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Armenian foreign minister to visit Turkey after decades of animosity

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Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan is to visit Turkey in March, his Turkish counterpart said on Thursday, as the neighbors work to mend ties after decades of animosity.

Turkey has had no diplomatic or commercial ties with its eastern neighbor since the 1990s. The two are at odds over several issues, primarily the 1.5 million people Armenia says were during the Genocide in 1915.

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Earlier this month, Turkey and Armenia said a first round of talks in more than ten years between envoys on normalizing ties was “positive and constructive,” raising the prospect that ties could be restored and borders reopened.

Armenia says the 1915 killings constitute a genocide. Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War One, but contests the figures and denies killings were systematic or constitute genocide.

Tensions again flared during a 2020 war over the Nagorno-Karabakh territory. Turkey accused ethnic Armenian forces of occupying land belonging to Azerbaijan. Turkey has since called for a rapprochement, as it seeks greater regional influence.

Speaking in Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had responded positively to Turkey’s invitation to the Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF), set for March 11-13, and that the normalization process was proceeding with confidence-building measures.

“The Armenian Foreign Minister and the Special Envoy Ruben Rubinyan were invited, and Pashinyan lastly said they could participate in ADF,” Cavusoglu said.

“We would welcome this, because Azerbaijan is coming too. So let Azerbaijan state its views and Armenia state its opinions too, and this can be part of the confidence-building measures,” he added.

This month’s talks were the first attempt to restore links since a 2009 peace accord. That deal was never ratified and relations have remained tense.

In December, Ankara and Yerevan appointed special envoys to lead normalization talks. Cavusoglu said the envoys would decide when the next round of talks would be and where they would be held.

Ankara has said it wants the talks to be held in Turkey or Armenia, after the first round was held in Moscow.

Read more: Armenia’s first female ambassador to the US: ‘We want peace’

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