The move has largely relieved tensions in Ankara over whether U.S. President Barack Obama will qualify the Armenian killings of the last century in the Ottoman Empire as genocide in his April 24 media release.
"Turkey and Armenia, together with Switzerland as mediator, have been working intensively with a view to normalizing their bilateral relations and developing them in a spirit of good-neighborliness, and mutual respect, and thus to promoting peace, security and stability in the whole region," read a statement from the foreign ministries of the three countries.
"The two parties (Turkey and Armenia) have achieved tangible progress and mutual understanding in this process and they have agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations in a mutually satisfactory manner. In this context, a road-map has been identified," it read. "This agreed basis provides a positive prospect for the on-going process."
"The U.S. welcomes the statement made by Armenia and Turkey on normalization of their bilateral relations," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said."We urge Armenia and Turkey to proceed according to the agreed roadmap. We look forward to working with both governments in support of normalization, and thus promote peace, security and stability in the whole region," Wood said.
Earlier in the day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that the U.S. fully supported the reconciliation process. "I've been very encouraged by the bold steps that have recently been taken in this direction by Turkish and Armenian leaders to reconcile their countries with each other and with their shared and painful past," Clinton said at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on U.S. foreign policy.
"I believe that the steps that Turkey and Armenia are taking toward normalizing relations and opening their borders will foster a better environment for confronting that shared, tragic history," she said.
What will Obama do?
The joint Armenian-Turkish-Swiss statement came just two days before Obama's expected April 24 statement, on the day seen by Washington as the day to commemorate the Armenian deaths of the last century. U.S. Armenians have urged the U.S. government, both the executive and legislative branches, to recognize the Armenian killings as genocide. Turkey warned that any formal U.S. genocide recognition would kill the reconciliation process with Armenia and hurt ties with the U.S. in a major and lasting way. Many analysts in Washington do not expect Obama to recognize the Armenian killings as genocide in the statement today.
Armenians continue efforts
Meanwhile, more than a dozen U.S. lawmakers spoke in favor of the U.S. Armenian position at a meeting held in Congress "to commemorate the Armenian genocide" The grand prize for the Armenians was the presence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, who reiterated her support for the Armenian cause.
Brian Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America, said that Turkey's opening of the border and normalization of ties with Armenia "should not be held hostage to United States affirmation of the Armenian genocide."