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Saturday, 30 August 2008

Report: Turkish president accepts Sargsyan invitation to visit Armenia

Breaking news

So far this is the only Turkish paper reporting it:

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has accepted an invitation from his Armenian counterpart to watch the World Cup qualifier between the Turkish-Armenian national teams in Yerevan as the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the visit would contribute to renewed relations between the two countries, Vatan daily reported on Saturday.

Armenia however has not yet been informed of Gul’s decision, the report said, adding that the president is expected to make an official announcement next week.

Armenia President Serz Sargsyan invited Gul to watch the World Cup qualifying match between the two country's national teams on Sept. 6 to mark "a new symbolic start in the two countries' relations".

Gul had previously said that Sargsyan’s invitation is an example of contributions towards solving the problems that exist between the two countries and that an evaluation of the invitation was underway taking every possibility into account.

In a gesture of good faith, Armenia offered to lift all visa requirements and payments for Turkish citizens traveling to the capital Yerevan for the match, the report also said.

*Thanks to A.P. for the link.

29 comments:

Onnik Krikorian said...

Wow! I this is true this is truly a historic occasion. And if they were to even temporarily open the border for the match we're really heading in the right direction.

Of course, let's just hope the threats by the Dashnaks to hold more rallies if Gul comes amount to little more than a lot of noise overshadowed by the main event.

Here's hoping.

artmika said...

True, we may well witness a "history in making" in Yerevan soon. Really hope so and glad with this new developments in Armenia-Turkey relations.

I've heard lots of reports/rumours from various sources on type of actions planned by Dashnak-related nationalist circles. I am not going to publish them as I hope they will remain rumours and as you put it "noise".

Onnik Krikorian said...

Turksh Daily News quotes Armenian sources as saying 5,000 Turkish fans are expected for the match.

http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=113928

This was also what a foreign diplomat told me earlier in the week, with 7,000 Away tickets earmarked for Turkish fans.

Not sure if Turks can just turn up and buy tickets here, although I suppose that would potentially create extra security problems in the stadium.

Shiva said...

I hope the ARF (or any other party) holds a rally.

Armenia(ns) maintaining dialogue with Turks on an individual level is fine, but not on the state level. Not until the genocide is recognized.

Wasn't it just a few months ago that the despicable Barry Jacobs was invited there? How many more genocide deniers is Sargsyan going to welcome?

Forget about setting up that diaspora ministry (and forget diasporan support) when you continue pissing on us.

Onnik Krikorian said...

You know, I've been chatting to some journalist contacts in Turkey -- one from Hurriyet, one from Sabah, and one a Turkish-Armenian, and none are sure whether Gul will come. That it will be decided last minute seems to be the general consensus of opinion.

None are convinced a decision has been made yet so it's really going to surprise everyone if it happens.

After all, would a Head of State attend a football match when it's likely the whole stadium will erupt in jeers and boos when the Turkish national anthem is played?

Don't know, but until I see some international news wire cover the possibility of Gul's visit for the match, I'm still not sure. Hope it does happen, but at the same time I don't want to see an international incident occur.

That might just actually reinforce existing prejudices.

Here's hoping, but I'm waiting for the main Turkish press and international wires to cover the story. This one wasn't even Hurriyet. They instead quoted a paper I've never heard of before.

Basically, I'm still unsure if this story is correct or not. As Observer said on my blog, maybe it's just to test the water. Few others are quoting it so it seems everybody is still unsure.

artmika said...

On the other hand, it will look very bad for Turkey if he declines the invitation considering this Turkey-sponsored Caucasian union initiative.

Ani said...

I guess it's still to be decided, but if you take out the broader lens to see what Turkey is up to these days, it's all pretty fascinating, because they are working very hard right now to reposition themselves. First, there are the trade difficulties with the Turkish trucks getting into Russia, which I linked into Onnik's blog, suggesting Russia is putting severe pressures on Turkey. Then consider these article headlines from Hurriyet:

"Turk Minister Suggests Reviving Historical Silk Road"
"Gulf Monarchies To Boost Links With Turkey"
"Turkey-African Countries Trade Rises 140 Percent"

Also, Turkey is seeking a seat on the UN Security Council, and they're worried that if Obama is elected president the US will finally recognize the Armenian Genocide.

