Turkey and Armenia poised to normalize ties

Turkey and Armenia poise

Turkey's foreign minister on Thursday downplayed protests from the Armenian diaspora ahead of this weekend's signing of a landmark agreement to normalize ties with neighbor Armenia after a century of enmity. A tour of Armenian communities by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian has sparked protests in Lebanon and France, with demonstrators in Paris shouting "traitor" at him and decrying his plans to establish ties with Turkey. Dozens of angry Armenians also staged protests in central Yerevan, the Armenian capital Thursday, burning papers meant to symbolize the agreement. With Swiss mediation, Turkey and Armenia - bitter foes for a century - plan to sign a historic agreement that will establish diplomatic ties for the first time and lead to the reopening of their joint border. One of the biggest disputes is over the World War I-era massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire, which many historians regard as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies the deaths constituted genocide, contending the toll is inflated and those killed were victims of civil war. "Everything is happening within its natural course," Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in Ankara on Thursday. "Don't listen to the voices from the diaspora, there is no surprise development for us."