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Page last updated at 10:05 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 11:05 UK

Turkey and Armenia set for ties

Mount Ararat, the Turkish mountain revered by Armenians, seen from across the border in Armenia  (pic: Ruben Mangasaryan)
Turkey's Mount Ararat is revered by Armenians across the border

Turkey and its neighbour Armenia have moved closer to establishing diplomatic ties after decades of bitter mistrust on both sides.

They are to hold six weeks of domestic consultations on the move after which their parliaments will vote on it, their foreign ministries announced.

Negotiations on the mending of ties have been brokered by Switzerland.

The two countries remain deeply divided over the fate Armenians suffered under Turkish Ottoman rule.

Turkey has resisted widespread calls for it to recognise the mass killing of Armenians during World War I as an act of genocide.

Anticipation of a diplomatic breakthrough has been growing ahead of a planned visit by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian to Turkey on 14 October.

He is due to attend the return leg of a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries.

'Border to open'

A roadmap for the normalisation of the relationship between the two countries was agreed in April.

An Armenian woman mourns a young boy during the Ottoman deportations of 1915
Hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Armenians died in 1915

The foreign ministries said the two countries had agreed to start internal discussions on two protocols: one establishing diplomatic relations and the other developing bilateral ties.

"The political consultations will be completed within six weeks, following which the two protocols will be signed and submitted to the respective parliaments for ratification," their joint statement said.

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian told the BBC that Turkish recognition of the killing of Armenians would be an important step for justice, for overcoming the barrier between Turks and Armenians, and for preventing "further genocides".

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

But, he added: "The recognition of the genocide itself is not viewed as a precondition for normalising our relations with Turkey."

The Turkish-Armenian border - closed by Turkey in 1993 - would be re-opened within two months of the protocols coming into force.

In a statement, the US said it welcomed the move and was ready to work with both governments to support the normalisation of ties.

'Historical troubles'

Dr Taner Akcam, a professor of History at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts in the US, said the "historic breakthrough" was due to increased democratisation in Turkey, the reduced influence of the military in the political sphere, as well as increased international attention on the Caucasus, particularly on the issue of opening borders for trade.

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After first establishing normal relations, he added, the two countries would then be able to discuss historical troubles.

Dr Akcam said Turkey had seen a shift in attitudes since the start of an investigation into an alleged ultra-nationalist plot to bring down Turkey's government.

Such killings as the 2007 assassination of the prominent Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink - who been given a six-month suspended sentence in 2005 for writing about the Armenian "genocide" - had also prompted a change in Turkish attitudes, he added.

Modern Armenia, which took shape as a Soviet republic in 1920, has only had diplomatic relations with Turkey as part of the USSR.

Since declaring independence in 1991, it has pressed for recognition of what it says was genocide.

Relations have also been complicated by Turkish support for Azerbaijan in its armed conflict with Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.



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