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23 Apr, 2009 08:05

Armenia & Turkey adopt 'roadmap' to resolve century-old conflict

Armenia and Turkey, with the mediation of Switzerland, have come to a groundbreaking agreement on a ‘roadmap’ to normalize bilateral relations, foreign ministers of the countries announced on Thursday.

According to the Ria Novosti news agency, the resulting joint statement declares that the countries have carried out “intensive work aimed at normalizing and developing bilateral ties in the spirit of good neighbors, and of mutual respect – therefore strengthening peace, stability, and security in the whole region.”

Currently, there are no diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey. The border between the countries was closed on Ankara’s initiative in 1993 during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan.

According to some reports, Turkey has laid down a precondition that Armenia should stop pushing for the international recognition of what it calls genocide of Armenians by Turkey in the beginning of the 20th century.

For the last two years, Yerevan and Ankara’s representatives have been holding closed talks in Switzerland aimed at normalizing relations.

Lately, the contacts between Turkey and Armenia have become quite active. The breakthrough came in September 2008, when the president of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, visited Yerevan for the first time ever to attend a 2010 World Cup Armenia-Turkey qualifier on Serzh Sargsyan’s invitation.

The presidents met at the match, and Sargsyan is going to pay a return visit to Istanbul in October 2009.

Normalization of relations between Yerevan and Ankara is one of the conditions of Turkey’s joining the EU.

Washington, Turkey’s ally that has been actively pushing for Yerevan-Ankara talks, welcomes the move.

US State Department spokesman Robert Wood is quoted as saying: "It has long been and remains the position of the United States that normalization should take place without preconditions, and within a reasonable timeframe."

Genocide or casualties of war?

The sticking point which has spoiled Armenia-Turkey relations for almost a century is the mass killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I.

Armenia insisted on the term 'genocide,' as the events included massacres and mass deportations under conditions designed to lead to the death of the deportees, and it has been widely recognized.

Twenty-one countries, including Russia, France, Italy, Canada, and the most of US states, have adopted resolutions acknowledging the Armenian genocide as a historical event.

Turkey insists that the figure is exaggerated, claiming around 300,000 died, and does not accept the term ‘genocide’.

The country stands firm on the position that those deaths were war casualties.