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Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 15:43 UK

Armenia leader on diaspora tour

File pic of poster showing Serge Sarkisian
Serge Sarkisian is to visit France, Lebanon, Russia, and the US

Armenia's president is embarking on a week-long international trip to calm concerns among the Armenian diaspora over the thawing of ties with Turkey.

Serge Sarkisian is to visit France, Lebanon, Russia, and the US.

Armenia and Turkey are expected to sign agreements this month on establishing diplomatic ties, paving the way for the opening of their joint border.

The thaw would end almost a century of hostility and pave the way for an open border between the two.

A restoration of ties would bring many economic benefits to Armenia, analysts say.

But there is still widespread concern among members of the Armenian diaspora that the government in Yerevan is moving too quickly.

But many Armenians say relations should only be established if Turkey recognises as genocide the killing of some 1.5m Armenians under Ottoman rule during World War I.

Turkey says the numbers are exaggerated and insists the deaths were not part of a genocidal campaign.

Politics and football

Mr Sarkisian's trip will take him to Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Beirut and the southern Russian town of Rostov-on-Don.

Briefing officials on his trip, the Armenian president said he was going in order to listen to people and not in order to convince them.

BBC map

But it is the parliaments of Turkey and Armenia which may take more convincing, says the BBC's South Caucasus correspondent Tom Esslemont.

They must ratify the protocol once it has been signed by both presidents later this month.

Mr Sarkisian's Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said this week he would sign the deal on 10 October.

A roadmap for normalising relations was agreed in April.

Mr Sarkisian is due to visit Turkey on 14 October, to attend the return leg of a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries.



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