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Obama Vows Support For Turkish-Armenian Normalization

YEREVAN -- U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to continue to press for the unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations, which he said should be completed within a "reasonable time frame," RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

Obama hailed the U.S.-supported dialogue that has gone on between the two countries in recent months as "historic" in a letter to Armenian Assembly of America Chairman Hirair Hovnanian that was made public by the advocacy group on December 3.

The letter, dated November 20, came in response to a September 9 joint appeal to Obama from Hovnanian, the leaders of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and two U.S. dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Armenian-American leaders also urged Obama to honor his campaign pledge to recognize the Ottoman Empire's World War I-era massacres of Armenians as genocide once he became president.

They wrote in their letter to Obama that "if this normalization process is used as a smokescreen for not reaffirming the Armenian Genocide and the U.S. record, it will be a blow to the rapprochement process and the expectations of people of goodwill everywhere."

That concern is shared by many Armenians in the diaspora.

In his reply, Obama again stopped short of using the word "genocide" by writing "one of the great atrocities of the 20th century."

Armenia and Turkey signed two protocols in Zurich on October 10 that, if passed by their respective parliaments, would lead to the opening of their closed border and the establishment of diplomatic relations.