ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey expects accords to normalize ties with Armenia to be signed on Saturday in Switzerland in a step toward sending a century of hostility, senior Turkish government sources said on Wednesday.
Doubts had emerged in diplomatic circles about whether the ceremony would take place because of pressure from the powerful Armenian Diaspora, as well as opposition within Armenia and to a certain extent Turkey.
“There are no changes to those plans,” a senior Turkish government source, referring to the planned signature of protocols in Zurich on Oct. 10, told Reuters. Another government source, who also declined to be named, agreed.
Turkey and Armenia agreed on Aug. 31 to sign, within six weeks, two protocols on the establishment of diplomatic ties, opening a common border and for historians to investigate the veracity of the Armenian Genocide.
But Armenia was taken by surprise when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in New York that the agreements would be signed on Oct. 10.
Turkish Foreign Ministry officials later told reporters each country’s foreign minister would attend the ceremony in Zurich.
Armenian officials were not available for comment.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian is on a week-long intercontinental charm offensive to calm concerns in the Armenian Diaspora over the historic thaw with Turkey. But every community he has visited, from Paris to Los Angeles, New York, and Lebanon, has greeted him with mass protests and demonstrations.
Diplomatic observers also fear the signing could be disrupted by demands by Turkey for a resolution on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict favoring Azerbaijan.
Once the protocols are signed they must be approved by the respective parliaments. This leaves open the possibility that either side delays the approval in case they face unexpected domestic opposition.
Hanging over efforts to re-establish ties is the specter of one of the bloodiest and most intractable conflicts sparked by the demise of the Soviet Union.
Azerbaijan declared war on neighboring Armenia in the early 1990s after invading the Armenian territory of Nagorno-Karabakh following its declaration of independence in 1991.
International mediators are trying to put pressure on Armenia to make concessions to Azerbaijan that will undermine the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s independence.
Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, has also said ties with Armenia cannot be normalized until Armenia concedes Karabakh’s independence to Azerbaijan, despite the fact that the two issue are separate.
In the latest diplomatic round, two days before the Swiss ceremony, the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan will hold new talks on Karabakh in Moldova’s capital Chisinau on Thursday.
Turkish government sources said they did not expect any major breakthrough in Moldova but said the meeting itself would help push a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict forward. Azerbaijan’s president, however, was quoted this week as saying that the Karabakh conflict is in “its final phase.”