This Post was updated regularly until the end of the Game:
TRT TV1: Sat, 18:55 Sep. 6th
- Genocide, Football, and a Pink Elephant by Atamian
- Dashnaktsutyun Protests Against Turkey And Not Mr. Gul L Poghosyan
- Turkey Must Stop Speaking With Pre-Conditions N Khachatryan
- Final Preparations Before The Match Turkey-Armenia, armenews
- Armenia-Turkey: A Football Match Under Surveillance, armenews
- "Enjoy Together": Armenia, Turkey Opening Wc Qualification Amid 'Football Diplomacy' Between Two Nations By Suren Musayelyan
- Game On: Turkish President Accepts Invitation To Historic Football Match By Gayane Abrahamyan ArmeniaNow Reporter
- Turkey Must Refuse From Bellicose Policy To Armenia: Expert ArmInfo
- Time For The 'Actual Game' To Begin,
- Hrant's Dream, C ÇANDAR
- Gül's Armenia Visit More Than Symbolic,
- Good Luck, Mr. President!, B Bekdil
- Abdullah Gül’s Hand Extended For Peace!,
- Everything To Play For, Armenia Hosts Turkey
- Gül’s Visit May Increase Trade With Armenia Fivefold’
- Gül's Visit Raises Hopes For Symbolism Paving Way For Thaw
- Can Soccer Heal Turkey-Armenia Rift? Sep. 05, 2008, By A Purvis, Time
- Statement Of The Turkish Presidency On Trip To Armenia,Embassy Of The Republic Of Turkey, Washington, Press Release
- Issues Dividing Armenia, Turkey, AP
- Azeri Democratic Party: Turkey Always Betrayed Azerbaijan /PanARMENIAN
- The Presidential Hypocrite
- ANCA: Gul Should Attend Armenian Genocide Memorial In Yerevan
- 'Yerevan Needs To Stop Genocide Cry'
- Talking With Elected Politicians Instead Of Diaspora By K Dagci*
- Turkey Seeks To Destroy Or Neutralize Armenian Factor
- Turkey ‘Not Ready’ To Reconcile With Bloody PastBy Hande Culpan, AFP
- Armenia And The New Turkish Proposal, Richard Giragosyan
- Charles Aznavour Attend The Armenia-Turkey Match In Yerevan
- "A Meeting Sincere Or Purely Tactical?"
- Erdogan: "Armenia Should Observe The Un Resolution"
- "Armenia" Will Follow Armenia-Turkey
- Gul Travel In Armenia: Analysis Of Hayk Demoyan
- Exclusive : Meeting With Unal Cevikoz Vice-Secretary of State to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey
- Internal Political Crisis And Diplomatic Turning Point
- ANCA's Concerns About Gul's Visit & ANCA Chairman K Hachikian's Letter To Senate & House Members Regarding Gul's Visit
- Milliyet 1993:Abdullah Gul Condemned Government’s Policy On Armenia
- Armenian Citizens In Turkey Pleased About President Gül's Visit
- 'Yes' Echoing Beyond Ararat V Ziflioglu
- Final Touches On Presidential Visit To Armenia
- Why Is Gül Going To Yerevan?, I Küçükkaya
- Turks Have A Better Chance, Says Armenian Coach,
- Gül's Visit To Armenia Is The Right Step, M A Birand
- 'Caucasus Conflict Gave Rise To Turk-Armenian Rapprochement'V Ziflioglu
- 'Yerevan Expedition': Remembrance, Recalling
- Three Messages, Y Kanli
- Estranged Nations Have To Start Somewhere,S IDIZ
- The Right Time And Place
- US Hopes Gül Visit Will Facilitate Improved Ties With ArmeniaÜmit Enginsoy
- Key To Caucasus Initiative: Armenia V Ziflioglu
- Signs Of A Dangerous Bipolarity In Politics
- Rounding The Circle
- Gül Extends Olive Branch To Turkey's Last ‘enemy'
- Brussels, Washington Welcome Gül’s Decision To Go To Yerevan
- Turkey's Armenians Thrilled With Visit
- Turks Cannot Be Without Armenians, Armenians Cannot Be Without Turks! Ayse Hur, Taraf
- Old Foes Armenia And Turkey Put Faith In Football Diplomacy
- Progress Possible In Armenian-Turkish Relations, Ra President Says
- Most Turks Welcome Gul’s Decision To Visit Yerevan
- Armenia Should Have Good Relations With Neighbors, Without Forgetting Its National Interests
- Dashnaks Give More Details Of Anti-Turkish Protests, By Anna Saghabalian
- Inviting Turkish President Can Contribute To Restoration Of Diplomatic Relations Between Two Countries, Vice-Chairman Of Rpa Youth Wing Considers, NoyanTapan
- Gul's Visit To Armenia Signals That Tensions Between The Two Countries Are Cooling Stephen Kinzer
- What Others Say: Going To Yerevan,
- Armenia Coach: Everybody Expects Turkey To WinAPA
- 'We're Not Hooligans,' Says Dasnaksutyun
- Abdullah Gül's 'Yerevan Expedition' C Çandar
- Usual Suspects Oppose Turkish-Armenian Rapprochement Mustafa Akyol
- Freezing Relations With Armenia More Necessary For Turkey Itself: Co-Founder Of Azerbaijani Youth Movement
- Arf-Dashnaktsutyun Will Not Meet Gull With Eggs
- Can Armenians And Turks Be On Friendly Terms? A1+
- Turkish People Have Refused To Visit Armenia A1+
- A Game Neither Side Can Lose, Andrew Finkel
- Armenian Team Changes Emblem Before Turkey Match
- Gül's Yerevan Visit Welcomed By All But Extremists, Opposition
- Armenia-Turkey Football Match Against Background Of Violated Strategic Balance In Caucasus- Analysis
- Turkey Seeks Assurances From Armenia For Gul's Trip
- Soccer Diplomacy Moving Forward? by Daniel Beast
- Dashnaks Detail Planned Gul Protests , H Shoghikian & R Meloyan
- Armenia: Politics Banned in Stadium Amid Turkish Visit , Blogian
- Armenian Football Team's 25, Krikor Amirzayan
- Turkish Football supporters, ArmeNews
- Turkey's Gul `Accepts' Armenia Invitation, E Danielyan
- Turkish Soccer Fans ‘Not Coming To Armenia’, A Bedevian
- Crisis In Caucasus: An Opportunity For Ankara-Yerevan Ties?
- Armenia: Yerevan Prepares For Historic Football Match
- Normalize Relations With Armenia S Alpay
- 'This Is Football, Not War,' Says Turkey Coach
- Armenia Visit And Turkey's Honor, O Çalislar
- It's Saturday, This Must Be Armenia, Fulya Özerkan
- Turkey Prepares For A New Era With Armenia, Barçin Yinanç
- Will Gül Become Christopher Columbus?, C Çandar
- Gül Must Go To Yerevan, Y KANLI
- Sports Sociologist: Don’t Mix Sports And Politics In Armenia Match
Genocide, Football, and a Pink Elephant, 5 September 2008, atamian.wordpress.com
OK, so there’s a subject I’ve been wanting to write about since I started this blog, but I haven’t had a chance to do enough research to where I feel I can address the topic with confidence. Who knew that a soccer game would provide me with the motivation to take a stab at it? I still don’t feel all that confident taking on such a big topic, given how little I know, but this weekend’s game seems too noteworthy not to at least give it a shot.
A big part of being Armenian (even if you just married into it) is the WWI genocide, the ensuing diaspora, and subsequent chilly/hostile relationship with the Turks. To give you a brief run-down, historians estimate that 1.5 million Armenians were killed during the Armenian genocide, widely acknowledged and studied as the the first modern, systematic genocide. Though this pales next to the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis during WWII, I have heard a number of Armenian friends argue that while the Jewish Holocaust resulted in more deaths, the Armenian Holocuast wiped out a greater percent of the overall population. (I should mention that this is only something I’ve heard. I need to do more research to validate the assertion). Mike’s grandfather was one of the thousands forcibly removed from their homes and forced to march across the Syrian desert. Though he was one of seven kids, only he, his mom, and two of his sisters managed to escape and make their way to America via the French.
You get the idea. This subject hits close to home in our family. So although I’ve wanted to write about the subject for some time (since it directly relates to the title of this blog), I’ve hesitated. I want to write it well. And I want to get it right when I do.
But there’s stuff happening overseas that deserves comment, or at least acknowledgement. This Saturday (Sept. 6) there will be a 2010 World Cup qualifying match between the Armenian and Turkish teams in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital. Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan extended an invite to the Turkish president Abdullah Gul, and lo and behold after more than a decade of sealed borders, and in spite of tense political relations, he accepted! Granted the visit itself was not confirmed until Sept. 3, even though the invite was extended months ago. It may not seem like a huge deal but Abdullah Gul will be the first Turkish head to state to visit Armenia in an official capacity since the Armenian genocide during WWI. (It’s anyone’s guess what “official capacity” means. This leads me to make the assumption that heads of state have visited, but in an unofficial capacity. Does that mean spying? Summer vacation getaways? Again, proof that I’m a tad uninformed.)
