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Turkey Says Opens Armenian Archives


ISTANBUL, (Reuters) - Turkey said on Saturday it will allow scholars rare access to examine archives it says will disprove claims Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians early last century.

Turkey has so far allowed only limited access to its archives of the period.

"Our archives are open to scientific examination for this purpose," Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said in a letter to an Ankara conference where retired Turkish and foreign diplomats and scholars are discussing the Armenian claims of genocide.

"I am calling on all scientists to come and benefit from the archives of this period," the president said in his letter.

Turkey claims the atrocity never happened saying there were victims on both sides of partisan fighting as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. "Historical matters must be examined and discussed by historians," the state-run Anatolian news agency quoted Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit as saying in a statement to the two-day conference in Ankara.

Ecevit reiterated Turkish anger at a series of votes in European parliaments in favor of the Armenian claims. "Continuing acts by the parliaments of some countries carried out on the basis of the voting power of the Armenian diaspora are above all disrespectful to history and historians," Ecevit said.

Turkish politicians in February slated the European Parliament for a resolution accusing Turks of massacring Armenians in 1915, calling it an "ugly attack" on an EU membership candidate. The French parliament backed the Armenian charges last year leading Turkey to temporarily ban French firms from military contracts.

Ecevit recently angered Armenians and Jews when he accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians. He later backtracked on the statement saying he was misunderstood.

The U.S. Congress dropped a resolution to recognize Armenian charges two years ago after former president Bill Clinton warned it would harm U.S. security interests in the Middle East, where NATO member Turkey is a key ally. But the powerful U.S. Armenian lobby, representing some one million people, is pressing the new administration of President George W. Bush to confront the issue again.

The U.S. government recently praised Turkey for loosening visa restrictions on Armenian citizens but a diplomatic standoff between Ankara and Yerevan shows little signs of ending.
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