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Turkey, Armenia agree on road map to normalize ties

The tentative agreement, which must be ratified by both nations' legislatures, creates a framework for bilateral cooperation.

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Underscoring US interest in the peace talks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the bold reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia, says the Associated Press. The Obama administration is keen to strengthen ties with Turkey, which it sees as a moderate Muslim partner in the Middle East. The US has also had a diplomatic hand in the talks between the two as Turkey wants US commitment to resolve a parallel row between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Turkey backs Azerbaijan's claim to the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where many ethnic Armenians live and which lies within Azerbaijan's borders. Azerbaijan fought with Armenia over control of the region during 1988-1994, amid the breakup of the Soviet Union, before a Russian-mediated cease-fire.

Reporting from the Turkish side of the heavily militarized border, Reuters identifies economic and strategic factors behind the d├ętente between the two countries. The European Union has said a diplomatic pact should help Turkey's bid to join the union. As well as easing tensions in the Caucasus, the talks are also significant for the future of oil and gas supplies from the region. Azerbaijan has the option of sending gas via pipelines through Turkey to Europe or channeling it through Russia.

Despite the concerns, tentative cross-border contacts have generated fragile optimism among many in eastern Turkey, where livelihoods are largely made from farming and where per capita income is around a tenth of levels in affluent western Turkey.
"We want peace. I went to Armenia and I was received very well. We show them hospitality when they come here. I think it would be good for our economy and trade if the border opens," said Ali Guvensoy, chairman of the Kars Chamber of Commerce.
That optimism is shared in landlocked Armenia. A reopening of the border would provide a huge boost to the economy, having already lost out on lucrative energy transit deals and trade with eastern Turkey.

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