"Armenia and Turkey, with the mediation of Switzerland, have carried out intensive work aimed at normalizing and developing bilateral ties in the spirit of good neighbors and of mutual respect - therefore strengthening peace, stability and security in the whole region," the foreign ministries of Turkey, Armenia and Switzerland said in a joint statement early on Thursday.
However, the statement made no mention of the bitter row over the mass killings of ethnic Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century, saying only that, "The negotiating parties have reached an agreement to normalize relations in a way that will satisfy both sides and establish a roadmap."
Turkey says Armenia must end attempts to have the killings recognized as an act of genocide, and claims the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians at the end of the Ottoman period in 1915 were caused by civil unrest as the Empire collapsed. However, Armenia and a number of other countries say the killings were the first genocide of the 20th century.
The border between the two countries was closed in 1993 on Ankara's initiative during fighting between Armenia and Turkey's ally, Azerbaijan, over Nagorny Karabakh. The disputed region has a high number of ethnic Armenian residents, but is within Azerbaijan's borders. Turkey has said it wants talks with Armenia to take place parallel to Armenian-Azerbaijani discussions on the future status of the region.
Turkish and Armenian envoys have been holding closed talks in Switzerland for the past two years aimed at normalizing relations. Yerevan says it is ready to restore diplomatic relations with Turkey without preconditions.
In September 2008, Turkish President Abdullah Gul made a historic visit to the Armenian capital of Yerevan, where he attended a 2010 World Cup qualifier between the two countries with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan. The Armenian president plans to visit Istanbul in October 2009.
The U.S. welcomed Thursday's statement, with State Department spokesman Robert Wood saying, "It has long been and remains the position of the United States that normalization should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable timeframe."