I’m going to be curious to see who wins. Turkey is favored in the match but the Armenians have home-turf advantage and a big supporting crowd. We’ll see. Either way a lot of people are going to be pissed after it’s over. No one is taking any chances, that’s for sure. Turkish president Gul will watch the game with Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan from behind bullet-proof and then return to Turkey as soon as the game is finished. There’s a wonderful article, written by Andrew Finkel entitled “A Game Neither Side Can Lose,” a fitting title given the circumstances.
Since the Olympics in Beijing, many reporters are emphasizing how countries are putting aside cultural and political differences for the sake of sport. But I can’t help but grimace. China displaced and muzzled thousands of individuals, and spent billions of dollars to impress the rest of the world. “Putting aside differences” by highlighting a few athletes and heads of state who acted like friends for a couple weeks is a lot easier if we don’t talk about the human price paid by the average joe who is now homeless so an international athlete could have a furnished suite.
But in this case, at least the heads of state seem to be setting aside some differences for the sake of the game. Somehow I’m doubting though that this spirit of comraderie extends to the players. As an example, the Armenian team recently changed their team emblem to include an image of Mt Ararat, the consumate symbol of Armenia, a geographical feature currently located within Turkish borders. But in spite of this, many are hoping that Gul’s visit will be a step toward improving relations between the two countries.
The game, to be held Sept. 6, has had mixed reactions with the Armenian people from what I can tell. Because of the diaspora of Armenians around the world (there are actually more Armenians living outside the country than in it) there is quite a bit of information and reactions on the web. I’m relying on a number of blogs here (most with multi-voiced authorship), but from what I can gather older Armenians (60+) think it’s a waste of time: Turks won’t change, any effort at trying to improve relations will only hurt Armenia. Younger Armenians (20-30 somethings) are much more receptive. None of them are willing to forgive past offenses but they want to move into an era of peace.
One of the main roadblocks standing between current relations and peace is that the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge the 1915-1917 killings as genocide. This is a huge political issue, not just in Armenia but also for the diaspora in America, and around the world. Though several other countries (Canada, Russia, Greece) have also deemed this period a genocide, France’s recognition of the Turkish acts as genocide in 1998 caused quite a stir. In the US last year a vote came up in the House of Representatives for a resolution that would have declared the killings an act of genocide. It had huge backing with the Millions of Armenians and Armenian descendants living in America. Under pressure from the Bush administration, it was dropped before it ever came to a vote. According to CNN, “The administration was trying to persuade Turkey not to launch cross-border raids into Iraq against Kurdish rebels and Turkey had threatened to curtail U.S. access to military bases used to support U.S. troops in Iraq if the resolution had passed.” (I have enough reasons to hate Bush - as if the environment, civil liberties, and women’s rights weren’t enough - and here’s another one to add to the grit and filth I’ve been chewing on for eight years).
Suffice to say that the pink elephant standing in the corner while Armenian President Sarkisyan and Turkish President Gul are having dinner is going to be a big one. Let’s hope they have enough room to pass the salt.
Dashnaktsutyun Protests Against Turkey And Not Mr. Gul Lilit Poghosyan, Hayots Ashkhar Daily 05 Sep 2008 Armenia
ARMEN ROUSTAMYAN, representative of the ARFD Supreme Body in Armenia and Head of the NA Committee on Foreign Relations, was the guest speaker of the National Press Club yesterday
The first question addressed to the speaker was the following: what does Western Armenia mean to Dashnaktsutyun - a geographical area or a historical homeland? "For us, Armenia is Armenia in its integrity, including all its parts: northern, southern, eastern and western. The Armenia we imagine begins from the Armenian-Turkish border which was once clearly demarcated by US President Mr. Wilson. And when we say our goal is to create a free, independent and united Armenia, we mean the Armenia I just spoke about." A. Roustamyan said in response.
"Why is Dashnaktsutyun against the visit of the Turkish President?"
Touching upon this question, the representative of the Supreme Body first stated that "Attempts are being made to misrepresent the activities of Dashnaktsutyun both from inside and outside. We do not protest against the invitation of our President. We do not even protest against Mr. Gul. The problem does not consist in that. The problem consists in how we imagine the regulation of the Armenian-Turkish relations in general."
There are three main approaches with regard to this issue which has been raised so assiduously during the recent period.
"The first is that it is necessary to regulate the Armenian-Turkish relations because we do not have any problem with Turkey. Naturally, this approach has always been unacceptable to us, but such viewpoint unfortunately exists in Armenia.
The second approach is that there are problems but it is possible to circumvent them. This too, is an unacceptable approach for us.
The third approach we are required to follow should, in my opinion, become the guideline of our foreign policy as well. That's to say, there are problems, and they are extremely important. And what's more, it is impossible to anticipate a total regulation of the Armenian-Turkish relations and the establishment of normal relations between the two countries without solving those problems.
And the importance of those problems is first of all emphasized by Turkey which voices the four well-known preconditions.
The objective of the protests Dashnaktsutyun is planning to hold within the frameworks of Mr. Gul's visit is more than clear. That is, "to attach importance to the issue of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide with its three components.
First, the security of Armenia cannot be guaranteed without the recognition of the Genocide. As long as Turkey, the legal successor of the Ottoman Empire which perpetrated the Genocide, has not recognize d the crime, there is always a danger that the Genocide may be repeated.
Therefore, this is not only a matter of the past and morality, but also a problem bearing a direct relationship to our security at present."
Second, "The recognition of the Genocide is important if we really want to achieve regional stability and cooperation in the Caucasus. This is actually something Turkey is currently trying to achieve by its recent initiative. If the Turkish side is proposing such initiative but doesn't recognize the Genocide, this at least gives rise to serious doubts as to its being frank."
And finally, the next component which emphasizes the urgency of recognizing the Genocide is that "the process of Turkey's membership to the European Union, i.e. the way of becoming a full EU member, is the recognition of the Genocide. Otherwise, all the commitments undertaken by Turkey will bear a superficial nature, and Turkey will be unable to become a European state in the strictest sense of the word." Furthermore, "if this is really a protest, it is directed against Turkey's attitude and not Mr. Gul's visit or the invitation."
The speaker doesn't rule out the possibility that some people may try to undervalue ARFD's initiative, "lead it to extremes or misrepresent the activities of Dashnaktsutyun. And why not? There will be people who will n ot be against the idea of changing the logic of such protests and inciting provocations."
To avoid undesirable incidents, the organizers have drawn up a framework of "planned" measures, and in the person of A. Roustamyan, they announce that "Any step beyond that framework will be directed against our actions and will naturally be viewed by us as an unacceptable provocation." And to prevent anything of the kind from happening, Dashnaktsutyun has instructed all its bodies "to be very attentive and keep on the alert and not to allow for any deviations of the kind."
A. Roustamyan presented the schedule of the planned actions. "The first is the process of meeting the Turkish President in the airport. This will be a civilized action like many others that have taken place in other countries many a time. The problems I just spoke about will be raised. At the moment of Mr. Gul's visit, there will be a mass of several thousands of people there, and they will present those issues just in the airport.
Second, before the start of the game, we have planned a visit to Tsitsernakaberd and a ceremony of laying flower wreaths. At the same time, torches will be lit near the memorial during the match. And while the game is taking place, appeals to recognize the Genocide will certainly be voiced.
This is our plan, and we will not go beyond its frameworks.
Moreover, this is the minimum of the required actions. And in case of refraining from them, Armenia may immediately find itself in the target of the Turkish propaganda, the representative of the Supreme Body believes. On the very next day, Turkey may announce all over the world that the Armenians are, as a matter of fact, indifferent towards the issue of the Genocide because "the Turkish President visited Armenia for the first time, and it didn't occur to anyone to utter a single word concerning the issue."
At the same time, he will consider it as a "proof" of the fact that this is not an issue concerning Armenia. "This is an issue concerning the Diaspora, and Armenia is facing no problem in that regard. By this, we will strike a direct blow to the process of the recognition of the Genocide, and give a good 'present' to Turkey. This is what Dashnaktsutyun cannot allow to happen. If there are people who haven't realized this so far, time will come and they will see that this is really a matter of our dignity, and we are simply obliged to do that."
Hence, Dashnaktsutyun appeals to all our compatriots to join this protest, "to raise our questions in a civilized, serious and solid manner and continue our struggle towards the fair regulation of our relations."
Turkey Must Stop Speaking With Pre-Conditions Naira Khachatryan, Hayots Ashkhar Daily 05 Sep 2008 Armenia
The Responsible Representative of the Office of Armenian Cause and Political Issues of ARFD Bureau Kiro Manoyan was the guest of "Urbat" club yesterday.
After the independence of the Republic of Armenia, by making pre-conditions, Turkey has refused to establish diplomatic relations with our country. Kiro Manoyan says in case Turkey doesn't change that stance, the visit of the Turkish president to Armenia won't change anything. "The visits aimed at advocacy will never change the atmosphere. There should be a political will, and Turkey is the one to display that political will. They should change their policy of the previous 17 years towards Armenia."
"Why did Gyul accept the visit made by Armenian President? Do you think by this visit the Turkish President will come out with new proposals?"
"In my view Turkey's interest derives from the notion that their policy adopted beginning from 1993 (blockade, refusing to establish diplomatic relations) actually failed. And this fact makes them take certain steps.
