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    Dispute over final speeches delayed Turkish-Armenian signing

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    Historic accords between Turkey and Armenia were signed on Saturday with the three-hour delay because the Armenians intended to mention the 1915 genocide of Armenians, and the Turkish were going to refer to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict in their final speeches.

    ZURICH/EREVAN, October 11 (RIA Novosti) - Historic accords between Turkey and Armenia were signed on Saturday with the three-hour delay because the Armenians intended to mention the 1915 genocide of Armenians, and the Turkish were going to refer to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict in their final speeches, an informed source in Zurich said.

    The signing of accords restoring diplomatic relations and opening borders between the two countries was scheduled for 07:00 p.m. Moscow time (15:00 GMT), but took place only at 10:14 p.m. Moscow time (18:14 GMT).

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Slovenian Foreign Minister Samuel Zbogar, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana had arrived in time in the Zurich University, where the signing then took place, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian had arrived only two hours later, the source said.

    Discussion between delegations over Turkish and Armenian final speeches took one more hour, he said. The Turkish foreign minister intended to call for the "security expansion in the Caucasus", referring to the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, and the Armenian foreign minister intended to mention the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

    After the accords were finally signed at 10:24 Moscow time (18:24 GMT), no final speeches were delivered, the source said.

    Deputy head of the Armenian presidential administration Vigen Sargsyan told Armenia's public television station that the signing of the agreements was postponed because the Turkish side was going to deliver a statement, which had no connection with the sense of the discussions.

    "Under the pressure of the Armenian side and with the assistance of the mediators, the decision was taken not to deliver final speeches," he said.

    Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of support for Muslim ally Azerbaijan, following a bloody conflict over Nagorny Karabakh between the two ex-Soviet republics. Turkey has also demanded that Yerevan drop its campaign to have the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 internationally recognized as genocide.

    Armenia and Turkey agreed to a "roadmap" to normalize their relations under Swiss mediation this April. The draft pact between the countries has been backed by the United States and European Union.

    Nagorny Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population, has been a source of conflict between the former Soviet republics since the late 1980s. The province has its own government and is de facto independent.

     

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