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Diplomatic coup at football match

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian (left) and his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gull at the football match in Bursa
The Bursa meeting is the latest round in the "football diplomacy"

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian has visited Turkey in a fresh step towards reconciliation between the two nations after nearly a century of hostility.

In the first such visit by an Armenian leader for a decade, he joined Turkish President Abdullah Gul at a World Cup qualifying football match.

Turkish fans booed Armenia's anthem at the start of the game - which Turkey won 2-0 - in the western city of Bursa.

Last week, Turkey and Armenia signed a historic accord normalising relations.

Relations between the two countries have been overshadowed by bitterness since the 1915 mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman forces during the First World War.

Yerevan wants Ankara to recognise the killings as an act of genocide, but successive Turkish governments have refused to do so.

Doves released

Security was tight around the stadium as Mr Sarkisian and Mr Gul attended the match between Turkey and Armenia, following a dinner hosted by the Turkish president.

Turkish policeman speaks to Turkish supporters at the game on 14 October 2009
Thousands of police were on duty at the game

Mr Sarkisian smiled as Turkey scored, while Mr Gul applauded, and the two were seen chatting.

Despite appeals from loudspeakers for respect, jeering erupted when Armenia's national anthem was played at the start of the game.

Earlier, a bus carrying Armenian journalists was pelted with stones by dozens of shouting fans, but no-one was injured.

Some fans released white doves in a gesture of peace that drew applause in the stadium.

Despite Turkey's win the outcome was of no significance as both teams are already out of the running for the 2010 World Cup finals.

Last year, Mr Gul attended a game between the two nations in Armenia, kicking off a round of "football diplomacy" that eventually led to last week's accord.

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Under the agreement, Turkey and Armenia are to establish diplomatic ties and reopen their shared border.

The accord still needs to be ratified by the parliaments of Armenia and Turkey.

Last week, thousands of people protested against the deal in Yerevan.

Armenians have campaigned for the killings to be recognised internationally as genocide - and more than 20 countries have done so.

Turkey admits that many Armenians were killed but says the deaths were part of the widespread fighting that took place in World War I.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 because of its war with Azerbaijan, during which Armenian troops seized the Azeri region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

On Sunday, Azerbaijan said Turkey should not have normalised ties Armenia without a deal over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the opening of his country's border with Armenia would be tied to progress on the disputed region.



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