We shouldn't overlook the fact that the war somehow made the processes taking place in the region swifter. But I don't think the Turkish President will ever cede. The only change will be their refusing pre-conditions, and their20posture to speak with ultimatums, though I wouldn't like to hurry in my optimism," Kiro Manoyan said.
As regards the protest function organized by Dashnaktsutyun party: "If in our country it is allowed to hold protests against the President then we can definitely hold a demonstration against the person invited by the President, especially if it is within the politically accepted norms.
We shouldn't also forget that it is the first visit of the Turkish President to Armenia and we must remind him that this visit doesn't imply anything, in case we manage to solve the problems existing between the two countries. We will express our political posture in a normal accepted form. In my view our President will understand this and I'm sure our people will participate."
Touching upon the pre-conditions the speaker said: "If we start speaking with pre-conditions, then we have both political, legal and moral grounds to make pre-conditions. But we never do that. And they also don't have the right to speak with pre-conditions.
The issue of the Genocide is one of their pre-conditions, which is firstly a matter of security for Armenia. If we start establishing relations with a country that has committed a crime against us, against humanity and they don't want to accept it, to shoulder the responsibility, how can we be in normal relations with that state? Artsakh=2 0issue is Turkey's next pre-condition. They say: "Either you will do what Azerbaijan wants or we will close the border." But we are against it. They also dictate us to refuse our rights, to recognize Kars agreement, which is an illegal document and has been many times breached by Turkey, itself. These are the issues that must be discussed."
According to the speaker the opening of the boundary can become an indicator of changing the stance: "After all Turkey must do that, if they want to change their hostile attitude towards Armenia. The blockade that Turkey has started against Armenia is a form of war, according to the international law. If they want to have normal relations with Armenia they must at least lift the blockade. But the opening of the border won't solve all the issues. We also need a regime regulating the border, which is possible only after the establishment of diplomatic relations. Thus Turkey has lots of things to do. But the opening of the border can be completed very swiftly."
Armenia must be prepared for the opening of the border. "Should we not be prepared for the opening of the border it can have very bad consequences.
For example last week Turkey announced that the government would pay credits without percentage to the exporters. It will give an opportunity for invasion, which will harm our economy, in case we are not well prepared f or that."
Final Preparations Before The Match Turkey-Armenia, 6 September 2008, by Stéphane / armenews
Armenews Items Are Automaticaly Translated By Google And May Contain Errors
A coach confident but lucid, a lawn that is water carefully, Turkish journalists already in town with satellite vans - and already some supporters draped in the flag Armenian: final preparations before the match takes place against a backdrop of a city that go about their occupations while waiting for the fateful hour ...
While Ruben Hayrapetyan, president of the Armenian Football Federation, inspects the lawn to host players from teams tips and Armenian, one of the official sponsors of the meeting Ralph Ernikian, CEO of Vivacell, is also entering the same lawn, everyone seems to be very careful that nothing is left to chance for this match with the qualifications for the World 2010. Also inside the stadium, the coach of the Armenian national team, Danish Jan Polsen, says a press conference that Armenia encounters one of the 10 best teams in the world, and if hope is there, and with confidence, we must remain sober. Some recall, however, just about everywhere in town that Armenian junior team has well and truly won last month on the Turkish team - so why not a double, will take some dream?
At the Marriot hotel, a press centre has been opened this morning to welcome journalists already fairly present in the city, Turkish and other nationalities. Here again, nothing is left to chance, journalists must apply for accreditation by the Armenian Football Federation has set up the press centre with Internet connection. The security measures will also seems fairly draconian: journalists will be taken from the Marriot hotel to the stadium two hours before the match - kick-off scheduled for 21 hours Saturday night - while the issue is to strive to ensure that no clash occurred.
If the arrival of President Gul is indeed confirmed, that of supporters, it is subject to all questions. For the latest news, the Turkish Football Federation has declined its quota regulatory 5% of places in the stadium for the fans, those that remain may well happen by their own means to Yerevan. Answer partly tomorrow probably with the next flight from Istanbul and which arose in Yerevan at five o'clock in the morning. All speculation about the number of Turkish supporters are pending allowed - 300 according to some, 3000 for the others ... If clashes between Armenian and Turkish supporters are feared by all, the safety instructions are clearly strengthened to prevent the maximum, as a city that the stadium itself.
In fact, if international attention focuses on the highly symbolic venue of President Gul, the Armenian public seems to much more attentive to what really happens on the lawn in the gallery or find the Turkish and Armenian presidents Saturday evening. In any case a country which is behind his team. The return match will take place him in Turkey but Armenia should also face three other teams including Spain for the qualification rounds at the World Cup.
Armenia-Turkey: A Football Match Under Surveillance, 6 September 2008, by Stéphane / armenews
The historic visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gül Saturday in Yerevan should, in reducing tensions between Turkey and Armenia, allow Ankara to consolidate its position as interlocutor required in the management of regional crises, say analysts.
For several months, the Turkish diplomacy multiplies mediation and good offices with the countries close between Syria and Israel-Turkey welcomes the negotiators of the two countries, between Iran and Western powers over the Iranian nuclear issue.
After the outbreak in August of the conflict between Georgia and Russia for control of the separatist Georgian territory of South Ossetia, Ankara has once again offered its services by proposing the creation of a forum for cooperation in the Caucasus aimed at restoring regional stability in this region become a major issue in the global race for energy resources.
But to become a "peacekeeping force" credible, it must still that Turkey began a process of normalization with Armenia, one of the last remaining country with which tensions, said Sedat Laçiner, a specialist in international relations from the Institute USAK.
"Turkey is a large country of 70 million inhabitants, it did not need to Armenia but it is the last country with which it has not resolved its disputes," said the scientist. "A first step is to establish a dialogue".
"Turkey can not have the image of a country that conflicts with small countries that surround it," confirms Beril Dedeoglu, a professor of international relations at the University stambouliote Galatasaray.
The visit of Mr. Gul, invited by his counterpart Serge Sarkissian at the Armenia-Turkey match qualification for the World Cup 2010 football tournament, will be the first by a Turkish head of state in Armenia since independence this former Soviet republic in 1991.
Ankara and Yerevan have no diplomatic relations because of the denial by the Turkish character of the genocidal massacres of Armenians committed between 1915 and 1917 in Anatolia.
Turkey has also closed its border with Armenia in 1993 to support the Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan in its conflict with Armenia over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The announcement of the visit has already borne fruit in terms of image, the French presidency of the European Union, with which Turkey began in 2004 accession negotiations, which welcomed Thursday a "strong gesture and encouraging" .
Mr. Sarkissian has also shown its support for the Turkish project as a forum for the Caucasus, saying that Armenia "appreciates all efforts to build confidence, stability and security (...) in the region."
According to Dr. Laçiner, the Georgian crisis could encourage the Armenian side to a rapprochement with Turkey.
"Armenia has really needs Turkey. The only way to the rest of the world. Georgia is safer," he says, adding that "Turkey can become a bridge between Armenia and the West. "
However, little immediate progress may be expected, both the mistrust is high between the two countries, says Dedeoglu.
"There are risks for Mr. Gül, as well as for the government in Yerevan, because of the hostility of nationalist circles. There will be resistance," she says.
"If the cultural relations continues, resistance will eventually weaken, however, hopes the university, who said he was convinced of the desire of the Turkish government to reopen, ultimately, the border with Armenia.
"The visit of Turkish President is of great importance. But we can not expect a first meeting sufficient to solve the problems we have for centuries. It is simply a first contact," says the analyst Sergei Chakariants in Yerevan.
"Without forgetting the past, we must look to the future," said Wednesday the Armenian President Serge Sarkissian to diplomats in Yerevan.
"If a dialogue is established, we can discuss everything and even the most difficult issues. We need to see a common benefit to start contacts unconditionally," he said.
"Turkey wants to play a greater geopolitical role in the region, particularly since the events in Georgia", but "if Turkey wants to succeed in creating this forum, it must improve its relations with Armenia," said Ruben Safrastian of the Armenian Academy of Sciences.
The Armenian population seems, however, call his vows closer.
"The citizens of Armenia and Turkey meet and speak for years. Why the leaders of our countries could not do the same?", Summarizes Sambel Karibian, a grower.
"The Turkish side must understand that this is not only important for Armenia, but also for them," adds Siouzan Mkrtchian, an art critic.
For her, the most important thing is that the meeting between the two heads of state is followed by concrete steps, as the restoration of diplomatic relations and the reopening of the borders between the two countries.
From timid signs of warming have appeared with the confirmation of recent secret talks between the two parties in Switzerland. But on the issue, Central, the recognition of genocide for the massacres that have been 1.5 million deaths, the lines do not seem to move.
"Enjoy Together": Armenia, Turkey Opening Wc Qualification Amid 'Football Diplomacy' Between Two Nations By Suren Musayelyan
Armenia is entertaining Turkey this weekend in a World Cup qualifier that international bookmakers say is more likely to be won by the visitors.
But the political leaderships in both countries divided by a closed border and a backlog of unresolved problems hope there will be no losers at least beyond the football ground as a result of the unprecedented event.
The Saturday (Sept. 6) match at Hrazdan Stadium beginning at 9.00 pm Yerevan time will become the first-ever football encounter at senior level between the two neighboring nations that share a history of troubled relations and no diplomatic ties at present.
