Turkish PM calls for reconciliation with Armenia

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ANKARA, Oct 19 (Reuters) Turkey's prime minister called for dialogue and reconciliation with Armenia today as the US Congress weighs whether to approve a resolution calling the 1915 massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide.

''While we search for ways to address this painful issue and develop our relations with Armenia, we cannot live in the past.

Our sincere offer for dialogue and reconciliation is on the table,'' Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wrote in an opinion piece published in today Wall Street Journal, European edition.

''It is incumbent on Armenia to take the next step,'' he added.

The US House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee backed the resolution last week proposed by a California Democrat with many Armenian-Americans in his district. It must now decide whether to hold a House vote on the resolution.

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to the United States for consultations in response to the vote and has warned that if the non-binding but symbolic resolution is approved by Congress it will inflict great damage on relations between the NATO allies.

The Bush administration has lobbied against the resolution.

Turkey rejects the Armenian view, backed by many Western historians and some foreign parliaments, that up to 1.5 million Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

Many Muslim Turks died as well as Christian Armenians in inter-ethnic conflict as the Ottoman Empire crumbled, it says.

''The truth is that the Armenian allegations of genocide pertaining to the events of 1915 have not been historically or legally substantiated,'' Erdogan wrote.

Erdogan asked in his opinion piece why Armenia was evading Turkey's offer to establish a joint history commission to examine together the events of 1915 through bilateral dialogue.

Armenia says it would consider taking part in such a history commission if its border with Turkey were opened and normal diplomatic ties established between the two countries.

Turkey shut its border with the tiny ex-Soviet republic in 1993 to protest against Armenia's occupation of territory inside Azerbaijan, Ankara's close Turkic ally.

REUTERS ARB VC1445

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