In other words, Turkey is scrambling right now and is eager to embrace a whole lot of initiatives to the East, South, and West. Hopefully opening the border with Armenia will be one of them, with no pre-conditions, as well as linking Armenia into the train line.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Well, good point, and what better way to start the ball rolling, I agree. I guess we're all waiting for the decision to be made one way or the other.

An official announcement would be welcomed, but I wonder whether "deciding at the last minute" even means flying in just before the match without warning.

Onnik Krikorian said...

And btw: talking about important visits for the match...

When are you flying in?

Haven't seen any reports on that either... ;-)

Safe journey, anyway. Be in touch when you get here.

artmika said...

;) Thanks, Onnik! In just few days... will be in touch.

artmika said...

And to follow-up my previous point, things seem to be shaping up.
Hurriet reports today: A Turkish delegation would visit Yerevan to hold meetings with their Armenian counterparts to convey Turkey's proposal for a Caucasus alliance, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Sunday after meeting with his Georgian counterpart in Istanbul. [...]

GUL'S VISIT
The Turkish delegation would also discuss with Armenian officials issues regarding a possible visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to watch a football match between Armenia and Turkey, Babacan told the conference.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has invited Gul to watch a football match between the two countries' national teams on Sept. 6 to mark "a new symbolic start in the countries' relations."

Turkish president said Saturday he is yet to make a decision on accepting the invitation. However, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in the same day he wished Gul's visit would bring positive results, hinting that Gul might have actually decided to accept Sargsyan's invitation.

Erdogan also said Babacan would accompany the Turkish President during the trip to discuss relations with Armenia.

Onnik Krikorian said...

INTERVIEW OF ARMENIAN PRESIDENT SERGE SARGSYAN TO TURKISH DAILY “RADIKAL”

YEREVAN, AUGUST 29, ARMENPRESS: Below is the interview of president of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, to the Turkish daily Radikal.

Q: The 2010 World Cup qualifier between the national teams of Armenia and Turkey, scheduled for September 6 in Yerevan, is probably the most politicized sporting event in our region. In terms of politics what were your expectations when you invited Turkish president Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to watch the game together?

A: My number one goal was to normalize the relations between our countries. Mr. Gul’s congratulation message upon my election said about the opportunities of normalizing the relations between Armenia and Turkey. Later on Prime Minister Erdogan stated that Turkey is open to a dialogue with Armenia. In return, I decided to use this opportunity. There is a good sports event ahead. It is the first time in the history our football teams will meet. It may become a good opportunity for us to develop our relations. The result of the game is not important, anyways I hope it will be a pleasure for the fans. There excitement will be great. This will be a big and exclusive event in our relations, and I hope it will become more special due to the presence of the Armenian and Turkish presidents. We are neighbors and will remains so. I am sure having normal relations will benefit both the countries. My invitation to Mr. Gul shall be considered in this context.

[...]

Q: There are some concerns in Ankara about this invitation. How, for example the problem of the borders is to be solved and how president Gul will be received in Armenia. Do you share these concerns?

A: There is nothing to worry about. If we have invited a president of a foreign state, we are able to provide everything on a due level.

Q: I have met with some representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Party, who are against your invitation. They said they will so everything to be heard in case president Gul arrives in Yerevan.

A: I am sure their means to express themselves will remain in terms appropriate for an official visit. Not being politically correct they will first harm themselves, Armenia and me, then Mr. Gul.

[...]

onnik krikorian said...

Still not much more than the snippets we know already, but:

Turkey’s Gul ‘Accepts’ Armenia Invitation

artmika said...

I really hope that this A1+ info is not true, otherwise it would be disappointing. According to A1+, Turkey bars its football fans from travelling to Armenia due to security concerns. The same will apply for Armenian football fans during a return match in Turkey. A1+ cites Turkish football fans' 'reputation' as one of the reasons for such ban. Apparently, Tukish side also wants to do whatever possible or impossible to avoid any potential trouble during that politically sensitive match considering possible visit of Turkish president. Still, while I understand the motives, it would be a shame, as it would be a lost opportunity in terms of 'people's diplomacy', and it won't be the same to watch the match without thousands of Turkish fans in the stadium. Still, should be fun, look very much forward to it, but would prefer seeing Turkish fans in Yerevan stadium too.

I must say, that so far only A1+ reports these news. We have to wait for more confirmations, I suppose.

link in Armenian
link in English (with poor English translation)

mesrop said...

The fan concern might not be political. The whole world knows that the Turkish fans can get very violent. They have beaten up and totally "humiliated" the British fans and therefore took the leading position.
Imagine if they ignited some provocations and some hot headed Armenians took that seriously.
Inviting Gul and denying the genocide doesn't mean that now the relations are all sorted out.

artmika said...

More related news (via Hurriyet).

"A Turkish undersecretary will inform Yerevan on Wednesday that Turkish President Abdullah Gul accepted the invitation of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan to attend a football match between the two countries on Sept. 6 in Armenia, Turkey's Radikal daily reported on Tuesday. The Turkish FM, however, said that no final decision was made regarding Gul's visit.

Turkey, which has no established diplomatic relations with its neighbor Armenia, therefore would have formal contact at the presidential level on the occasion of the football match.

Sargsyan invited President Gul to Armenia to watch together the 2010 World Cup qualifying round game between the two countries national teams on Sept. 6 to mark "a new symbolic start in the countries' relations".

Gul is expected to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and Turkey's proposal for establishing a Caucasus alliance with Sargsyan, Radikal wrote.

This would be the first time that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is on the agenda of a bilateral meeting, it added."

On the other hand, "Turkish MPs would not go to Yerevan to watch a football game between Armenia and Turkey on Sept. 6, state-run Anatolian Agency reported on Tuesday." [there were reports yesterday that some Turkish MPs wanted to visit Yerevan for football match and were seeking permissions from their party or parliament officials]

artmika said...

Head of Armenia's Football Federation Ruben Hayrapetyan formally confirmed today news by A1+ (see my comment above) that Turkish Football Federation effectively bars Turkish fans from attending Yerevan match (they declined to claim their 5% of tickets, according to international football rules, as offered by Armenian side). Instead, there will be a delegation of Turkish Football Federation - 130 people. (link)

artmika said...

Radio Liberty just reported (based on reliable diplomatic sources) that Turkey's president indeed accepted Sargsyan's invitation to visit Yerevan. More confirmations to follow, I suppose.

Onnik Krikorian said...

That news about the fans is unfortunate although perhaps not surprising if true. While one hopes security and policing can be guaranteed, you never know, and football is a very nationalist sport at the best of times.

However, not sure the story will be the one we originally hoped for -- although the potential for clashes was always there (I had initially hoped that known football hooligans could have been identified by Turkish police and prevented from attending as is the case in the UK, I think).

Still, if Gul comes it will still be historic, as I suppose will be the two national teams playing on Armenian soil. Even so, had hoped to document a group of Turkish football fans before and after the match.

Oh well.

Danielbeast said...

I've written a history and analysis of the Armenia-Turkey invitation at my blog: http://armhye.blogspot.com

Haik said...

This is all a game and I wonder why are you all take it seriously?
Turkish diplomacy is famous in such games. One of them is their national flag. With the read flag Ataturk kept communists in a distance and gained Kars.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Well, now that the BBC is reporting it, I think we can assume it's on.

Turkish president in Armenia trip

An historic event. I wonder how it will turn out.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Haik, I think when the Turkish president plans to come to Armenia it is quite serious. Even with a security detail, he is taking a dramatic step into a country where he will be dependent ultimately on the authorities here for making sure nothing bad happens. This is a huge move, especially when nationalists in Turkey are attacking the visit.

I am also glad to see that both the government and the opposition are taking this seriously. One supposes that even the ARF-D must be taking it seriously, and alarm bells are starting to ring in their quarter.

Still, serious or not, we have to hope that it is and that Armenian-Turkish relations improve to the extent that the border is opened and diplomatic relations are established although I wouldn't expect Embassies on the ground any time soon.

Haik said...

Onnik
Gul's visit is nothing in comparison to adoption of a national flag.

Turkish are very strong in diplomacy. They could always hold on thanks to their diplomatic skills. For example they never won a single major battle against Russians but always won on diplomatic side.
Watching a football match is peanuts.
Please dont think it primitively. They were blockading Armenia for over 10 years and one day they decided that they are our brothers?
Like during the Greek and Turkish earthquakes they decided that Greeks are their brothers.
Opening boarders and establishing political relations is fine but there is no need for overjoy and enthusiasm.
Never doubt that they (that is the state) will inflict hatred and cut our throats as they cut it from 1886-1923.
The only way of reconciliation with the new generation is when Turks becomes of ashamed in what they did.

Ani said...

Turkey has interests and Armenia has interests. The craft of diplomacy is presenting your side's interests as being appealing to the other side; the art of diplomacy is doing that successfully, whether or not it is actually true.

Interesting statement from Sargsyan (armenialiberty.org) re non-recognition of Abkhazia & South Ossetia--wondering if the scent of one billion U.S. dollars wafting from the north has anything to do with the decision(?)

And hard to understand what the CSTO group meeting is going to be about today if that statement was already made.

Onnik Krikorian said...

Ani,

I don't think Armenia decided not to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia because of the Georgian aid money. I think the decision has to do with Russia and whether Armenia recognizes or doesn't was agreed with them keeping in mind the reality of the country's situation in the region and still being 90 percent reliant on Georgia for trade.

I also think that without recognizing Karabakh, Armenia could hardly recognize other breakaway territories in the region. On that, Russia said yesterday that Karabakh can not be compared to either of the two Georgian regions. Basically, Armenia hasn't recognized them because quite simply, it can't.

spm said...

I am surprised, and very elevated by the fact that SS had courage to withstand Russian pressure. Not only Armenia did abstain from accepting independence of A and O but the "union of republics" where Armenia holds now the rotating presidency. I think he is much better student of LTP than RK ever was.
I am wondering what relations of SS and Dashnaks become if the later start to openly lean towards RK.
I guess SS will have no other option than embrace LTP.

Ani said...

Well, at least Armenia finally made "Time Magazine" for this venture: http://tinyurl.com/5zal8w

Although nothing in the article is particularly new for those who've been following the lengthy "pre-game festivities," the magazine has millions of readers (including lots of doctors' offices!), so that makes the article important.

Can Soccer Heal Turkey-Armenia Rift?
By Andrew Purvis

Soccer's world governing body FIFA pays no heed to historical enmities or geopolitical feuds in the draw for the World Cup qualifying tournament; only seedings count. ... But many in Turkey and Armenia are seeing their national teams' World Cup encounter in Yerevan on Saturday as an opportunity to help thaw the troubled relationship between the two countries.
....

Ani said...

Turkey achieved one of its major diplomatic objectives yesterday--a seat on the UN Security Council:

http://www.turkishweekly.net/
news.php?id=60308

Turkey admitted to U.N. Security Council

Turkey won one of five member seats, taking place in rotation, on the U.N. Security Council for a 2-year term beginning on January 1, 2009 after five-years strong lobby activities.
[...]
In Western European and Others Group, Turkey received 151 out of 192 votes and Austria won the second place with 132 votes. 87 votes were given to Iceland, but they couldn’t get a seat in the Council.

Turkey was not in the Security Council for almost fifty years and spent a huge effort to have a seat at the 15-member council since 2003.
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan was in New York for a final lobbying right before the voting. He mentioned the Turkey's growing position and great influence in the region as a negotiator to take support for Turkey's bid until the very last minute.

In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday in New York, Babacan said, "We are in a position, I should say, to understand sensitivities on both sides," regarding the Iran issue.

Another question directed to Babacan as if the sanctions came to table how Turkey would vote and he said: "First of all, we are against nuclear weapons in our region, so within that framework, of course, Turkey is not supporting Iran owning nuclear weapons. … But, on the other hand, we believe this issue can and should be resolved through diplomacy, through dialogue."

Iran conflict is not the only issue that Turkey has an important role in it. Turkey has been taking a position in discussions between Syria and Israel. Ankara is also trying to decrease the tension with Armenia and looking for a local cooperation stand for the Caucasus.