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Armenian, Turkish leaders hold rare phone talks

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The leaders of Armenia and Turkey pledged in a rare call Monday to build on a nascent process aimed at normalizing travel, trade and diplomatic relations between the arch foes, Agence France-Presse reported.

The two sides issued identical statements saying Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “stressed the importance of the bilateral process of normalizing relations between the countries.”

The call came after Ankara and Yerevan on July 1 made a breakthrough during talks in Vienna where their diplomats agreed to open the countries’ shared land border to third-country nationals and begin direct cargo flights.

“The leaders expressed hope that the agreements reached on July 1 will be implemented in the nearest future,” the joint statement said.

The two countries have never established formal diplomatic relations and their shared border has been closed since the 1990s.

Their relationship is strained by World War I-era mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, atrocities Yerevan insists amount to a genocide.

But in December, the two countries appointed special envoys to help normalize relations — a year after Armenia lost to Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan in a war for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan used the help of Turkish combat drones to recapture most of the contested territory that had been under ethnic Armenian control since the 1990s.

In February, Turkey and Armenia resumed their first commercial flights in two years.

The land border between the two countries has remained closed since 1993 however, forcing trucks to transit through Georgia or Iran.

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