The off-the-pitch significance of the game has been stressed ever since the two nations were drawn late last year in the same qualifying group (also including Spain, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Estonia) of the European zone for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The perception was intensified after the Armenian leader took advantage of the upcoming game to invite his Turkish counterpart to "enjoy together the football match" in Yerevan.
"Thus we will announce a new symbolic start in our relations," Serzh Sargsyan wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in July, repeating his earlier invitation to Abdullah Gul to visit the Armenian capital.
In a further display of good will, official Yerevan made a decision in mid-August to suspend unilaterally its visa regime with Turkey on September 1-6 to facilitate the arrival of Turkish football fans in Armenia.
"The decision was taken to enable citizens of the Turkish Republic to attend the September 6 game between the football teams of Armenia and Turkey to be played in Yerevan," a government statement said.
Hrazdan Stadium, the largest football arena in Yerevan, can accommodate up to 55,000 spectators after recent reconstruction. However, few Turkish fans, if any, are expected to arrive in Yerevan for the game in accordance with the Turkish football federation's formal position to discourage citizens from traveling to Armenia to prevent possible incident. The Turkish side wants Armenian counterparts to do the same when Armenia will be a visiting side in Istanbul next fall.
Under FIFA regulations, the federation of the visiting team is entitled to 5 percent of tickets available for the match. But the Turkish Football Federation had officially requested only 130 tickets, including 115 for members of the Turkish delegation and another 15 tickets for VIPs.
Both the Armenian government and the country's football federation have said security measures will be in place to prevent incidents during the match and beyond. The federation has called on football fans to show maximum respect for the visiting team and to refrain from shouting insults and carrying hate banners.
At least one political party in Armenia, Dashnaktsutyun, has vowed to stage protests against the Turkish president's arrival, but its leaders have repeatedly said their actions would be staged in 'a civilized manner'.
The Armenian side has also made extra efforts to revamp the hitherto disused Armenian section of the railway connecting Armenia's second largest city of Gyumri to Turkey's Kars in case there is a demand for it. Since Turkey made a decision in 1993 to close the border with its eastern neighbor, Armenia has relied heavily on Georgia as a transit country for the bulk of its foreign trade. The recent war in Georgia, however, has disrupted regular railway and motorway traffic via Georgian territory, resulting in shortages of fuel and occasionally of other basic products on the Armenian market.
Football-wise, Armenia's senior team on Saturday will be hoping to repeat the heroics of the Under-21 team that beat their Turkish coevals with a stunning late comeback at Hrazdan about two weeks before.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Armenian Football Federation President Ruben Hayrapetyan emphasized that he had set the task before the national team to achieve a victory in the upcoming qualifier against Turkey and repeated that the general task for Armenia in the opening campaign is to achieve qualification for the 2010 World Cup finals.
To recap, in a 2009 European Championship qualifier on August 20 Varuzhan Sukiasyan's charges were a goal down until the 89th minute when they first managed to equalize and then snatch a spectacular victory in stoppage time.
Armenia's U-21 team will play the return match in Turkey on Tuesday, September 9. And Armenia's main team will travel to Spain to play their second qualifier this season against the reigning European champions on Wednesday, September 10.
Pitch Prophets: Bookmakers And Lawmakers Look At The Big Match By Marianna Grigoryan
While the talk about various political benefits that the upcoming football match between Armenia and Turkey may hold out to the two nations has been going on for months, predictions as to the outcome of the game proper have also been gathering pace in the hours leading to the highly anticipated encounter.
When last month Armenia snatched a last-gasp 2-1 victory from Turkey at junior level, downtown Yerevan became a scene of late-night celebrations, with fans singing songs and waving national flags, with thunderous chanting and loud car horns blending into one great music of common success.
While international bookmakers tip the semifinalist of the last European champion as a clear favorite in the weekend game, Armenian football fans are full of hope that Yerevan streets will see more celebrations on September 6.
According to the International Bookmaker Office, Turkey is a 40-1 favorite, a draw has a coefficient of 4, and Armenia's chances to win are assessed as 7 to 25.
At a press conference on September 4 Armenia head coach Jan Poulsen spoke with respect about the opponent saying that Turkey currently ranks 10th on the FIFA rating list, while Armenia is only 98th. But he said that despite the strength of the opponent, Armenia will try to offer a surprise.
"The whole pressure is on Turkey today because theoretically a game with Armenia should be a walk in the park for them," Poulsen said. "On our part we should try to offer a surprise because we are ready for that and we will display our best sides, showing that it is possible to play good football against the strong."
The Danish tactician gave assurances that they have tried to make the best preparation for the game.
"We are in a good form at this moment, we feel determined and will do our best," Poulsen said.
International bookmakers say the likeliest score is 1-0 to Turkey, followed by a 2-0 Turkish victory.
"If we look at the game purely from the point of view of football, Turkey is much stronger, however I think that our footballers will make supernatural efforts to get out of the situation with honor," specialist in oriental studies, Turkologist Ruben Safrastyan told ArmeniaNow.
Politicians, too, yield to the reality of Turkey being stronger on the pitch. "The Turkish team is the bronze medalist of the latest European championship, one of the strongest European sides," MP Suren Surenyants says. "I would give them a little higher chance, but anything might happen. I would like our society to see competition on the pitch. It is important that the game contributes to the consolidation of the idea of peace. If we win, then we all will celebrate our win, if they win, we will feel glad for our neighbor that managed to achieve a victory over our national team." And some politicians remain politicians . . .
Armen Ashotyan, a senior lawmaker from the governing Republican Party, believes in Armenia's victory.
"Like millions of Armenians who are impatiently awaiting for this game, I also have great hopes," says Ashotyan, who is going to enjoy the game at the stadium with a group of fellow lawmakers. "I believe in our victory, however, no matter what, I think they will play with dignity and will not disappoint us all."
Unlike Ashotyan, his fellow party member and parliamentarian Eduard Sharmazanov is certain that "ours will win."
"As a football expert I can assure you that the victory will be ours," Sharmazanov told ArmeniaNow. "According to my observations, the score will be 2-1, of course in Armenia's favor and we all will celebrate our victory."
Game On: Turkish President Accepts Invitation To Historic Football Match By Gayane Abrahamyan Armenianow Reporter
September 6, when Armenia will host Turkey in World Cup Qualifying, is being viewed as Armenia's day of "football diplomacy", just like the table tennis championship in the 1970s that became the first step in US-China relations known as "the ping pong diplomacy".
This week Turkey's president Abdullah Gul accepted Armenia's president Serzh Sargsyan's invitation to come to Yerevan for the match at Hrazdan Stadium. A special Turkish envoy was in Armenia Wednesday to discuss security details.
The rival president's visit will mark the first time a high-ranking Turkish official has visited Armenia since borders were closed (and remain so) between the countries in 1993.
Many analysts tie Gul's acceptance to the new situation in the region underlining the visit is advantageous to Turkey, who has recently appeared with a new initiative on creating the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform.
In an interview to the Turkish Radikal newspaper on August 29th Gul said: "We are all children of the same land. Throughout history Turks and Armenians have lived on this soil together to the extent that the Ottomans called Armenians 'the loyal nation' and appointed them to important state positions. We have many bitter and sweet memories. As I said last time at the ceremony devoted to the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad we cherish in our hearts [a hope] all countries of the region will participate in these projects one day."
Turkish PM Erdogan first made the initiative to form a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform public on August 13th underlining the necessity of involving Armenia.
"The Turks hold great hope that the new structure will provide them a new platform in the Caucasus and Armenia's involvement is particularly important," says director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, Turkologist Ruben Safrastyan.
Safrastyan conditions the recently noticed moves in Armenian-Turkish relations also with the changes in the outside world and [imposed] pressure.
"They realize in Turkey that Resolution 106 (for Genocide recognition) will have continuation in the US Congress in case Democratic candidate Barrack Obama wins in the US and settling the relations with Armenia will make protecting Turkey against the Congress easier," says the expert.
However, this new momentum in the Armenian-Turkish relations has not received an unambiguous response in Armenia.
The first reflection came from the former president of Armenia Robert Kocharyan who stated in an interview to Mediamax news agency: "If I ruled the country, the President of Turkey definitely would not be invited to Yerevan to watch the football match."
Meanwhile the first President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosyan both welcomed the idea of the invitation and even changed the plans of the Armenian National Congress by postponing the rally planned for September 5 and stopping the day-round sitting-strike.
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation plans to meet Turkey's President with a protest rally.
Sargsyan stated in an interview to the Turkish Radikal regarding the protest: "I think that the actions they will take to make their voice heard will not overstep the limits of the actions acceptable for this kind of official visits. Those who will display uncivilized attitude toward President Gule will display it first of all toward Armenia and myself since the invitation was issued by me."
Representative of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Hrant Margaryan says the Dashnaktsutyun can't keep silent, despite its being a part of the ruling coalition.
"Turkey continues its anti-Armenian policies and it will be a shame if we don't make our voice heard in our country."
Doctor of Political Science Armen Ayvazyan anticipates no serious changes with Gul's visit, but quotes the lessons of history warning 'flirting' with Turkey will bring to irretrievable consequences as was the case after the improvement of relations with Turkey before the Genocide and the fall of Kars.
