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Turkey, Armenia sign protocols on ties

world Updated: Oct 11, 2009 01:20 IST

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Turkey and Armenia on Saturday signed two protocols that will pave the way for a new era of diplomatic relations, bilateral ties and the opening of their common border after years of hostility.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian signed the documents and exchanged firm handshakes to applause.

Top diplomats from around the world, including US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner attended the historic ceremony at Zurich University.

Davutoglu and Nalbandian made no statements to the media after the ceremony. Kouchner, meanwhile, told journalists: "There are no problems. We were able to sign - not us, them."

The signing had been delayed by several hours after last-minute wrangling over the wording on statements to be issued by the two sides and the format of the ceremony, diplomats in Zurich said.

Various diplomatic sources told DPA that the Armenian officials had objected to the language used in text submitted by Turkey.

Clinton was seen shuttling between the two sides in a last-minute mediation bid that included several telephone calls to Turkish and Armenian officials.

The deal, negotiated by the Swiss, was announced six weeks ago. Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey opened the ceremony, which took place on the deadline set under the deal.

Ankara and Yerevan broke off relations in 1993 when Turkey closed its border with Armenia after it invaded the Azerbaijan territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

But the animosity goes back decades to what Armenia alleges was the genocide of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians under the Ottoman Turks during World War I, a charge Ankara denies.

The protocols call for the renewal of diplomatic ties, the opening of the common border and the establishment of a historical commission to investigate the events during World War I.

The agreement must be ratified by the two countries' parliaments.

Switzerland has said it acted "as mediator in the process to normalise bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey for over a year."