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Armenia Warns Turkey Peace Deal Under Threat

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian
YEREVAN (Reuters) -- Armenia accused Turkey today of trying to block a deal to establish diplomatic ties and open their border and warned the process could collapse.

The comments by Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian appeared to be a response to Turkish complaints over a Constitutional Court ruling in Armenia last week that Ankara said was an attempt to re-write the text of the deal.

The rhetoric in both countries has grown increasingly bitter since they inked accords in October designed to overcome a century of hostility stemming from the World War I mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

Asked if the process was in danger of collapsing, Nalbandian said: "If Turkey is not ready to ratify the protocols, if it continues to speak in the language of preconditions and to block the process, then I don't exclude it." But he added: "I hope Turkey will ratify the documents."

The two protocols require parliamentary ratification in both countries before they enter into force.

But Turkey, stung by a backlash from close ally and oil-producer Azerbaijan, says it first wants Christian Armenia to make concessions in the festering conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan over the mainly Armenian breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with Azerbaijan during the war. Armenia rejects any link between the two issues.

If the rapprochement goes through, Turkey stands to burnish its credentials as a potential EU entry state and boost its clout in the strategic South Caucasus. It would bring big economic benefits to poor, landlocked Armenia.

For its part, Turkey this week warned the Armenian court ruling, which endorsed the protocols, could derail the process by reaffirming the obligation of the Armenian state to pursue international recognition of the World War I killings as genocide, a term Turkey vehemently rejects.