A WALL STREET JOURNAL NEWS ROUNDUP
ZURICH--Turkey and Armenia signed an accord Saturday to establish diplomatic relations after a century of enmity, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton helped the two sides clear a last-minute snag.
The Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers signed the agreement in the Swiss city of Zurich after a late dispute over the final statements they would make.
Officials said Mrs. Clinton and mediators from Switzerland intervened to help broker a solution.
The accord is expected to win ratification from both nations' parliaments and could lead to a reopening of their border that has been closed for 16 years. But nationalists on both sides are still seeking to derail implementation of the deal.
Better ties between Turkey, a regional heavyweight, and poor, landlocked Armenia are a priority for U.S. President Barack Obama. They could help reduce tensions in the troubled Caucasus region and facilitate its role as a corridor for energy supplies bound for the West.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was taking steps with "goodwill" to restore ties with Armenia but that it was keen on seeing Armenian troops withdrawn from Nagorno Karabakh.
"We are trying to boost our relations with Armenia in a way that will cause no hard feelings for Azerbaijan," Mr. Erdogan told reporters in Turkey.
Mr. Erdogan said Turkey's relations with Armenia after the agreement is signed Saturday will run parallel to the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Switzerland, which mediated six weeks of talks between Turkey and Armenia to reach the accord, is hosting the signing.
The contentious issue of whether the killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians during the final days of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide is only hinted at in the agreement, which calls for diplomatic ties for the first time and the opening of the border within two months.
The foreign ministers of both countries are expected to sign the deal and both parliaments are expected to ratify it.
Necati Cetinkaya, a deputy chairman of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, defended the deal, saying "sincere steps that are being taken will benefit Turkey." He said Turkey is aiming to form friendly ties with all its neighbors and could benefit from trade with Armenia.
But Yilmaz Ates of the main opposition Republican People's Party said Turkey should avoid any concessions.
"If Armenia wants to repair relations...then it should end occupation of Nagorno Karabakh, that's it," Mr. Ates said Saturday.
About 10,000 protesters rallied Friday in Armenia's capital to oppose the signing.
The agreement calls for a panel to discuss "the historical dimension"--a reference to the genocide issue--that will include "an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations."
That clause is viewed as a concession to Turkey because Armenia has said genocide was confirmed by international historians, and further discussion could lead to deadlock. Turkey denies genocide, contending the toll is inflated and those killed were victims of civil war.
Another source of dispute is Nagorno Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan that is occupied by Armenian troops. Turks have close cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan, which is pressing Turkey for help in recovering its land. Turkey shut its border with Armenia to protest the Armenian invasion of Nagorno Karabakh in 1993.
Turkey wants Armenia to withdraw some troops from the enclave area to show goodwill and speed the opening of their joint border, but Armenia has yet to agree, said Omer Taspinar, Turkey project director at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"We may end up in a kind of awkward situation where there are diplomatic relations, but the border is still closed," Mr. Taspinar said.