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Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan To Hold New Talks

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan

Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan

ANKARA (Reuters) -- Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan have agreed to a three-way meeting to settle long-standing disputes in the Caucasus, Turkey's foreign minister has said.

Turkey and Armenia have no formal diplomatic relations. Armenia and Azerbaijan are at odds over disputed territory.

Several oil and natural gas pipelines flow through the Caucasus to Western Europe.

The three foreign ministers had met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.

"There is consensus to repeat the trilateral meeting...but the schedule for that should be determined carefully so that concrete results can be taken," Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said.

Babacan said he planned to visit Azerbaijan. Aremenia's foreign minister would visit Turkey as part of "busy diplomatic traffic."

"We hope to see positive developments in a plausible timeframe and to solve these decades-old problems," Babacan said.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, a Turkic-speaking ally which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh's ethnic Armenian population broke away from Azerbaijan in a war as the Soviet Union fell apart.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have never signed a peace treaty, and Azerbaijan has not ruled out using force to restore control over the territory.

Relations between Turkey and Armenia are strained by accusations Ottoman Turks committed genocide when they killed ethnic Armenians in World War I.

Russia has been pushing for Armenia and Azerbaijan to negotiate over Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey's Babacan praised Moscow's role.

"We expect Russia to make important contributions for the normalization of Azeri-Armenian relations," he said.

President Abdullah Gul became the first Turkish leader to visit Armenia in September for a soccer match between Turkey and Armenia, and Babacan said the two could meet again soon.

"There is no need to wait for another football game for a meeting between [Armenian President Serzh] Sarkisian and Gul. I expect that such a meeting could take place within months."
RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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