Armenians try to mend fences with Turkey

March 12, 1999

A group of academics from Armenia made a rare three-day visit to Turkey in an attempt to thaw relations between the two countries.

Last month's visit is seen as the first step towards improved bilateral ties. The academics from the Yerevan State University were headed by university president Radick Martirossian. They were hosted by the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara and also met the Armenian community in Istanbul.

Professor Martirossian signed an academic co-operation agreement with METU that seeks to improve relations and paves the way for an academic-exchange programme.

It is hoped that the agreement will contribute to the repair of political ties severed after the war between Armenia and its neighbour, Azerbaijan, a country with close links to Turkey. No formal peace exists between the countries and Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia. Turkey still enforces a trade embargo and all academic relations were severed.

Armenia accuses Turkey of carrying out a genocide against ethnic Armenians living in Turkey in 1915, a claim Turkey strongly denies.

The president of METU will pay a reciprocal visit to Yerevan State University next year.

The visit was sponsored by the Turkish Armenian Business Development Committee, headed by Kaan Soyak, a Turkish businessman based in New York.

Mr Soyak said he was very hopeful for the future of Turkish and Armenian ties, "not only in business but in other fields such as education and culture".

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