The director of Ararat Center for Strategic Research (http://www.ararat-center.org/) underlines Armenia will pay a big price for opening the border.
"The government of Armenia means setting diplomatic relations and opening border by saying settlement of Armenian-Turkish relations, but the core issue of the relations - Turkey's strategic purposes - is ignored," says Ayvazyan. "Turkey has continued its hostile policies toward Armenia for the last 16 years ranging from psychological and information war and destruction of monuments to providing all kinds of support to Azerbaijan and the genocide denial."
The expert asserts the government of Armenia refuses to properly appraise Turkey's policy: "which is a result of either an imposed pressure or lack of understanding of the essence of the problem."
"Armenia has already made numerous concessions and the vivid evidence is the rhetoric used by the Armenian President while talking about the Armenian-Turkish relations. For example, he never used the word 'genocide' in the article posted in the Wall Street Journal."
In the article called "We Are Ready to Talk to Turkey" published in the Wall Street Journal on July 9 President Sargsyan mentioned talking about the opening of borders and settlement of relations: "Only through them can we create an effective dialogue touching upon even the most contentious historical issues."
Turkey Must Refuse From Bellicose Policy To Armenia: Expert 2008-09-05
ArmInfo. To establish Armenian-Turkish relations, official Ankara must refuse from bellicose policy to Armenia, Armen Ayvazyan Doctor of Political Science, Director of Ararat Center of Strategic Studies, told media.
Armenian authorities wage policy of senseless concessions that may make the public unable to self-defense and pass a wet sponge over the memory of our people. Our authorities must not forget the policy of Ankara to Armenia for the last years, he said.
The expert believes that Turkey blocked the border with Armenia to exert pressure on the republic. Turkey is unlikely to open the border now when the Georgian border is also blocked and there is a good opportunity to cause maximum damage to Armenia, the expert said.
Turkey may open the border subject to two circumstances. First of all, if Armenia refuses from policy of international recognition of Genocide, yields Karabakh to Azerbaijan and recognizes the present borders of Turkey. Turkey is well-aware that fulfillment of such preconditions is unreal. Second, Turkey may open the border if it is sure that open borders will cause more damage to Armenia than blocked ones, A. Ayvazyan said.
Time For The 'Actual Game' To Begin, September 6, 2008, Çetin Cem Yilmaz, Turkish Daily News
Preceded by long sessions of debate, the Armenia-Turkey game, is already more than just a football fixture, but this weekend it is time to remember that there will be a ball rolling on the pitch. This World Cup qualifying fixture will go down in history, obviously, but now let the real game be played - and ended in 90 minutes
A football game on the opening day of the World Cup qualifying rounds has rarely been so anticipated. Months before it was set to be played, the Armenia-Turkey match started heated debates and obviously, it is going to be main topic of discussion for a while longer yet.
But little of the publicity is about the “game” itself. The game will be played and finished in 90 minutes, but regardless of the final score, Saturday's game will go down in history for being the first high-profile sporting event that the two politically troubled nations play.
They may avoid one another on the diplomatic scene but now eleven men from both nations will step into the Hrazdan Stadium to play football, which in recalling the Azerbaijan-Armenia fixtures in EURO 2008 qualifiers, actually means a lot. Due to problems between those two countries, who were in the same qualifying group, European football's governing body UEFA decided the two teams would not play their fixtures and neither team would be awarded points.
Politicians may not find a common ground, but those players will have simple but direct relation on the pitch, abiding by the universal rules of the game.
Yet the impact of the encounter extends well beyond the 90 minutes, and will be realized in a scheduled one-hour encounter between the two countries' presidents, Abdullah Gül and Serj Sarkisyan.
The game, which at first people were afraid would completely ruin the already-damaged relations, is now seen as a potential starting point for a new era in the two countries' politics.
If that does not prove the power of the game, well, what does?
Earlier this week, Turkish national team coach, Fatih Terim, responsibly said that his team was heading to Armenia “just for football, not to make war.” Having an iconic image in the country, his playing down of the tension means a lot. Terim was at the helm of the national team side when the Turks showed the worst hospitality ever, when playing against Switzerland on Nov. 16, 2005. After losing the berth to the World Cup on the away goals rule, Turkish players started an infamous brawl against the visiting team, and the team suffered heavy bans.
Three years on from that game, Turkey became the sweetheart of football fans at the EURO 2008, co-hosted by Switzerland again.
“We have made friends from all over the world, thanks to football,” said Terim, referring to his new-found amity up there in Zurich.
And with good reason, as Turkey displayed some of the most glorious performances recently seen in football this summer.
Terim's side showed an excellent never-say-die attitude winning three games with late goals, which were enough to earn them the “comeback kings” tag.
As the European Championship semi-finalist, Turkey is the clear favorite for the game but there are more than a few points that Armenia can count on.
First, the home team will feel the support of some 50,000-strong support at Hrazdan Stadium.
Second, the Armenians are not the pushover kids of European football anymore. Ask Portugal, who had a surprise 1-1 draw in Yerevan. The home team is also on a high recently, being beaten only once in its six games since new coach Jan Poulsen came along. Third, a Turkish decline after a successful period has always been well documented.
And last but not least, the home team will play with some extra motivation against Turkey. On paper, they may be the weaker side, but with the feeling of having something to prove, the gap in quality may close dramatically.
Even ignoring all the political fuss surrounding the game, that maybe why the game will be worth watching.
Four affairs to remember :
The Armenia-Turkey game joins a long line of sporting events epitomized by the political events surrounding them. ‘Hand of God' avenges the Falklands War England and Argentina were still expressing hatred for each other after the Falklands War, and that was what made their World Cup quarter-final meet four years after, in 1986, even more dramatic. Unlike in the Falklands, Argentina did not surrender on the football pitch, and Diego Armando Maradona completed the perfect revenge with two unforgettable goals: One with a dazzling dribbling of six players and one with an illegal handball. Miracle on Ice Not many people believed that the young U.S. squad stood a chance against the tough guys of the Soviet Union ice hockey team during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. Fueled by a patriotic dedication of fans – evidently caused by the Cold War atmosphere – U.S. won 4-3. As commentator, Al Michaels was shouting, “Do you believe in miracles?” Most Americans were crying, “Yes!” The day Iran shakes ‘the Great Satan' The late Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini may have been calling the United States “The Great Satan,” but both teams posed together in a joint picture before their World Cup football game in 1998. A highly motivated Iran, materialized in Hamed Estili's cry after his goal, won 2-1, but that game was recognized as one of football's best fair-play moments ever. Owens has it Adolf Hitler was originally planning the Munich Olympics in 1936 to be a showcase of “Aryan racial superiority,” but had to watch an African-American clinch four gold medals at the Olympiastadion. Ultimately, Owens beat Hitler at his own game.
Hrant's Dream, September 6, 2008, Cengiz ÇANDAR
Since he was gunned down and laid down on the pavement covered in blood, Turkey has never stopped remembering him. If archives were scanned from from Jan. 19, 2007, from that Friday to yesterday, it would be seen that there was not a single day that we did not remember Hrant Dink, the slain Armenian-Turkish journalist.
If years from now we look back, the day on which Hrant was shot to be killed, will be regarded as a turning point for so many things in Turkey. Hrant was a man of emotion whom could be recognized for that easily by others and was full of joy. He was extremely loyal to this land.
And his biggest mission was the establishment of diplomatic ties between Turkey and Armenia, opening the border gate; in short, normalization in relations. This was his purpose of life; adding more meaning into his life.
Gül in Yerevan:
So President Abdullah Gül will pay a visit to Armenia Saturday and meet his counterpart Serzh Sarkisian to watch the Turkey-Armenia football match for the World Cup qualifiers. This was exactly Hrant's dream. Even if for nothing else, we, as his friends and his fans, wholeheartedly supported Gül's visit to Armenia. It was our voice of conscience.
Three years ago, in Nov. 2005, Hrant completed his book titled “Two Close Nations Two Distant Neighbors”. This is the only book Hrant wrote and I requested Gül to read this book in my article the other day. His book was published in June by the International Hrant Dink Foundation, since its publication was delayed by others who were supposed to publish it. Now we have a guidebook on how to approach Turkey-Armenia relations.
Aside from his ardent and sentimental personality you will realize how important a man of thought he was, when you read the book.“Two Close Nations Two Close Neighbors” is one that can only be written by a veteran political scientist or political sociologist.
The author of this book views the Armenian world in three parts: “The State of Armenia and its people is on one side, the Diaspora around the world is on the other and of course the presence of the Armenians living in Turkey although they have very limited role as an actor.”
The Turkish Armenians, he mentions in the book, created the most significant persona of the Armenian world. He was Hrant who was killed; his body was laid down in blood on the pavement Jan. 19, 2007. His modesty most certainly wouldn't have allowed us to present him as we did here. But we all know that it is so.
But how was he, Hrant, describing himself? Let's look at a few lines in the first paragraph of his book:
“I have two personalities. I am aware of both. First, I am from Turkey, a citizen of the Republic of Turkey… Second I am an Armenian. Although I am part of the Armenian community in Turkey I am, at the same time, a moral part of the Armenian Diaspora scattered around the world and I have kinship with them.
