Turkey and Armenia may finally be on the verge of reconciliation, after nearly a century of hostile relations between the two nations. On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Zurich to give a final needed push toward the signing of agreements to establish normalized diplomatic relations between the Turkish and Armenian governments and to reopen the sealed border between them.
The United States has been engaged in the Turkish-Armenian reconciliation process and will “remain ready to work with both governments in support of the process”, which will likely be difficult, requiring ratification from each of the parliaments.
The football diplomacy also resumed as the Armenian president said today that he will attend a football match in Turkey later this week accepting an invitation by his Turkish counterpart to watch the two nations’ teams in the second leg of their World Cup qualifier. Last year the Turkish president watched the first leg of the qualifier in Armenia.
(Armenian and Turkish presidents at May 5 meeting- CC license)
Hostilities between the two countries stem from the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turkish forces during and after World War I.
Armenians are wary of the agreement because it calls for a joint commission of independent historians to examine the events. Armenians want the massacres between 1915 and 1923 recognized as genocide. Turkey rejects the genocide claim, claiming the Armenian deaths to be the result of fighting, while pointing out that many Turks also were killed during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
A senior State Department official speaking on background last Thursday acknowledged that both the Turkish and Armenian governments face domestic opposition for normalizing their countries’ relationship.
“It’s difficult,” the official said. “But both governments realize that, ultimately, it’s in their interest to have normalized relations and an open border, and after years of tensions and the economic isolation, particularly of Armenia, I think there is a great desire on both sides to move forward.”
Sec. Clinton has had 29 telephone conversations with officials from both countries over the past months and held meetings with the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers, who signed the documents as she looked on.
Opening the eastern border of Turkey could bring much needed prosperity to Armenia and allow access to some of the holy sites associated with Armenian origins.
Watch the video from AFP showing hopeful border towns preparing for new visitors.