Aug 31 2009

Armenia and Turkey have agreed to establish diplomatic ties and reopen
their border under a plan to end nearly a century of hostility.

The neighbours, whose history of animosity stems from the mass
killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during the first world war,
said on Monday that they would hold domestic consultations before
setting up diplomatic ties for the first time.

"The political consultations will be completed within six weeks,
following which the two protocols will be signed and submitted to
the respective parliaments for the ratification on each side," the
countries' foreign ministries said in a statement issued jointly with
mediator Switzerland.

"Both sides will make their best efforts for the timely progression
of the ratification in line with their constitutional and legal

Mass killings

Copies of the protocols said the border will reopen within two months
of being ratified, the Reuters news agency said.

Turkey closed the border in 1993 as a political move in support
of Azerbaijan, who was fighting Armenian-supported separatists at
the time.

Some historians have estimated that 1.5mn Armenians were killed by
Ottoman Turks at the end of the Ottoman empire.

Ankara rejects claims that the killings amounted to genocide, saying
instead that Turks and Armenians were killed in high numbers.

The plan to normalise ties was initially announced in April amid
warming relations.

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish prime minister, attended a World Cup
qualifying football match between the two countries in the Armenian
capital Yerevan and Serzh Sarksyan, the Armenian president, plans to
make the return trip for a match in October.

But he had said that he wanted significant progress on the border
issue first.

The rift has been an obstacle to Turkey's bid to join the EU and has
antagonised Ankara's relations with the US.

The restoring of ties is expected to aid Turkey's regional influence
and give Armenia access to Turkish and European markets.