For all these reasons, if some people want progress in the Turkish-Armenian relations for some reason, I do have more reasons than what they have, at least twice as much. No matter which personality of mine is of interest to you, it doesn't make any difference. I, with my both personalities, see the progress in Turkey-Armenia relations and their normalization as my indispensible duty.”
Biggest historic truce?:
Today, Sept. 6 is the anniversary of one of the most shameful pages of the near-past history of Turkey; Sept. 6-7, 1955. On the other side, today will perhaps be remembered as the anniversary of the “new page” in solution to the Armenian conflict, of the “biggest historic truce”.
In the epilogue, Hrant asks, “The real question is this: How will Turkey resolve the Armenian conflict?” And his short answer is as follows:
“There is only one way to solve this problem which is exploited by the West against Turkey. And that is finding a way to have direct dialogue with Armenians. Channels of this dialogue should be opened from three separate points. The first is improvement of state-to-state or society-society relations. The second is the solution of problems Turkish Armenians having, without needing any external imposition or warning. The third is to gain the Diaspora Armenians who are Anatolian descents.”
We are heading to the Armenian capital Yerevan with “Hrant's dream”. Every single moment we spend there will be a moment of silence for Hrant Dink.
Gül's Armenia Visit More Than Symbolic, September 6, 2008, Turkish Daily News
The Turkish president's landmark trip to Armenia will offer an opportunity for a review of bilateral ties and diplomatic challenges, something that will make the visit more than merely a symbolic gesture.
The planned one-hour meeting between President Abdullah Gül and his Armenian counterpart on the sidelines of the Turkish-Armenian football match Saturday will be a follow-up to the secret negotiations held in third-party countries. The last round of talks between Turkish and Armenian diplomats took place in June, marking an important stage for future relations.
Three major issues will set the agenda of the meeting in Yerevan, said diplomatic sources. One of them is Turkish-Armenian relations and Ankara's proposal to set up a joint committee of historians to study the allegations of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey insists on the establishment of such a platform that will help historians, not politicians, discuss the history but its calls have so far not yet been reciprocated by Yerevan. Setting up other committees for the normalization of relations, especially economic ties, which depend heavily on the opening of the sealed border between the two countries, is also on the horizon.
Turkey championed the idea to establish a Caucasus solidarity and cooperation platform in the wake of the Georgia-Russia war last month and it will no doubt be another topic for discussion. Ankara originally considered urging Moscow to communicate the Caucasus plan with Yerevan given the remarks of the Turkish prime minister, who said the format of talks with Armenia will take shape after a meeting between Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov when the two met in Istanbul last week.
But the dimensions of the Caucasus war have expanded to impact Turkey negatively, prompting Ankara to establish direct contact with Yerevan to debate the regional mechanism platform. Ahead of the presidential visit, a group of Turkish diplomats headed by the deputy undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry flew to Yerevan where the Caucasus proposal was extended to Armenian officials in person.
Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz met with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, who welcomed the Turkish idea saying, “Armenia has always welcomed all efforts to deepen stability, security, trust and cooperation [in the Caucasus]” The dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenians, would be the final agenda item at the presidential meeting. Baku and Yerevan are directly negotiating to resolve the long-lasting problem at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group.
But so far the talks have borne no solution. In a recent interview with Turkish daily Radikal, Armenian President Serge Sarkisian said progress was made in June under the Minsk Group and agreed with Baku on working on the issue of the Madrid Principles, hoping for a solution in a short period of time.
Gül's visit aims to facilitate the ongoing talks and help further reconciliation between Yerevan and Baku for a settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh, which could also strengthen Gül's hand at home against opponents of his trip. Experts said if Gül could secure some assurances from Sarkisian for the prospect of withdrawal from Azerbaijani territory, then it that would come as an extra bonus to Ankara's visit to Armenia.
CHP vocal opponent of Yerevan visit
At home, opposition parties are mounting criticism at the presidential visit with the Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader, Deniz Baykal, claiming that Gül, whom he claimed was reluctant in the beginning, had to change his decision in response to media pressure. He accused Gül of deviating from the state policy toward the Armenian issue for the sake of pleasing “those circles.”
“Then let [Gül] lay a wreath at the genocide monument,” said Baykal ironically in an interview with NTV television Friday. He said a serious state would not change its attitude under pressure from the media.
The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader, Devlet Bahçeli, earlier said the visit would be a historical mistake.
Tracking Gül-Sarkisian meeting
The world is closely following the recent development on the Ankara-Yerevan axis – the candidate to become the only winner of the Caucasus conflict. Diplomatic sources welcomed Gül's “brave” decision to visit Armenia and said the football diplomacy would mark a major development. It is widely believed the trip will strengthen the hand of the U.S. administration against the Armenian lobbying groups no matter who comes to power in the presidential elections set for November.
The European Commission also expressed appreciation.
“I warmly welcome President Gül's decision to attend the World Cup qualifying match between Armenia and Turkey in Yerevan on Saturday,” said Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn in a statement.
He said he hoped that Gül's “important first step” would be followed soon by others that lead to a full normalization of relations between the two countries, which would enhance stability in the region and prepare the ground for strengthened regional cooperation.
Armenian journalist will be on board
The details of the presidential visit are becoming clear. A 50-person delegation that traveled to Armenia earlier will provide the president's security.
Gül's plane will carry representatives of prestigious foreign media groups including Le Monde, Le Figaro, The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. The editor-in-chief of the Armenian daily Jamanak published in Istanbul, Ara Kochunian, was also invited.
Good Luck, Mr. President!, September 5, 2008, Burak Bekdil
Football diplomacy may not immediately build bridges of peace across the closed border. But it will not make it double closed either. President Abdullah Gül is doing the right thing
An internet survey carried out by Hürriyet has revealed that there are more Turks who think President Abdullah Gül should not go to Yerevan than those who think otherwise. Empirically judging, I believe that if put to a national vote, 60-70 percent of Turks would oppose the emerging “football diplomacy” between Turkey and Armenia. That is just a minor example to show that “the majority view” is not always “enlightened.” Whether or not a majority of Turks will approve of his decision, President Gül is doing the right thing.
The two opposition parties, CHP and MHP have already demonstrated a rich rhetoric of cheap opposition politics when their wording deliberately aimed at touching nationalist nerves. Words like “our national pride” and a sudden love affair with “our Azeri brothers” should only discredit CHP and MHP rather than the president – and the AKP.
Windows of opportunity:
Football diplomacy in the troubled Caucasus may not immediately build bridges of peace across the closed border. But it will not make it double closed either. President Gül’s visit will not convince the Armenians –of Armenia and diaspora—that the tragedies of 1915-1920 did not constitute genocide. But it will not add fuel to the already hot debate either.
On the contrary, the visit, if skillfully planned, may create several windows of opportunity. And skilful planning should also include keeping the football diplomacy form the reach of diaspora whose raison d’etre is not to diffuse but fuel tensions.
One concern has been security and unwanted protests in Yerevan. Although, for obvious reasons, there is some anti-Turkish sentiment in Armenia it is not as widespread and strong as many people would think it is. In a 2004 visit to Yerevan I broke off from the more official schedules of our program and slipped through the streets of the Armenian capital to “test” the ordinary Armenians’ feeling.
I strolled about the streets, did a lot of shopping on the market place and, during these encounters, conversed with the locals who were too keen to ask my nationality after an initial exchange of words. The short line that said “I am Turkish” invariably sparked sympathetic smiles and even a few words in Turkish, that mostly began with “Hos,geldin komsu / Welcome, neighbor.” The fact that I was Turkish also caused voluntary price cuts. After long hours of “testing” I happily found out that it was too futile to “look for trouble.”
Since 2004, a human bridge has built itself between Yerevan and Istanbul. Direct flights, thousands of luggage full of trading and more than 50,000 Armenians finding jobs in Turkey. President Gül’s visit can be complementary to the “human factor” in multi-dimensional Turkish-Armenian disputes, rather than being disparaging.
In the meantime, the American friends of Turkey and Armenia should rethink their rhetoric for better times on both sides of the closed border. The cliché policy of forcing Ankara to make more concessions and ignore Yerevan’s territorial claims over eastern Anatolia, and justifying the asymmetry in required reconciliation with unconvincing words like “You are the bigger brother / You should not take their territorial claims seriously / Can such a small country invade Turkey?” have proved a complete failure.
True, any sane man would laugh at the possibility of an Armenian invasion of Turkish territory. But if that possibility is only too silly, why should the Armenians keep on having the territorial claims they have had since their independence? If this is an ‘emotional’ issue for Armenia, can we really make a lasting settlement to our disputes when one of the sides puts emotions at the center of one of the disputes, and in breach of international treaties? Can, for instance, Turkey and Greece make an inch of progress in resolving their Aegean disputes if Turkey claimed western Thrace is Turkish territory and justified this claim by asking its western friends: “Come on gentlemen, do you think we are crazy enough to attempt to invade EU territory?”
With that sad Armenian gaze at Mount Agri (Ararat) standing on the other side of the border Turkish and Armenian national squads may have to play 5,000 games before there is any hope for peace.
