way for speculation that Clinton was trying to convince the Armenian minister to attend the ceremony.
The crisis stemmed from the two parties’, Turkey and Armenia, attempts to interfere in the statements, it was reported.
According to the speculation, Nalbandian wanted to refer in the statement to the 1915 killings of the Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire by using the word “genocide,” reported the Hurriyet newspaper. The Turkish side, on the other hand, wanted to refer to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the statement, something Armenia says has nothing to do with the normalization of ties with Turkey. NTV reported that the Turkish side renewed the text and handed it over to the US delegation.
In pursuing the accord, Turkey won a commitment from Washington to step up its efforts to settle the dispute over the breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian enclave in the Turkish ally of Azerbaijan, officials said.
In Istanbul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “Armenian demands in time will be very important. We’ll not bend in the face of those demands.” Erdogan assured that Turkey would not take any step that would leave Azerbaijan in difficulty. Asked about the meeting of the Armenian and Azeri presidents in Moldova last Thursday, he said a more positive step could be taken that would contribute to the normalization between Turkey and Armenia. “Despite this, we are in favor of developing relations with Armenia by protecting our good intentions and in a way that will not hurt Azerbaijan,” he told reporters.
In a televised interview, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek said the instability in the Caucasus was harming Turkey. “We want normalization [in ties with Armenia] which will bring peace and stability to the Caucasus,” he told private NTV television. He made clear, however, that the relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan would be important in the process of normalization of ties between Turkey and Armenia.
“If Turkey normalizes relations with Armenia and ends its blockade of that land-locked country, it would be a very positive step for the region,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a leading supporter of Armenian genocide resolutions in Congress, in a statement.
He added, however, that, “Turkey must not be allowed to rewrite the history of the Armenian Genocide as a price of diplomatic relations.”
The Armenian National Committee of America blasted the accord.
“The Obama Administration’s attempts to force Armenia into one-sided concessions . . . is short-sighted and will, in the long term, create more problems that it serves,” it said.