Middle East

Turkey's Davutoglu heading to Armenia

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara (L) welcomes his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu before the 20th OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Ministerial Council meeting in Kiev, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

ANKARA: Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is heading to Armenia next week on his first visit since the failure four years ago of efforts to normalize ties, officials said Friday.

The two countries remain deeply at odds over the mass killings of Armenians during World War I and the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region.

Davutoglu's visit will be the first since October 2009 when moves to open diplomatic ties and reopen the border came to nothing.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were systematically killed between 1915 and 1917 as the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey, was falling apart.

Turkey says 500,000 died in fighting and of starvation during World War I and categorically rejects the term genocide.

Ankara had closed the border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with regional ally Azerbaijan in its festering dispute with Yerevan over Nagorny Karabakh.

The territory is internationally recognised as Azerbaijan's but was seized by Armenia-backed separatists in a 1990s war that killed 30,000 people.

Davutoglu will be attending a meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation forum in Yerevan on December 12 but it is not known if he will hold separate bilateral talks with Armenian officials.

He announced the trip after meeting Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Kiev on Thursday, Turkish press reports said.

Davutoglu also met his Azeri counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss the Nagorny-Karabakh issue which Ankara considers key for a thaw in relations with Yerevan.

From Armenia, the Turkish minister will visit Greece on December 13 and Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus the following day.





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