Abdullah Gül’s Hand Extended For Peace!, Mehmet Kamis, M.Kamis@Todayszaman.Com
Whether it likes it or not, Turkey, the inheritor of the Ottoman state, is the elder brother of the entire region. The Anatolian territories have some pieces of all who have lived in this geography, which the Ottomans dominated for centuries.
In this geography, it is possible to encounter Albanian, Bosnian and Georgian populations in amounts equal to populations in their respective native lands. Even though their populations have diminished significantly, it is also possible to find many Greeks, Bulgarians and Armenians who are Turkish citizens. Not only these, it is also possible to run into peoples of different ethnic backgrounds and groups in the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
For many years, the Republic of Turkey tried to survive in this geography by remaining indifferent to developments. For instance, it ignored the Ottoman legacy in the Balkans. The people of this country became aware of the presence of Turks and Muslims in the Balkans as late as in the 1990s. Turkey has never looked back at this door, closed in the 1910s. According to the official view of the state, all neighbors were enemies seeking to divide us. Syria was an enemy and so were Greece, Bulgaria and Iraq.
Hazelnuts were our major export item. Figs, raisins and cotton were other important export goods. Some $1-2 billion in annual exports were enough for the bureaucratic elites to protect the regime in Turkey. There was no need for more. We used to have specific days to promote the consumption of domestic goods, including hazelnuts and oranges. The most important items on the agenda of the Foreign Ministry were the Cyprus issue and the alleged Armenian genocide. Paying attention to any other issue was considered unnecessary. Turks used to be told every time that Turkey was right on the Cyprus issue. Additionally, Armenians killed us, not the other way around. Days and years have passed and we've heard the same clichés without making any significant progress. In public surveys, the army used to enjoy the number one spot for being an institution the people supported and trusted the most. I do not know why but Süleyman Demirel was elected the prime minister in the aftermath of every coup. Our greatest goal was to protect the Lausanne Treaty. Our small world between Kap?kule and Habur was enough for us.
However, the status quo is changing, albeit slowly. Despite strong resistance by the bureaucratic elite, Turkey is becoming an influential country in its region.
At such a time, President Abdullah Gül is extending a hand of peace to our "official" enemy. He is trying to take a look at a 100-year-old problem from a different perspective. He is making an attempt to remind Armenians, referred to by the Ottomans as a loyal nation whose relations with the Turks deteriorated because of missionary schools and extremists, of the thousand-year-long history that we share. These two nations, which didn't fight each other for centuries, have suffered from the nation-state project of the West. The big powers of the time that eliminated the Ottoman state and formed a number of nation states instead injured the longstanding friendship between Turks and Armenians. None of the parties won in this fight. "Armenian genocide" moves have been used by big powers as a tool to blackmail Turkey for many years. This has never been useful to Armenians. Turkey has wasted its time and energy dealing with this matter.
Today, Turkey does not fit into the official view promoted by the Republican People's Party (CHP). This official view is no longer able to contain the energy of the country. Turkey is now an influential actor in its region. Those who want Turkey to stay restricted between Habur and Kap?kule will no longer be able to prevent this change and transformation.
Hopefully, this door opened by President Gül will be a great opportunity to eliminate mutual problems.
Everything To Play For, Armenia Hosts Turkey
Turkish players train during their last practice session for today’s away match against Armenia.
In the buildup to the 2010 World Cup qualifying Group Five game between Armenia and Turkey in Yerevan this evening, there was plenty of talk about how sports and politics do not mix, talk about friendship, rapprochement and unthawing relations.
Reason and common sense say sports and politics are two separate entities and should remain that way. But it has not been so throughout history, especially in soccer, which at times can be a very politically sensitive issue. The reason being that the emphasis nations and fans put on winning is so enormous that losing is what they do not expect, nay accept. Every fan believes that if his team wins that victory is his as well, because each fan identifies himself with the team.
Hence the political and sports leaders of both Turkey and Armenia have been working very hard, ever since the 2010 World Cup qualifying draw was made, to ensure that friendship and common sense prevail in this evening's game.
President Abdullah Gül flew to Armenia on Friday for this match in a major diplomatic step for the two states with no diplomatic ties. Turkey broke diplomatic relations with Armenia in protest of Yerevan's control of the Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh region, over which Armenia fought Turkish ally Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s.
The Turkish national team, coaches and officials also flew to Armenia on Friday. Turkey coach Fatih Terim held a press conference to respond to questions on the political importance of today's game and the pressure to win due to national pride and prestige. "This is not a war; quite the contrary, it is a sport. We are going to Armenia for a soccer match, that is it," he said.
"Soccer is a fast game, politics is very heavy. If we think about anything else, it will slow down our game. Armenia is always a very tough opponent at home. There will be 50,000 fans at the stadium and I think it will be hostile and intimidating atmosphere. But our players, my players, are experienced and of good quality, so we aim to garner 12 maximum points in the next four matches," Terim added.
Turkey, the 2002 World Cup semifinalist and also the Euro 2008 semifinalist in June, is more experienced than Armenia and is used to playing under pressure. Terim is very likely to capitalize on this as he is determined to start his 2010 qualifying campaign on a winning note.
With keeper Volkan Demirel (Fenerbahçe) in goal; Gökhan Gönül (Fenerbahçe), Servet Çetin (Galatasaray), Gökhan Zan (Besiktas,) and Hakan Kadir Balta (Galatasaray) at the back; Kazim Kazim (Fenerbahçe) and Arda Turan (Galatasaray) on the flanks; Mehmet Aurelio (Real Betis) and Mehmet Topal (Galatasaray) in central midfield; and Semih Sentürk (Fenerbahçe) and Tuncay Sanli (Middlesbrough) upfront, Terim's side is capable of taking Europe's best, let alone Armenia. But surprises abound in soccer and so deductive reasoning has no place in the beautiful game.
To prove the importance Terim attaches to this evening's match, training sessions in I.stanbul on Thursday were held behind closed doors, meaning the Turkey coach wants his game plan and tactics to remain secret.
Terim's opposite number, Jan Poulsen, also echoed the Turkish coach's plea for common sense. But the Armenian trainer also added that Armenia has a good team and Armenian soccer has a great future -- maybe, just maybe, a euphemism for "we can give any opponent as much as we get."
In a nutshell, there is much more to the "beautiful game" than 22 players kicking a piece of leather around a grass field or synthetic turf. So much is at stake in the Armenia-Turkey clash today -- nationalistic fervor, rivalry, precious points, pride, prestige, history, bragging rights, you name it.
But as Terim warned, this is only a soccer match, not a war. And this is not the last time Turkey and Armenia will be playing as long as they continue competing in Europe; in fact, there is still a Turkey leg to play for.
In civilized Europe, it is unthinkable for nations to go to war over soccer. For the record, though, this happened in Central America. On July 14, 1969, Honduras and El Salvador went to war. The 100-hour war claimed 6,000 lives, 12,000 were wounded and 50,000 people were rendered homeless. The cause was ostensibly the World Cup qualifying matches for Mexico '70 between Honduras and El Salvador.
On this note we urge the Armenians to show the utmost hospitality and respect to the Turks this evening and we promise they will receive a red-carpet reception when they come to Turkey. The other teams in Group Five are Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium and Estonia. 06 September 2008, Okan Udo Bassey Istanbul
Gül’s Visit May Increase Trade With Armenia Fivefold’
Extending an olive branch to Turkey’s last enemy by accepting an invitation to attend a World Cup qualifying match between the national teams in the Armenian capital of Yerevan, President Abdullah Gül’s historic visit will have tremendous economic consequences, increasing the total trade volume with Armenia sharply in a very short time, business circles predict.
The positive atmosphere created out of the mutual steps of each president towards the other will most likely bring about an improvement in relations, which may even lead to the opening of the border gate in Kars. The gate was closed in 1993 as a reaction to Armenia’s attack on Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey.
Kaan Soyak, the co-president of the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council, believes Armenian and Turkish traders, who are now forced to do business via third countries due to the lack of a direct connection, will find a chance to trade directly after the gate is opened. This will increase the trade volume from $100 million to $500 million in a few months’ time, he said predicting that the relations will see a tremendous increase soon after talks start.
The two countries are currently trading with each other through Georgia and Iran, primarily in textiles, cleaning materials, food, home appliances and construction materials. Armenians do business with companies in eastern and southeastern Anatolia. Soyak says the extended routes and costlier transportation have led to a 30 percent loss in revenues. Once the Kars border gate is opened, the economies of some eastern Anatolian cities such as Kars, Ardahan, Erzurum and Erzincan will see an increase in their briskness, he told Today’s Zaman yesterday.
“If everything goes well, I believe relations will return to normal and the gate will be opened,” Soyak said. This will also render Turkey more influential in the Caucasus, which has gained a key role due to its natural resources in energy. Turkey is currently involved in several large projects, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline, the Nabucco pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, all of which exclude Armenia and push it into further poverty while boosting the prosperity in the nations involved. Therefore, if the enmity is removed and relations are re-established, the Armenian side will benefit significantly from this, he said.
A railway between the two nations with a capacity of carrying 10 million tons of goods a year has been idle for 15 years since relations were broken. The normalization of relations will make this route active once again, Soyak said, and added that this will be a very valuable route for trade not only with Armenia but also the wider region of Central Asia.
