NEW YORK (AP)–Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday pressed Armenia and Turkey to follow through on their commitment to normalize relations after decades of hostility.
In separate meetings on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Clinton told the foreign ministers of the two countries that they should proceed apace and not get bogged down by political opposition to a deal, which they hope to seal by mid-October.
Normalization “should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe,” Clinton said as she met Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian. She later delivered a similar message to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, U.S. officials said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Sunday that Turkey and Armenia would sign a deal to establish diplomatic ties on Oct. 10.
The Swiss NZZ online reported Monday that Clinton is scheduled to attend the signing ceremony of the Armenia-Turkey Protocols scheduled for October 10 in Zurich.
She has yet to official confirm her participation at the event, however, the reservation at the hotel has already been made, the paper said, adding that the Armenian and Turkish Foreign Ministers are also set to arrive in Switzerland the same day.
Before the agreements can take effect, they must be approved by the countries’ parliaments.
The top U.S. diplomat for Europe, Philip Gordon, said the United States was eager for the deal, which also foresees the reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border, and was anxious that it happen quickly.
“This is a difficult process that faces some political opposition in both places and it’s hard for both governments,” he told reporters after Clinton’s meetings. “It shouldn’t wait for other things to get done, or be linked to other things. It should go ahead.”
Gordon also said the United States supported what has become known as “soccer diplomacy” between the two countries and would like to see Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian visit Turkey for an Oct. 14 World Cup qualifier between Turkey and Armenia.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul attended a World Cup qualifier in Armenia last year in what was hailed as a breakthrough but Sarkisian has said he’ll only go to the game in Turkey if there’s progress toward opening the border.
Gordon said Sarkisian should attend the match regardless. “It would be a good sign and further evidence of the two countries coming together if he went to the football match.”