Марк Григорян (markgrigorian) wrote,
Марк Григорян

Футбол и политика

Под катом -- подборка статей из турецкой прессы о визите Гюля в Ереван.

Подборка на английском, за что прошу прощения у френдов, по-английски не читающих.

Думаю, интересно будет узнать, что пишут обо всей истории в Турции. Мне, во всяком случае, было очень любопытно прочитать эти статьи.

И еще -- вопрос, или, скорее, просьба о помощи: Не знаете ли вы, как и в какое время можно будет в инете посмотреть матч Армения-Турция?

From Turkish Daily News  -   04/09/2008

‘Azerbaijan will benefit from Gül's visit'

Turkey's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Hulusi Kiliç, said Azerbaijan would benefit from Turkish President Abdullah Gül's visit to Armenia, PanArmenian.net reported yesterday. “Dialogue has always been an effective measure. Turkey pursues a clear policy. This visit will not damage the Turkey-Azerbaijan relations. It will be just an ordinary soccer game,” the ambassador said.

'We're not hooligans,' says Dasnaksutyun

From Turkish Daily News  -   04/09/2008


An Armenian political party is planning to demonstrate against Turkish President Abdullah Gül, if he travels to Yerevan this Saturday for the football match between Turkey and Armenia. Although there is every indication that he will, Gül is yet to publicly accept the invitation of his Armenian counterpart to attend the match in the Armenian capital.

Giro Manoyan, international secretary of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's Dasnaksutyun bureau, told the Turkish Daily News that they were only planning to use their democratic rights to voice their opposition and that there would be no outbursts of violence during the demonstrations.

“We are not hooligans. I do not see why this demonstration is so exaggerated in Turkey. There is no reason to portray us as an obstacle to their visits. We know very well how to host people visiting our country; we have thousands of years of tradition of hospitality,” he said.

Pointing out that Gül had not yet officially responded to Armenian President Serge Sarkisian's invitation, Manoyan said the delay not acceptable. “Of course Gül is free to accept or reject Sarkisian's invitation. Although there is no diplomatic relations between the two countries, Turkey should have given an official response to an invitation at the presidential level,” he said.

Although aware of the fact that an official Turkish delegation arrived in Yerevan for security measures, he argued that there was a 50 percent chance that Gül would not visit Yerevan.

“If we were in power, we would never have made such an invitation to Gül,” he said. “Yes, we wish to establish good relations with our neighbors, including Turkey. The problem is that Turkey does not want to establish ties with Armenia. The genocide issue is as an obstacle according to Turkey, however this was not on the agenda during the first years of the establishment of Armenia,” he said.

De-facto border

Manoyan claimed that relations with Turkey froze completely in 1921, adding that this iron curtain could not be opened for over 80 years.

Responding to questions on Armenia not recognizing its border with Turkey, Manoyan said, “The Turkish-Armenian border is a de-facto border. The Moscow agreement signed between Turkey and Russia is not binding to Armenia; it is a decision of a third party. Another thing that should be remembered is that when the Kars Agreement was signed in 1921, Turkey was not even a republic yet.

” Pointing out that Turkey also had similar border issues with Syria, Manoyan noted, “Turkey established ties with Syria despite all the problems, but it takes a different attitude when it comes to Armenia.

” Historical problems cannot be solved in 90 minutes “

Expectations are high for the normalization of relations after the visit, however they can also get worse,” said Manoyan. Stressing that the two countries' problems had deep historical roots, he said it was not possible to overcome these just from watching a 90 minute football game.

“Let's assume that diplomatic relations have started. Even so, it would be wrong to expect that all the problems could be solved,” he continued.

Manoyan acknowledged that there had been a change in Turkey's policies over Armenia's claims of genocide. “Turkey did not even use the word ‘deportation' 15 years ago. However, this is how it refers to the events today. Turkish intelligentsia is aware of the events and Turkey will accept genocide in the coming years. This is how a European Union candidate country should behave,” he concluded.

The Armenian Revolutionary Federation, or ARF, is an Armenian political party established in Tbilisi in 1890 as a federation of revolutionary Armenian groups. It is a member of the governing coalition in Armenia, with members in both Parliament and the cabinet.

Usual suspects oppose Turkish-Armenian rapprochement

From Turkish Daily News  -   04/09/2008

Mr. Baykal is using cheap nationalist rhetoric, which has repeatedly blocked solutions to Turkey’s problems by promoting an arrogant bravado instead of sanity and reason Mustafa AKYOL

I have been on vacation for a while and when I returned I found Turkey as busy as ever. I also noticed something interesting about the Turkish political scenery: It has managed to create an odd blend of a mind-boggling dynamism and a never-changing status quo. When you stop reading Turkish papers for two weeks, and then start looking at them again, you come across totally new topics and debates. But the positions taken on these issues by the political actors hardly change. You can almost always see the same people taking similar positions on a multitude of ever-shifting political issues.

Baku instead of Yerevan:

The planned visit of President Abdullah Gül to Yerevan this Saturday to watch the Turkish-Armenian national football match but also to meet his Armenian counterpart is one such issue. There was not much debate about this in mid-August. When I came back in early September, I found the usual suspects lashing out at this historic act of rapprochement between the Turkish and the Armenian people. Deniz Baykal, the leader of the main opposition -- and main secularonationalist -- People's Republican Party, or CHP, had opposed this quite boldly. He even noted that he would prefer to “go to Baku instead of Yerevan.

” Ah, how poetic … I actually don't recall Mr. Baykal going to Baku even once, but what would it make a difference even if he goes there every month? Turkey already has perfect (“brotherly”) relations with Azerbaijan, and the problem is that it has none with Armenia.

It was obvious that Mr. Baykal was using cheap nationalist rhetoric, which has repeatedly blocked solving Turkey's problems by promoting an arrogant bravado instead of sanity and reason. The leader of the other nationalist party in Parliament, Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Action Party, or MHP, took a similar line when he opposed the visit. He said, “Gül should not go before the problems between Armenia and Turkey are solved.” Yet, how in the world will these problems be solved if Turks and Armenians don't talk?

Davutoglu's strategy:

The other day, I had a chance to listen to professor Ahmet Davutoglu, the foreign policy advisor to the prime minister, in a session where he met with a group of journalists. He explained that Gül's visit to Yerevan would be the first step to starting a dialogue between these two countries. Since the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, came to power in 2002, it has followed professor Davutoglu's “zero problem with neighbors” policy. That led to the rapprochement with Greece, Bulgaria, Syria and Iraqi Kurds.

Turkey's growing relations with Iran, which was depicted recently as the country's slide to “the dark side” by Washington analyst Soner Çagaptay, are indeed a part of that “zero problem” policy. Now, if the “football diplomacy” in Yerevan turns out to be constructive, the only remaining problematic neighbor Turkey has will also enter a positive course.

Professor Davutoglu also commented on the issues relating to the Caucasus. Turkey is concerned about the escalation of conflict in the region, he said, so the Turkish government has tried to mediate between Russia and Georgia since the first day of the recent war between the two countries. The real issue is, though, how to deal with a growingly assertive and intimidating Russia.

Some commentators in Washington, yet again, accused the Turkish government of being wishy-washy against Russia and not following the tough NATO (i.e., American) line. Well, the simple reason is that the world looks a little different when you look at it from Ankara rather than Washington D.C. Turkey has very important trade relations with Russia. Moreover, thanks to an unwise natural gas deal done during the prime ministry of Mesut Yilmaz in 1997, Turkey is largely dependent on Russian natural gas. So although Turkey is not the greatest fan of Russia's imperial ambitions, it has to protect itself from Moscow's wrath by avoiding provoking it. Turkey is, and will always be, on the side of West in its foreign policy -- but on the soft side of the West.

Not the Bush way:

Despite the demagoguery of the nationalist opposition, the Turkish government and President Gül seem determined to follow that “soft” policy, according to which disputes will be solved via diplomacy rather than confrontation. In years past, this has at times conflicted with the hard line of the Bush Administration. But today most Americans realize that the latter was the wrong way to go. Bill Clinton recently summed up the situation in the Democratic Congress: “Our position in the world has been weakened by too much unilateralism and too little cooperation… by a failure to consistently use the power of diplomacy, from the Middle East, to Africa, to Latin America, to Central and Eastern Europe.

” Quite the contrary, Turkey's position in the world has been strengthened in the past six years, thanks to the power of diplomacy and an open-mindedness that Turkey's nationalists, including the Ankara establishment, has often found upsetting.

Turkey should follow the same path, whereas I hope the Americans change theirs. If they choose Barack Obama as the next president, they will prove that they have already started doing that.

Abdullah Gül's 'Yerevan expedition'

From Turkish Daily News  -   04/09/2008


Only a miracle can prevent President Abdullah Gül's visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan on Saturday. In the football World Cup qualifiers Turkey is partnered with Armenia. So this will open historic new doors for Turks and Armenians.New Armenian President Serge Sarkisian, elected in Feb. 2008, used this opportunity and invited his Turkish counterpart to “watch the game together” in an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, July 9.

The invitation in WSJ:Let's read the most important part of his piece once again:

“And just as the people of China and the United States shared enthusiasm for ping-pong before their governments fully normalized relations, the people of Armenia and Turkey are united in their love for football – which prompts me to extend the following invitation. “

On Sept. 6, a World Cup qualifier match between the Armenian and Turkish national football teams will take place in Yerevan. I hereby invite President Gül to visit Armenia to enjoy the match together with me in the stadium. Thus we will announce a new symbolic start in our relations. Whatever our differences, there are certain cultural, humanitarian and sports links that our people share, even with a closed border. This is why I sincerely believe that the ordinary people of Armenia and Turkey will welcome such a gesture and will cheer the day that our borders open.

“There may be possible political obstacles on both sides along the way. However, we must have the courage and the foresight to act now.”

As he made this call, Sarkisian must have been inspired by the attitudes of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Gül, as much as he was by the qualifiers. In fact, in the article he also wrote, “After my election in February, my Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gül, was one of the first heads of state to congratulate me. Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggested that the doors are open to new dialogue in this new period.”

Right after this article, the Turkish side, two months ago, Gül decided to go to Yerevan. Foreign Ministry Assistant Undersecretary Ünal Çeviköz paid a one-day visit to Armenia yesterday and made the final touches before Gül's expedition on Saturday.

I talked to Çeviköz the other day. I asked if Mr. President will spend the night in Yerevan. Çeviköz said Gül will return to Turkey after the game. Then I asked “Will you discuss bilateral relations during halftime?” Çeviköz clarified, “We will be in Yerevan a few hours before the match starts. First we will discuss relations, then head to the stadium.”

Sarkisian made the move in July.

In September, Gül showed “the foresight and the courage” needed to act.

Overcoming a deadlock:

The enormous historic and psychological deadlock between Turkey and Armenia will therefore be overcome through this “football diplomacy.” In this sense, the Sept. 6 match in Yerevan will indeed turn out to be a “political event” as important as the ping-pong diplomacy held in 1972 between the United States and China, to open a new page in bilateral relations.

A ridiculous and invalid objection raised against the development is the misperception that if Turkey opens a new page with Armenia this could be betrayal of Azerbaijan because Turkey and Azerbaijan is “one-nation-two-states.”
This is ridiculous and invalid because presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been contact for years. The late Azerbaijani President Haydar Aliyev held about 10 meetings with his Armenian counterpart, Levon Ter Petrosian, from 1993 to 1997. Aliyev again met Robert Kocharian about 20 times in 1999-2002. The third period of talks took place between the current Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Kocharian. The two met nine times.
That means the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia came together nearly 40 times within the last 15 years. Moreover, Sarkisian met Aliyev in June 2008 in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. As Azerbaijani presidents have met their Armenian counterparts, to bring a ban on Turkey doesn't make sense and there couldn't be any justification to that.

Plus Turkey made, couldn't make, any contribution to the solution of the “Karabakh issue,” which is practically seen as the main obstacle before bilateral relations, due to the absence of diplomatic ties with Armenia. But now Turkey stands a better chance to make positive contributions to the return of the Azerbaijani land occupied by Armenia and to the Karabakh issue.

The ‘genocide' issue:

What about the “genocide” issue? No precondition is set for the establishment and normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. In December 2006, Sarkisian, then the defense minister, sent an article to the Wall Street Journal and said that without setting the genocide as a precondition, Armenia want to have diplomatic ties with Turkey. He concluded the article with the fact that if Turkey opens the Armenian border his little country will be “geopolitically closer to Europe” and that Armenia cannot remain an enemy of Turkey forever. This is unnecessary and meaningless. Armenia should proceed for the future, he said.

By visiting Yerevan on Saturday, Gül will in fact take a giant step for the future. I don't think that Gül will visit the genocide monument, but if he were to, history could have opened the doors wide. Turkey could have made a leap forward, let alone just a few steps.

Such a gesture has nothing to do with acceptance of genocide. Such a gesture only means “Gül is cognizant to tragic memories of our common past. And I, as the president of Turkey, do have respect to all.”

How meaningful this gesture could be …

'This is football, not war,' says Turkey coach

From Turkish Daily News  -   03/09/2008

Everyone is holding their breath for the upcoming fixture in Armenia, but Turkish national football team coach Fatih Terim plays down the tension, saying that his players 'cannot carry the weight of the history on their shoulders'

While many worry Turkey and Armenia's troubled relationship may ruin the World Cup qualification match, Turkish team boss Fatih Terim said that Saturday's game was “only a football game.

” Ahead of the game, which will be the first-ever football game between two national teams, Turkish national team coach Terim played down the tension in a poetic way while speaking at a press conference in Istanbul yesterday.
The game at Yerevan's Hrazdan Stadium will be Turkey's first trip to Armenia for a high-profile sporting event and has already become more than a simple football match, turning into a diplomatic issue. It took weeks and various heated debates in the country before Turkish President Abdullah Gül responded to Armenian President Serge Sarkisian's invitation to watch the game together.

“This is the first game between the two countries, and that is important. Plus, it is important because it is the first game in the Group Five,” said Terim. “It is clear that our opponents will take the game with a different motivation. But for us, this is only a football game, not war.”

The national team boss added that football was there to unite nations.

“We see football as an activity to bring nations closer,” he said, adding that political problems should be left off the pitch.

“You cannot play a game thinking about those things,” said the 54-year-old. “We cannot carry the weight of history on our shoulders.

” Seen as a motivational wizard who can inspire his players' motivation to drive their performances, Terim seemed to have successfully taken the political pressure of the Turkey-Armenia game off of his team.

“We footballers think quickly and we like to play quickly,” he said. “But it would slow us down if we tried to take history's weight on our shoulders. That would ruin our game.

” When the draws for the World Cup qualifying groups were made late last year, the Turkey and Armenia encounter overshadowed the other four teams, including European champion Spain, Belgium, Estonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

However, the waters were calm even then, according to Terim.

“I can say that our relations with the Armenian delegation were really good, so I feel that this warmth will be seen in Saturday's game,” said the Turkey coach. “Assuming that we've made friends all over the world thanks to the game, I just can't look to that game through a different lens other than football.

” When asked about Gül's decision to attend the game in Yerevan, Terim's answer was direct.

“We are not interested much in that debate. Of course we read the news and wonder what will happen, but keep in mind that football is our main job,” he said. “We see that game as a first step toward amelioration of the relations between the countries.

” Terim said he believed nothing negative would take place in Yerevan. “We will take our star and crescent to our chests and represent our country wherever we go,” he said. “Nothing happened in the under-21 teams' game between the two countries (on Aug. 20), and nothing will happen this time, either.”

Turkey shorthanded

Saturday's game will also be Turkey's return to the international stage after the semifinal success at Euro 2008 in June.

“We should continue where we left off in the European championship,” Terim said. “Our team has the potential to do that.”

However, Turkey is left a little shorthanded, with more than half a dozen players injured. Striker Nihat Kahveci still suffers from an injury from Euro 2008, versatile player Hamit Altintop, defender Emre Güngör and wingback Sabri Sarioglu are out of the squad. Also, it is doubtful whether centerback Servet Çetin, defensive midfielder Mehmet Aurelio, and midfielders Emre Belözoglu, Gökdeniz Karadeniz and Mehmet Topuz will be able to play.

However, given that Terim's side had to cope with injuries throughout the glorious Euro 2008 campaign, the team has little to worry about.

“We had been in more dramatic situations than that,” he said. “We played a semifinal game with a squad of 13 players. As a team that never gives up, I hope we can do our best in that situation.”

Armenia visit and Turkey's honor

From Turkish Daily News  -   03/09/2008

When President Gül visits Armenia, he will be verbally attacked by nationalist circles unavoidably. Attitudes of MHP and CHP are in this direction Oral ÇALISLAR

As I was writing this piece President Abdullah Gül's visit to Armenia had not been confirmed. By leaving his soft and balanced attitude we have witnessed lately, the Nationalist Movement Party's, or MHP, Devlet Bahçeli was opposing Gül's visit. Let's be fair to him. The Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal is the first leader who reacted against a visit to Armenia and he continues to do so.

I paid a visit to Armenia in 1995, together with Esenyurt Mayor Gündüz Çapan, and my colleagues Cengiz Çandar, Zeynep Atikkan and Taner Akçam. The Armenian president of the time was Levon Ter Petrosian. We met all leading political figures of the country, including him.

Petrosian and his adviser, professor Gerar Libaridian, were so willing to improve relations with Turkey. At that time, the Petrosian administration had scraped off the word “genocide” from the Constitution to contribute to bilateral relations.

Petrosian's decline:

Çapan was from Kars. He was aware of the significance of the border, so was the Armenian government. But unfortunately due to the Karabakh issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan there was hostility going on and that kept Turkey from acting freely, so steps to open the borders and to take bilateral relations to a better level were not taken. Fifteen years has passed since then. In the meantime, Petrosian's moderate line lost influence, because of Turkey's attitude as well, and Petrosian lost the government. Two politicians from Karabakh replaced him, Robert Kocharian and Sherj Sarkisian.

Although it seems that Turkey-Armenia relations are at a stalemate due to the genocide discussions, it could be correct to say that the real problem is the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia because the fight over Karabakh between the two countries led to a war and Armenia annexed Karabakh completely.

Since then, we can say Turkey-Armenia relations are determined by the Karabakh issue.

When Gül visits Armenia, he will unavoidably be verbally attacked by nationalist circles. The attitudes of MHP and CHP are facing in this direction. We all know that the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, was playing an effective role in these relations. A visit by Gül can be interpreted as that a consensus over this visit has been achieved with TSK.

The United States and the European Union want the opening of the Turkey-Armenia border, more than others. And Turkey, in order to improve influence over the Caucasus, plans to follow a more dynamic foreign policy. One of the political legs of this move by Turkey is to have better relations with Armenia, for Turkey has friendly ties with Azerbaijan and Georgia in the same region.

A step for peace:

It seems that the Armenian border will not be opened after this visit. But the formation of a joint committee of historians is likely to be agreed by the Armenians. But of course President Gül on the subject of Karabakh will voice Turkey's criticism.

The Turkish president will visit Armenia for the occasion of a national soccer game between the two countries. Irrespective of its solid consequences, the visit is a key step in terms of foreign policy. This step will have many effects in time. Formation of the historians' committee, all in all, is an important move.

We spent some time together with Petroisian's adviser, Libaridian, during our visit to Armenia in 1995. Libaridian is from the southern Turkish town of Tarsus. He is an American Armenian. His being from Tarsus strengthened our joint cultural and historic bond.

Improved Turkish-Armenian relations can in fact be regarded as a step for peace after the pain and sufferings the two nations were exposed to.

Oral Çalislar is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece appeared yesterday.

It's Saturday, this must be Armenia

From Turkish Daily News  -   03/09/2008

After years of diplomatic distance, Turkish President Abdullah Gül is set to head to Armenia to watch the football match between the two countries with his Armenian counterpart. Turkey hopes the trip will help thaw relations as well as strengthen its regional agenda, despite domestic accusations of a sell-out FULYA ÖZERKAN ANKARA – Turkish Daily News

After weeks of puzzling over a rare, “low-profile” visit to Armenia, it is almost certain President Abdullah Gül will break a political taboo and honor his counterpart's invitation to attend the Turk-Armenian football match this weekend.

But Turkish officials have refrained from revealing the final decision until the last moment.

Ahead of the president's trip, a group of Turkish diplomats, headed by the deputy undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, Ünal Çeviköz, was scheduled to depart for Yerevan Wednesday morning. The Turkish delegation is expected to sound out Armenia's approach to the Turkish proposal for a new regional cooperation mechanism as well as laying the groundwork for the two president's landmark meeting on the sidelines of the match, amid security fears and strong reactions from the Armenian nationalists — the Tashnaks.

Turkish opposition parties were up in arms, making their voices heard as soon as the trip's plans leaked out. Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Deniz Baykal claimed that Turkey's true friend was Baku, not Yerevan, while Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli argued such a high-level visit would be tantamount to a historic mistake. In order not to let the opposition to use the trip as leverage to mount criticism of the government, lawmakers from the ruling party canceled plans to accompany the president to the match. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, parliamentary group yesterday issued a written statement announcing their decision not to send any deputies to the football match in Yerevan.

The visit alone is enough to raise eyebrows in Azerbaijan, Turkey's closest regional ally, which is formally at war with Yerevan over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

While speaking in front of cameras last week, Azerbaijan's visiting foreign minister refrained from a public criticism of the trip and only said that the decision would be made by the Turkish president. Away from the cameras Azerbaijanis have not officially communicated uneasiness over future steps toward a thaw in the Ankara-Yerevan axis, but they were advised by Turkish officials to look into the matter “broadly and in the long run,” according to diplomatic sources.

Azerbaijan keeps nervous eye

Azerbaijani diplomatic sources are rather cautious on the other hand and refuse to interfere in what they say are, “Turkey's domestic affairs,” but believe that their Turkish kinsmen would not do anything that could hurt Azerbaijan.

“We believe Turkey will always side with us since we are two-states-one-nation with our Turkish brothers,” Hasan Sultanoglu Zeynelov, consul general of Azerbaijan in the eastern Anatolian province of Kars, told the Turkish Daily News. “We cannot imagine otherwise.”

Azerbaijanis believe the normalization of Turk-Armenian ties are not possible without a solution to a series of problems, including the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian territorial claims from Turkey and the diaspora's attempts for international recognition of the alleged genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey recognizes Armenia as an independent state but never established diplomatic relations and closed the border with that country in 1993 after Armenian troops invaded Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azeri territory.

“We are not sure if Turkey's fair demands have received a positive response from Armenia; we are also in favor of peace but our territory is under occupation,” stressed Zeynelov.

Fazil Abbasov, owner and editor-in-chief for Azernews newspaper, said Turkey wished for normal ties with Armenia in good faith but he did not believe Armenians truly wanted peace. “Armenians are trying to rebuild an image to show the international arena that they are in favor of peace,” he asserted.

Caucasus conflict gives peace a chance

Besides the secret negotiations between Turkish and Armenian diplomats in third party countries, the latest Caucasus crisis appears to give Turk-Armenian peace a chance, especially after Ankara's efforts to communicate its idea to establish a Caucasus platform with Yerevan.

The platform for stability and co-operation in the region will involve Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan as well as Armenia but bilateral conflicts have made the project infeasible even before it is born. While recognizing Armenia as an independent state, Turkey does not have formal diplomatic relations with the country.

“We'll not get into the same bed with the Armenians. We are still in contact (over the Caucasus plan),” said a Turkish diplomat.

Ankara says the outbreak of the Georgian-Russian war last month dealt a serious blow to regional balances and believes the Caucasus platform could be a remedy in the long run to defuse further crises facing the region in the newly shaping world order.

Turkey prepares for a new era with Armenia

From Turkish Daily News  -   03/09/2008

BARÇIN YINANÇ-Analysis ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News

Turkish President Abdullah Gül is preparing to go to Yerevan with hopes of a breakthrough in frozen relations with Armenia. The two countries have no official diplomatic ties, and whether the visit will open the way to a normalization of relations, depends on how the Turkish President is received in Yerevan.

Armenian President Serge Sarkisian's invitation to watch the football game next Saturday was a gesture of good-will, rather than part of a careful strategy, in the eyes of Turkish officials. However, making a cost-benefit analysis of whether to go or not, is based on strategic interests rather than good-will alone, as far as Ankara is concerned. “Saying no would mean that Turkey is closed to dialogue. It would create the image that it cannot even tolerate an initiative based on a humanitarian framework like football,” said a high-level Turkish official. The Turkish government also believes that Armenia wants to improve its relations with Turkey and seeks progress in secret direct-talks, initiated after Sarkisian's election as president last April.

The recent tension in the Caucasus is an additional reason for Gül's likely acceptance of the invitation. The fact that Russia has increased its area of manoeuvrability in the region has prompted Turkey to propose a new regional mechanism; the Caucasian Stability and Co-operation Pact. With this initiative, Turkey believes that it assumes a role on an equal standing with Russia, which has become more and more assertive in the region. The absence of dialogue with Armenia would have dealt a serious blow to the credibility and efficiency of the initiative.

Visit a significant change in policy on Armenia

But more importantly, the visit, if it takes place, might bring a significant change in Turkey's policy of isolating Armenia. The Turkish decision-makers seem to have come to the conclusion that isolating Armenia through exclusion from multi-regional co-operation schemes, like the energy corridors, has pushed Armenia into the hands of the Russians. In the recent course of events Turkey is keen to avoid polarization, with Russia and Armenia on one side, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia on the other.

In this respect, although the primary effect of the visit will be a symbolic move towards a thawing in relations between Turkey and Armenia, all the signs from Ankara show that the Turkish government is eager to use this opportunity to put relations with Yerevan into a different framework. But whether this visit will represent a real turning point, will also depend very much on the Armenians. Although part of the Turkish administration admits that both sides wish to have a revision of the current state of affairs, there are doubts, however, as to what degree the Armenian leadership would be able to deliver. “How the President will be received? What will be their stance on various issues? Will they be more flexible on Nagorno Karabakh. All these are important questions,” said a high-level official.

The talks between the two presidents might change the course of relations between the two countries. If Gül goes to Yerevan, no doubt he will not just talk about the performance of the players during the game. Certainly he will first talk about Turkey's regional initiative. Next on the agenda will be the future of direct talks. The two might then also talk about the issue of Nargorno Karabakh

“The visit to Yerevan should not be perceived as a change in our policy towards Nagorno Karabakh or Azerbaijan,” said a Turkish official. Although Azerbaijan is not happy about the visit, it has nevertheless never told the Turkish side not to go, according to the same official.

All the frozen conflicts in the region have been taken out of the deep-freeze, in the words of a Turkish diplomat. Hence it is about time a solution was found in Nagorno Karabagh. Turkey believes both sides are playing for time. “But we have reached a stage where there is no room left for playing for time,” said a Turkish diplomat, with the hope that a breakthrough with the visit to Yerevan might open the way for a comprehensive solution to the Nagorno Karabakh problem.
Tags: Армения, Турция, политика, футбол

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