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Turkey, Armenia announce talks

Longtime foes work to re-establish diplomatic ties

Avet Demourian Associated Press

YEREVAN, Armenia – 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.

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 talks still face pitfalls and will follow months of inactivity after signs of promise earlier in the year when President Barack Obama appealed for reconciliation during a visit to Turkey.

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.

Also, despite an agreement that the process should proceed without preconditions, Turkey’s prime minister has linked it to a resolution of the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azeri region that was occupied by Armenian troops. The Turkish population shares close cultural and linguistic relations with Azerbaijan, which is pressing Turkey for help in recovering its land.

The joint statement released by the Armenian and Turkish foreign ministries Monday said the two countries would start consultations to sign two protocols – one to establish diplomatic ties, the other to develop relations.

The talks, with continued mediation by Switzerland, are to last six weeks.

In agreeing to move forward and normalize relations, landlocked Armenia is eager for a reopening of the border and the trade opportunities it would bring.

The border was closed after Armenian forces took control of the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Turkish foreign minister said, however, that opening the border was out of the question for now. “A longer process is required for that,” Davutoglu said Monday, according to NTV.

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