TURKEY, ARMENIA AGREE TO FORM TIES

Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12517680350387462 7.html
Aug 31 2009
NY

Armenia and Turkey agreed on final talks to establish diplomatic
ties, overcoming a seemingly intractable rift marked by massacres of
Armenians under Ottoman rule.

The neighboring countries will be setting up and developing relations
for the first time, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Ozugergin
said. It is unclear if the talks will touch on the dispute over the
World War I-era killings. That issue is a major stumbling block to
Turkey's aspirations to join the European Union and has strained ties
with the United States.

Historians estimate that, in the last days of the Ottoman Empire,
as many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in what
is widely regarded as the first genocide of the 20th Century. Turkey
rejects claims that the World War I killings, a defining element
of Armenian national identity, amounted to genocide, and says many
people were killed on both sides of the conflict. It says Turks also
suffered losses in the hands of Armenian gangs.

Both sides said they will hold domestic consultations before
signing two protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations
and development of bilateral relations. According to copies of the
protocols seen by Reuters, the border -- closed by Turkey in 1993 --
will reopen within two months of enforcing the protocol on development
of relations.

The plan to normalize ties was announced in April, but Monday's
statement marked the first real progress.

Turkey and Armenia also disagree about Armenian forces' control
of the Arzerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey is a close
ally of Azerbaijan and back Baku's claims to the region, which has
a high number of ethnic Armenian residents but is located within
Azerbaijan's borders.

Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia's
independence in 1991, but the two countries never established
diplomatic relations and their joint border has been closed since
1993. Ties began to improve after a so-called soccer diplomacy campaign
last year, when Turkish President Abdullah Gul attended a World Cup
qualifier in Armenia. Armenia's President Serge Sarkisian has said
he wants progress on reopening their shared border before he will
attend a World Cup qualifying match in Turkey on Oct. 14.