TURKEY AND ARMENIA SET FOR TIES

BBC NEWS
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/e urope/8230809.stm
2009/09/01 10:05:49 GMT

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.

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".

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 Maryland's Clark University
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.

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.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress