Deportation of Armenians 'inhumane': Turkey FM

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the 1915 deportation of Armenians under the Ottoman empire as "inhumane" during a fence-mending visit to Yerevan this week, Turkish media reported Friday.

Davutoglu made the comments to Turkish journalists travelling with him to Armenia Thursday on his first visit since moves to open diplomatic ties between the neighbours failed four years ago.

He described the large-scale deportation of Armenians to Syria during World War I as a "totally wrong practice done by (the Ottoman-era rulers). It was inhumane," Hurriyet Daily News quoted him as saying.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kin were systematically killed between 1915 and 1917 under the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of modern Turkey.

Turkey says 500,000 died in fighting and of starvation during World War I and categorically rejects the term genocide.

Davutoglu said after meeting his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian that he hoped the two countries could build a relationship based on a "just memory".

"The primary aim is to build an environment of dialogue on a strong basis," he said.

Ankara closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with regional ally Azerbaijan in its festering dispute with Yerevan over Nagorny Karabakh.

The territory is internationally recognised as Azerbaijan's but was seized by Armenia-backed separatists in a 1990s war that killed 30,000 people.

The two countries signed reconciliation accords in 2009 but the US-backed rapprochement collapsed within months with each side accusing the other of setting new conditions and rewriting parts of the agreements.

"Our primary aim is not only to open the Turkish-Armenian border but to form a foundation that will pave the way for a comprehensive peace," Davutoglu said.