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NICOSIA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Armenia said on Thursday it hoped Turkish moves towards EU accession would bring more open debate in Turkey over accusations Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians early in the 20th century.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian, talking to reporters during a visit to Cyprus, said that Turkey's expressed wish to join the European Union should lead to normalisation of ties with all neighbours.

“Consequently the issue of Turkey’s accession course interests us and we’re waiting to see it become what it should become. This will certainly influence Armenian-Turkish relations,” he said.

Armenians say Ottoman Turks conducted systematic genocide against Armenians around 1915. Turkey, however, insists thousands of Muslim Turks as well as Christian Armenians were killed at that time as part of a general partisan conflict that raged as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

Debate of the issue in Turkey is restricted by laws that can effectively make it an offence to discuss publicly let alone express support for any notion of a genocide.

“We believe the process of Turkey’s accession to the EU will lead to a more open and honest debate in Turkish society where people can express their opinions,” Kocharian said. “I know this a difficult process.”

Turkey is holding formal negotiations for EU membership but progress is hampered by differences over the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and over economic and political reforms.
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