Turkey, Armenia move to establish ties

After a century of hostility, the nations announced talks on establishing diplomatic relations. But they will avoid the most troublesome issue: the question of Armenian genocide.

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Turkey and Armenia announced in a joint statement Monday the launch of talks aimed at establishing diplomatic ties. The announcement is the first concrete step toward normalizing relations since the two countries announced that they would resume ties in April this year.

The negotiations, which are being mediated by Switzerland, mark a thaw in relations between the neighbors after a century of animosity. Turkey and Armenia have never had diplomatic ties; in 1993, Turkey closed the border with Armenia in support of Azerbaijan, which was fighting Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh at the time.

Analysts say Turkey's improved relations with Armenia will help consolidate its position as a regional power.

According to Public Radio of Armenia, Turkey and Armenia will engage in consultations on two protocols – promoting diplomatic relations and developing bilateral ties. The talks are expected to last six weeks, after which both countries will submit the protocols to their respective parliaments to be ratified.

The border between the two countries is expected to open within two months, reports Reuters.

The New York Times reports that the talks will not touch on arguably the most divisive issue between the two countries: the killing of more than 1 million Armenians under Turkish Ottoman rule between 1915 and 1918, which the present-day Turkish government does not recognize as genocide. Recently, Armenian President Serge Sarkisian indicated that Turkey's recognition of genocide is not a precondition for establishing relations.

Although the debate about the World War I-era killings will not be touched upon, the talks could still face obstacles, reports the Associated Press.

Trend News Agency, a Baku-based news organization serving the Caucasus and Caspian region, reports that the Armenian opposition party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, will likely pressure the government to remain restrained in its dealings with Ankara.

Despite these hurdles, analysts in Armenia are optimistic that the talks will lead to improved bilateral relations, reports A1 Plus, a Yerevan-based news channel.

An analysis in The Economist suggests that improved relations with Armenia are part of Turkey's foreign policy strategy under Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

On the issue of Turkish-Armenian relations, The Economist also suggests that Turkey's relations with the United States may have instilled a willingness to negotiate.

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