February 16, 2015 / 4:00 PM / 5 years ago

Armenia withdraws peace accords with Turkey from parliament

YEREVAN (Reuters) - Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said on Monday he withdrew from parliament landmark peace accords with Turkey, setting further back U.S.-backed efforts to bury a century of hostility between the neighbors.

The two countries signed accords in October 2009 to establish diplomatic relations and open their land border, trying to overcome the legacy of the World War One mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

The process had been deadlocked by nationalists on both sides, and Ankara and Yerevan have accused the other of trying to rewrite the texts and setting new conditions. Many Armenians want Turkey to recognize the 1915 mass killings as genocide and pay reparations, proposals Ankara balks at.

Neither parliament has approved the deal, which would bring huge economic gains for poor, landlocked Armenia, burnish Turkey’s credentials as an EU candidate and boost its clout in the strategic South Caucasus.

“We were ready for a fully-fledged settlement in our relations with Turkey by ratifying these protocols, but we were also ready for failure,” Sarksyan said in a letter that had been sent to the parliament, his press service said.

He blamed Turkey for “absence of the political will” in finding solution.

“We have nothing to hide and it should be clear for the international community whose fault it was that the last closed European border was not open,” he said.

Armenia, a country of 3.2 million, is approaching the 100th-anniversary of the killings, when tens of thousands lay flowers at a hilltop monument in the capital on April 24th.

U.S. President Barack Obama will issue a statement to mark the anniversary of the massacres, a defining element of Armenian national identity and thorn in the side of Turkey.

Muslim Turkey accepts many Christian Armenians died in partisan fighting beginning in 1915 but denies that up to 1.5 million were killed and that it amounted to genocide — a term used by some Western historians and foreign parliaments.

Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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