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Turkey's Erdogan Urges Progress On Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian (left) with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in January
ANKARA (Reuters) -- Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has urged international mediators to speed up efforts to resolve a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave as Ankara aims to normalize ties with long-time foe Armenia.

Talks on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh, disputed by Armenia and Azerbaijan after a war in the 1990s, have been dragging on for more than a decade under the auspices of the Minsk Group linking Russia, France, and the United States.

Turkey has said it hopes to open its border with Armenia by the end of the year under a protocol to establish diplomatic ties, but further progress has been hampered in the past by the frozen Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Turkey closed the frontier in 1993 in solidarity with Muslim ally Azerbaijan, which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists in the breakaway mountain region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Erdogan said the Minsk group that is co-presided by the U.S. has an important role in contributing to the improvement of the relations with Armenia and asked the group to increase their efforts," Anatolian quoted him as saying on September 22.

Erdogan made his comments in New York, where he traveled to attend the UN General Assembly. Turkish newspapers have reported that Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will meet his Armenian counterpart on the sidelines of the gathering.

Anticipation over an Ankara-Yerevan thaw has been growing ahead of a planned visit by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian to Turkey on October 14, when he is due to attend the return leg of a World Cup qualifying football match between the two countries.

Sarkisian has said he will not travel to the game, the first leg of which Turkish President Abdullah Gul watched last year in Yerevan, unless the border has reopened or there are clear signs it is about to open.

Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties and share a history of animosity stemming from the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I.

Turkey denies the 1915 killings amounted to genocide, but has agreed to set up a commission of international experts on the issue under the protocol it signed with Armenia.