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Turkey 'stops Bosnian Serb leader from travelling to Armenia'

23 april 2015, 10:04

 Turkey on Wednesday stopped Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik's plane from flying over its territory, preventing him from attending a ceremony to mark the centenary of the Armenian genocide, his cabinet said, AFP reports.

"Although all authorisations for this flight had been initially obtained, Turkish authorities did not allow the flight over their territory," Dodik's cabinet said in a statement.

The plane carrying the president of Republika Srpska, a Serb-run entity of Bosnia, returned to his capital Banja Luka after spending four and a half hours at an airport in eastern Bulgaria, waiting in vain for authorisation to fly over Turkish territory, the statement said.

But Turkey hit back, saying the allegations did "not reflect reality" and accusing Dodik's entourage of failing to follow procedure by not asking for overflight permission through "diplomatic channels".

"There was never a question of any kind of refusal," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "Overflight authorisation to travel to Yerevan will naturally be given to Mr Dodik if he so requests."

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to the towering genocide memorial in Armenia's capital Yerevan on Friday to mark the start of a tragedy that still stirs deep divisions.

Ex-Soviet Armenia and the huge Armenian diaspora worldwide have battled for decades to get the World War I massacres at the hands of Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1917 recognised as a targeted genocide.

But Turkey rejects the term "genocide", and says hundreds of thousands died on both sides as Ottoman forces battled Tsarist Russia.

French President Francois Hollande and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are among those expected to attend Friday's ceremonies.

Earlier this month Dodik submitted to the Republika Srpska's parliament a declaration recognising the massacres as a genocide.

The legislative body will likely adopt the declaration in the coming days.

But Bosnian Muslim political leaders, who view Turkey as their main international ally, have criticised the initiative.

They have also condemned Dodik's "hypocritical behaviour" over his refusal to recognise that Bosnian Muslims were victims of genocide in Srebrenica at the end of the 1992-1995 inter-ethnic war, when Bosnian Serb forces massacred some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

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