01.09.2009 14:39 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Armenia and Turkey, bitter foes for a century, took a
step toward reconciliation Monday by announcing they would launch final
talks aimed at establishing diplomatic ties. But they won't discuss
the deepest source of their enmity: the World War I-era massacres of
Armenians under Ottoman rule, the Associated Press reports.

Both sides said in a joint statement they expected the talks to
take six weeks and to end with an agreement setting up and developing
ties. The two countries, whose shared border is closed, are U.S. allies
and came under American and European pressure to move toward peace. The
parliaments of the two countries must ratify a deal on diplomatic
normalization, and in Turkey, nationalist sentiment and suspicion
about Armenian intentions is particularly high, the article says.

The author also reminds of the lingering Karabakh conflict.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Monday that Turkey would
"guard" Azerbaijan's interest during its reconciliation with Armenia,
saying in comments broadcast by NTV television that "our aim is to
establish stability in the Caucasus."

Turkey, however, clearly seeks to enhance its growing image as a
regional statesman and a coveted ally of world powers in a strategic
and often unstable region. The rapprochement with Armenia coincides
with efforts to resolve a long-running feud with Turkey's Kurdish
minority - issues that are vital to Turkish efforts to earn membership
in the European Union, the article says.

One of the biggest disputes between the neighboring countries is
over the World War I-era massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians,
the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths
constituted genocide, contending the toll has been inflated and that
the casualties were victims of civil war.

Armenian President Serge Sargsyan indicated the dispute would not be
a deal-breaker between the two neighbors.

"It's important ical justice be restored. It's important that our
nations are able to establish normal relations," Sarkisian said in
an interview published Monday by the BBC Russian service. "But we do
not regard a recognition of genocide as a preliminary condition for
establishing relations."

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 over the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.