The Armenia Pact will be signed on Oct. 10 - Turkish Prime Minister
Turkey has dropped a key condition to signing an agreement Saturday that would reopen its border with Armenia and establish diplomatic relations between the two nations, which have been divided for generations by a dispute over "genocide".
"The agreement will be signed on Oct. 10," Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told
-- provided, he said, that Armenia doesn't ask for changes to the text.
Supporters of the pact -- which include the U.S. and the European Union -- say they hope the change could trigger a virtuous cycle, opening up and stabilizing a region that is increasingly important for oil and gas transit and last year saw a war between Russia and Georgia.
But in Kars, the Turkish city closest to the Armenian border, skeptics point to a concrete monument to unity between the two peoples to show why an embrace between neighbors is far from certain.
Supporters of the agreement, however, have sidestepped a significant hurdle: Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said in an interview Sunday that the signing wasn't dependent on progress at talks this week between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan over their territorial conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The parliaments of Armenia and Turkey need to ratify the protocol for it to take force, something Mr. Erdogan said he couldn't guarantee, as parliamentarians in Ankara would have a free vote in a secret ballot.
Mr. Erdogan also said the two processes -- a resolution of the Karabakh conflict and rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia -- remain linked, and that a positive outcome at this week's talks, to be held in Moldova, would help overall.
Turkish officials have continued to indicate that the border could take longer to open than the three months set out in the three-page protocol.
The Turkish leader said the only obstacle to signing the deal Saturday would come if Armenia seeks to alter the text.
"This is perhaps the most important point -- that Armenia should not allow its policies to be taken hostage by the Armenian diaspora," Mr. Erdogan said. Much of Armenia's large diaspora opposes the protocol.