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Signing easiest part of Turkey-Armenia diplomatic deal.

Summary: Enter the "Hall of Armenian Issue with Documents" at the military museum in Istanbul, and you get a very different picture of what many historians view as the first genocide of the 20th century.Aa There, photographs show bo dies of Ottoman Turks allegedly slaughtered and mutilated - the term "martyred" appears in the captions - by Armenian gangs.

Analysis

Christopher TorchiaAa

Associated PressAa

Aa

ISTANBUL: Enter the "Hall of Armenian Issue with Documents" at the military museum in Istanbul, and you get a very different picture of what many historians view as the first genocide of the 20th century.Aa

There, photographs show bo-dies of Ottoman Turks allegedly slaughtered and mutilated -- the term "martyred" appears in the captions -- by Armenian gangs. The message: Turks were victims of fighting between the two neighbors, not the vast numbers of Armenians who were massacred or deported from Ottoman territory during World War I.Aa

Seeking to end a century of acrimony over their bloody past, Turkey and Armenia plan to sign a deal this weekend approving diplomatic ties, but nationalists on both sides will seek to derail its implementation.Aa

"The signing may be the easier part at this point," said Omer Taspinar, Turkey project director at the Brookings Institution in Washington.Aa

Some vague wording in the agreement merely sets the stage for further talks, and could be prone to interpretation or dispute even if the two parliaments ratify the agreement as expected.Aa

Better ties between Turkey, a regional heavyweight, and poor, landlocked Armenia are a key goal of President Barack Obama. They could help reduce tensions in the troubled Caucasus region and facilitate its growing role as a corridor for energy supplies bound for the West.Aa

The contentious issue of whe-ther the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians during the final days of the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide is only hinted at in the pact, which calls for diplomatic ties for the first time and the opening of the border within two months.Aa

The foreign ministers of both countries are expected to sign the deal in Switzerland, which has hosted six weeks of talks between the foes.Aa

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to attend. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will take part in the Zurich ceremony Saturday, the Interfax news agency said.Aa

A tour of Armenian communities by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian sparked protests in Lebanon, France and the US, with demonstrators in Paris shouting "Traitor!" and decrying plans to establish ties with Turkey. Dozens of angry Armenians also staged protests Thursday in central Yerevan, Armenia;s capital, burning papers meant to symbolize the deal.Aa

The pact calls for a panel to discuss "the historical dimension" -- a reference to the genocide issue -- that will include "an impartial scientific examination of the historical records and archives to define existing problems and formulate recommendations." That clause is seen as a concession to Turkey because Armenia has said genocide was confirmed by international historians, and further discussion could lead to deadlock. Turkey denies genocide, contending the toll is inflated and those killed were victims of civil war.Aa

The Istanbul museum contains black-and-white photographs of piles of Turkish corpses and official Ottoman documents that describe Armenian atrocities: young girls whose lungs were hung on walls, men whose brains were "drained" with bayonets.Aa

A glass case holds the blood-stained shirt of a former Otto-man official assassinated by an Armenian militant in Berlin in 1921. The Armenian room is a tiny part of a caver-nous, dimly lit museum dedicated to the glories of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, renamed Istanbul, World War I battles against the Allies at Gallipoli, and later clashes with Greeks.Aa

"Given Turkey's ongoing denial of the Armenian genocide, it makes affirmation that much more important," said Bryan Ardouny, executive di-rector of the Armenian Assembly of America, part of the powerful Armenian diaspora.Aa

Another source of dispute is Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan that is occupied by Armenian troops. Turks have close cultural and linguistic ties with Azerbaijan, which is pressing Turkey for help in recovering its land. Turkey shut its border with Armenia to protest the Armenian invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993.Aa

Turkey wants Armenia to withdraw some troops from the enclave area to show goodwill and speed the opening of their joint border, but Armenia has yet to agree, Taspinar said.Aa

"We may end up in a kind of awkward situation where there are diplomatic relations, but the border is still closed," he said.Aa

One gesture seen as vital to reconciliation is a plan by Sarkisian to attend next week's World Cup soccer qualifier bet-ween Turkey and Armenia in Bursa, an old Ottoman capital. Sarkisian has said he would go to the game if there is progress on opening the border.Aa

A year ago, Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Armenia for the first game. Turkey won 2-0 in a round of "football diplomacy" where politics overshadowed sport.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Oct 10, 2009
Words:852
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