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Armenia Urges Turkey to Reopen Border

Efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia have taken another step forward with a visit to Istanbul by Armenia's foreign minister. The purpose of the visit is the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Committee, but the minister's trip also provided him an opportunity to meet with his Turkish counterpart. The two countries have no diplomatic relations, but in the past month there have been growing bilateral efforts to normalize ties. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

Speaking at a news conference, Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian urged Turkey to reopen its border with Armenia.

"Armenia is ready to re-establish diplomatic relations without any preconditions and we are waiting [to see] from [the] Turkish side the same approach," he said.

In 1993, Turkey closed its border with Armenia after Armenian forces occupied territory of Turkey's ally Azerbaijan during a war over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Ankara has made the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijan a key condition for reopening the border.

Relations between Turkey and Armenia remained frozen until last month, when Turkish President Abdullah Gul accepted an invitation from his Armenian counterpart Serge Sarkisian to watch Turkey play a World Cup football qualifier in Yerevan. Since then there have been several diplomatic meetings between the two countries.

Mr. Nalbandian said the opening of the border would facilitate the resolution of problems.

"In the world there are many countries, many neighboring countries having different problems to be solved," he said. "But they have diplomatic relations, they have open borders, they are open to each to other, and in this condition it is much easier to talk."

One major problem dogging Armenian-Turkish relations is history. Armenia accuses Turkey of committing genocide against its Armenian minority during World War I, a charge strongly denied by Ankara. The Turkish government is calling for the dispute to be resolved by a panel of historians, a call rejected by Yerevan.

While Turkey's eastern provinces have been hit hard by the economic embargo, Armenia is believed to have suffered more. The embargo has been seen in Ankara as an important tool in extracting concessions from Armenia. Although the the two sides appear to be increasingly engaged, experts say there appears to be little concrete progress.