Accessibility links

Armenia-Turkey Deal Delayed Over Disagreements


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.

ZURICH (Reuters) -- A planned peace agreement between Turkey and Armenia to end a century of enmity has hit a last-minute snag over disagreements with statements to be read at the historic ceremony.

U.S. officials sought to help smooth over disagreements with Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian over statements to be read at the historic signing, while Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu waited at the venue along with international dignitaries.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned to a Zurich hotel so U.S. officials could meet Nalbandian, whose delegation had not left for the venue where the deal was due to be signed at 5 p.m. (1500 GMT).

"We're helping facilitate the two sides come to agreement on statements that are going to come out," U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters. "There's not a breakdown."

A U.S. official said a new version of the Turkish statement had been brought to the hotel.

One Reuters witness at the hotel saw the Armenian delegation in a huddle, having heated discussions. Other Reuters witnesses described the atmosphere at the hotel as tense.

European Union foreign-policy chief Javier Solana, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner were also waiting at the University of Zurich where the ceremony was to be signed.

The deal to normalize ties and reopen the border has faced fierce opposition from nationalists on both sides, and from an Armenian diaspora that insists Turkey acknowledge the killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman forces in World War I as genocide.

A decades-old dispute between Turkey's ally Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh had hung over the deal after talks between Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders over the region ended without result on October 9.

An accord would boost U.S. ally Turkey's diplomatic clout in the volatile South Caucasus, a transit corridor for oil and natural gas to the West. Hillary Clinton and other dignitaries were to attend the signing.

But disagreements over the Ottoman killings -- which Yerevan calls genocide, a term Ankara rejects -- and a decades-old dispute between Turkey's ally Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh hang over the settlement.

Under U.S. and EU pressure, officials from European Union candidate Turkey and former Soviet republic Armenia said they would sign the Swiss-mediated accord, which sets a timetable for restoring diplomatic ties and opening their border.

It must then be approved by their parliaments in the face of nationalist opposition and a powerful Armenian diaspora that insists Turkey acknowledge the killings as genocide.
XS
SM
MD
LG