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Armenia, Turkey move closer to restoring diplomatic ties

Turkey and Armenia
Turkey and Armenia - Sputnik International
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Turkey and Armenia agreed at talks mediated by Switzerland on Monday to start "internal political consultations" on re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening their borders.

ANKARA, August 31 (RIA Novosti) - Turkey and Armenia agreed at talks mediated by Switzerland on Monday to start "internal political consultations" on re-establishing diplomatic relations and opening their borders.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of support for Muslim ally Azerbaijan following a bloody conflict over Nagorny Karabakh between the two ex-Soviet republics. Ankara has also demanded that Yerevan drop its campaign to have the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 internationally recognized as genocide.

"Political consultations will be completed within six weeks, and following that, two protocols will be signed and submitted to the two countries' parliaments for approval," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said.

"Both protocols [on establishing diplomatic relations and on the development of bilateral relations] create a base for normalizing bilateral relations... The normalization of bilateral relations will further guarantee peace and stability in region," the ministry said.

Armenia's Foreign Ministry said that the country is ready to establish diplomatic relations without preconditions, and welcomes the timeframes as reasonable.

"Both documents define reasonable timeframes for the normalization of bilateral relations," the ministry said.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in comments on the accord on Tuesday that Turkey does not plan to open the border "at the current stage."

"Turkey's goal is to maintain friendly relations with its neighbors and establish stability and lasting peace in the Caucasus," he told national TV, adding that Azerbaijan's interests must not be disregarded in efforts to improve ties with Armenia.

Armenia's Foreign Ministry said after the talks on Monday that the border would be opened within two months after the two countries have signed the protocols.

Turkey and Armenia have held talks mediated by Switzerland for two years. They agreed to a "roadmap" to normalize their relations under Swiss mediation this April.

The U.S. State Department welcomed Monday's talks.

"We urge Armenia and Turkey to proceed expeditiously," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement. "We remain ready to work closely with both governments in support of normalization, a historic process that will contribute to peace, security and stability throughout the region."

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is expected to visit Turkey on October 14, where he will attend a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul watched the first leg of the match in Yerevan last year. Sargsyan said earlier he would go if the border has reopened or Turkey has lifted its economic blockade of landlocked Armenia.

 

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