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Armenia, Turkey Pursue 'Football' Diplomacy


Armenia, Turkey Pursue 'Football' Diplomacy

Armenia, Turkey Pursue 'Football' Diplomacy

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The presidents of Turkey and Armenia will build on recent reconciliation efforts by attending a World Cup football qualifier between their national teams on Wednesday.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisyan has arrived in the northwestern Turkish city of Bursa to attend Wednesday's game. Turkish President Abdullah Gul watched the first leg of the qualifier last year in Armenia.

Security is tight in Bursa, and Turkey's leaders have called on fans to be hospitable and to avoid provocative actions.

The neighboring countries signed a landmark agreement last week to establish diplomatic ties after a century of hostility and reopen their shared border.

The deal must be approved by both parliaments, and there is strong opposition in each country to the rapprochement.

One of the thorniest issues stems from the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during and after World War I.

Armenians want the massacres recognized as genocide. Turkey strongly rejects the genocide claim.

Turkey says the Armenian death toll is inflated and that many Turks also were killed during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

A territorial dispute between Armenia and Turkey's ally, Azerbaijan, is also complicating efforts to normalize relations.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan, which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists in Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

On Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to make peace over the region in order to allow Turkey's parliament to move forward with the reconciliation agreement.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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