[JURIST] Turkey and Armenia [JURIST news archives] signed [text, PDF; Anadolu Anjasi report] a landmark accord Saturday in Zurich, Switzerland, which is expected to normalize relations between the two countries and open up borders. The accord, which actually consists of two protocols, contains provisions to establish a common border between the two countries, to establish an intergovernmental commission, and to set up sub-commissions which will deal with a variety of policy issues ranging from the environment to education. In a tense moment, the signing of the protocols was delayed for three hours because of a disagreement over statements that were to be made after the signing ceremony. Mediation by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] apparently resolved [press release] the dispute, which involved neither of the signatory foreign ministers making a statement after the signing. The Turkish and Armenian parliaments must still approve [Xinhua report] the agreement before it takes effect.
Despite the apparent appeal of the agreement, there is opposition by factions in both countries. Many Armenian nationalists want Turkey to acknowledge the killings of 1.5 million Armenian citizens during World War I, which many refer to as the "Armenian Genocide" [BBC backgrounder]. Turkey has long disputed [Al Jazeera report] the numbers, and has said the killings were a result of a civil war that took place after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. Turkey has expressed concern over its ally Azerbaijan, which has been fighting [DW report] with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Turkey closed its border to Armenia in 1993 after Armenian separatists began fighting with Azerbaijani military to show its support for the preservation of Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.