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Turkish PM ready for deal on relations with Armenia - paper

RIA Novosti

13:12 07/10/2009 NEW YORK, October 7 (RIA Novosti) - Turkey is ready to sign a pact on October 10 on reopening its border with Armenia and reestablishing relations, if Armenia does not insist on last-minute changes to the draft, the Turkish prime minister told The Wall Street Journal.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of support for Muslim ally Azerbaijan, following a bloody conflict over Nagorny Karabakh between the two ex-Soviet republics. Turkey has also demanded that Yerevan drop its campaign to have the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 internationally recognized as genocide.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the paper: "Our foreign minister is going to sign this agreement with the Armenian foreign minister [Edward] Nalbandian on Oct. 10."

Armenia and Turkey agreed to a "roadmap" to normalize their relations under Swiss mediation this April. The draft pact between the countries has been backed by the United States and European Union.

The premier said "positive steps" have been made since the start of the negotiations, with flights between Yerevan and Istanbul resumed and some 40,000 Armenians, illegally living in Turkey, allowed to remain in the country.

Erdogan also said he would like witnesses from the Minsk group, which oversees peace talks on Nagorny Karabakh, to see the signing of the agreement.

Nagorny Karabakh, a region in Azerbaijan with a largely Armenian population, has been a source of conflict between the former Soviet republics since the late 1980s. The province has its own government and is de facto independent.

During his recent international visit, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan met with representatives of Armenian diasporas in different countries, and many of them expressed their opposition to the signing of a Turkish-Armenian agreement.

"As far as we're concerned there is no problem. But it is up to the government in Armenia," Erdogan told the paper.

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