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Armenian President To Visit Diaspora To Talk Turkey

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian
YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian will address large diaspora groups concerned with Yerevan's rapprochement efforts with Turkey during a trip that will take him to France, the United States, Lebanon, and Russia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

Sarkisian announced the trip, which will begin on October 1, at a meeting with Armenian Apostolic Church leader Catholicos Garegin II.

Garegin said he welcomes the initiative because "the diaspora is an important and inseparable part of our people."

Addressing the diaspora, he called it "only right" that Armenia "hear answers from you personally."

Many such groups -- there are an estimated 8 million diaspora Armenians worldwide -- have been critical of the agreement, particularly the proposed joint panel of Turks and Armenians that will investigate the historical accuracy of the mass killings of Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago.

Some diaspora groups also object to recognizing the border with Turkey because it would preclude future Armenian territorial claims to areas in eastern Turkey that were previously populated by ethnic Armenians.

Sarkisian says he understands people's concerns.

But he told Garegin that there is no other way it could happen and that the president himself struggles with "his emotions" given that "we have our shrines, our churches, our [medieval] capital and the remnants of many, many people's ancestral homes all across the [Turkish] border."

Sarkisian will visit Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Beirut, and Rostov-na-Donu, Russia.