Armenians produce a significant amount of electricity at lower prices than produced in energy-thirsty Turkey, Soyak said. The country also has large natural gas storage facilities and Turkey may benefit by leasing them, he noted. Armenia was one of Russia’s most productive textile bases during the Soviet era, he recalled and stated that cooperation in the textile business would definitely make both sides better off. “This country has a qualified labor force and a marketing advantage, while Turks have the machinery and fabrics. If they act together, they can achieve much in this business,” he claimed.
Soyak says Armenians are currently using low-quality products largely coming from Iran and really hoping to get high quality Turkish goods at low prices. Additionally, opening the border gate will also boost tourism between the two countries, he added. He estimates that eastern Anatolia will enjoy at least $600 million in tourism revenues a year from visitors coming from Armenia alone. 06 September 2008,Ercan Baysal Ankara
Gül's Visit Raises Hopes For Symbolism Paving Way For Thaw
Turkish national soccer team players arrived in Yerevan on Friday. They play against the Armenian team today.
President Abdullah Gül will become the first Turkish president ever to set foot in Armenia today in a visit largely viewed as symbolic but that may well spur a period of rapprochement between the estranged neighbors.
Gül will meet his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, for about an hour and dine with him before proceeding to Yerevan's Hrazdan Stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying game between the two countries' national soccer teams. Officials have warned against overestimating the meeting, underlining that it will be a "framework" meeting discussing in general terms the primary bilateral disputes and a Turkish proposal to establish a Caucasus platform to resolve regional disputes.
But despite the short length of the meeting with Sarksyan and the largely symbolic nature of the visit -- Gül will stay for only five or six hours in Yerevan -- there are hopes that it could spark a period of reconciliation eventually paving the way for a restoration of relations between the two countries. Ankara severed its diplomatic relations and closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in protest of the Armenian occupation of a chunk of Azerbaijani territory in a dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. According to the official policy, ties will not be normalized unless Armenia withdraws from Azerbaijani territory, stops backing its diaspora's efforts to win international recognition for Armenian genocide claims and officially recognizes its border with Turkey.
If Turkey and Armenia can move beyond the symbolism to re-establish normal relations, that could have huge significance for Turkey's role as a regional power, for energy flows from the Caspian Sea and for Western influence in a South Caucasus region where Russia flexed its muscles last month by sending troops into Georgia.
"Football [soccer] diplomacy will become a new term in the international community's lexicon," if after Saturday's match there is a real improvement in relations, former Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian told Reuters.
Russia's decision last month to send its forces into Georgia, an ex-Soviet state which borders both Armenia and Turkey, has convinced many that it is time for Ankara and Yerevan to put their differences aside. Western-backed pipelines shipping oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey's Mediterranean coast bypass Armenia and bend north instead to go through Georgia. With that route looking vulnerable after the Russian intervention, Armenia could be an attractive alternative route.
Russia's actions -- which have unsettled its neighbors and been widely condemned by the West -- have also encouraged NATO member Turkey to seek a bigger role as a regional power broker, a task hampered by its lack of ties with Armenia.
"The crisis in Georgia has underlined the importance of good neighborly relations in the region, including Turkish-Armenian relations," said Olli Rehn, the European Union's enlargement commissioner.
Not everyone welcomes Gül's visit. Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) urged the Turkish president not to go. In Yerevan, the nationalist Dashnaktsutyun party said it activists would be at the airport where Gül is to arrive and the soccer stadium to stage protests demanding Turkey recognize genocide claims.
Observers in both countries hope substantial negotiations will follow on from Gül's visit. For Yerevan, a first step would be for Turkey to re-open the rail link with Armenia. For Ankara, it would be for Armenia to stop lobbying foreign parliaments to recognize the genocide claims, and for some movement on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. "I suppose for Turkey it wants to strengthen its position in the region and immediately wants to avoid a situation next year when the US Congress would most likely pass a resolution recognizing the killings as genocide," said William Hale, an author and expert on Turkish politics.
The key, though, is what happens after the final whistle blows on Saturday. "This is a feel-good all around," said Oskanian, who now heads the Civilitas Foundation for democracy and development issues. "The challenge is to make it a meaningful win-win and it can be that only if there's a continuation to this initial demonstrative period," he said. "If this doesn't happen ... then Turkey will have demonstrated that all this was just a show. And that means both Armenia and the region will be the losers."
Azerbaijan lawmakers, media resentful of Gül's visit to Armenia
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov has refrained from criticizing President Abdullah Gül for making a visit to Armenia, saying it is a decision that should be left up to Turkish authorities, but Azerbaijani lawmakers and newspapers have voiced their disapproval of the visit.
"It is not possible for Azerbaijan to get involved in this issue one way or another," Mammadyarov told reporters on Thursday. He also noted that his country supports Turkey's proposal for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform, a scheme that is planned to include Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
But lawmakers in the Azerbaijani parliament criticized the visit. Sabir Rustemhanli, chairman of the Party of Citizens Unity, claimed that Gül's visit to Armenia was a result of pressure from the United States and the European Union. He also warned that the visit might undermine Azerbaijani trust in Turkey and said Turkey "should keep its promises" of not having formal ties with Armenia unless certain conditions are met.
Guler Ahmadova, a deputy from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, said Armenia was still supporting propaganda efforts around the world against Turkey and Azerbaijan and expressed regret that Gül had decided to visit Armenia. I.stanbul Today's Zaman with wires, 06 September 2008, Today's Zaman With Reuters Istanbul
Can Soccer Heal Turkey-Armenia Rift? Sep. 05, 2008, 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. That's how South Korea ended up facing the diplomatically sensitive challenge of having to beat North Korea in order to secure one of the 32 places at World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Even more potentially volatile was the May 31 match-up between Sudan and Chad — FIFA postponed that one indefinitely, because the two countries were on the brink of war. (A World Cup qualifier in which El Salvador beat Honduras in 1969 saw long-running tensions erupt into a brief war.) 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.
Among the fans taking their seats for the game in the Armenian capital will be Turkey's President Abdullah Gul and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian. Gul's visit is the first ever by a Turkish head of state to Armenia, and it is being heralded as a potential breakthrough in efforts to normalize relations between the traditional adversaries. Their common border was sealed in 1993 as the two countries found themselves supporting opposite sides in the conflict between Azerbaijan and its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and they have never enjoyed diplomatic relations.
France, which holds the presidency of the European Union, is welcoming the visit as "historic and highly symbolic," and as a "strong and encouraging sign" for relations between the two countries. Gul's office said in a statement that the visit "will be an opportunity to overcome obstacles and prepare a new ground to bring the two people together." Armenia's President Sarkisian told his country's diplomats this week that "without forgetting the past, we must look to the future." He added, "If there is a dialogue, we can discuss any, even the most difficult questions. We must shape a mutually beneficial agenda and begin contacts without preconditions."
But political analysts say that while the visit may be historic, it is at best only a first step. Both countries have been seeking ways to re establish normal relations at least since Sarkisian was elected earlier this year, but obstacles include the ongoing dispute over Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, claimed by Azerbaijan with Turkey's backing. And then there's the long-standing tension over Turkey's refusal to call the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during the First World War a genocide.
"What we are seeing is some prospect of the de-escalation of conflict between the two peoples, but it's not going to be easy," says former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Mark Parris, currently a scholar at the Brookings Institution. "Both capitals have wanted to find a solution for some time, but third parties — including Azerbaijan, in the case of Turkey, and the Armenian diaspora, in the case of Yerevan — have militated against one."
Gul is expected to spend only a few hours in the Armenian capital, but his aides say that on the sidelines of the soccer match, the Presidents will discuss a Turkish proposal to establish a new regional "platform" to facilitate conflict resolution and strengthen economic ties among Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Azerbaijan. They may also discuss a proposal to set up a commission of unbiased historians to examine the murders of Armenians in 1915.
Adding urgency to the current discussions is the Russian invasion of Georgia, which has raised fears not just in Turkey but also in the West that instability in the region could interrupt energy supplies from the Caspian through Turkey to Western consumers. Ankara hopes its proposed "platform" would help reduce regional tensions.
Armenia is particularly eager to find a way to reopen its border with Turkey, because it is currently forced to conduct its international trade via Georgia's Black Sea ports. That corridor has been squeezed by the Russian military action in Georgia; a key railway bridge was mined and the port of Poti remains occupied by Russian troops.
Still, nationalist elements in both countries are opposed to any kind of rapprochement. Deniz Baykal, leader of Turkey's Republican People's party, said he would prefer to see President Gul attend a match in Baku instead. Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Action party, said it was a mistake to travel to Yerevan before Turkey and Armenia had solved their problems.
Domestic political opposition may limit the room for maneuver of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but its Armenian initiative is part of the party's broader strategic framework of "zero problem with the neighbors," and includes diplomatic efforts in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Iran.
Saturday will not be the first time that the two countries have clashed on the soccer field. In July, a youth match saw Armenia win 2 -1. But Turkey's senior national side is currently ranked tenth in the world, and it would be a major upset for 98th-ranked Armenia to prevail. While Turkey is a soccer-mad nation (some 5,000 fans are traveling to the match on special visas issued by the Armenian government ) organizers are hoping that the two sides will keep their passions on the pitch. As for embracing the opposing side after the match, all eyes are likely to be on the presidential box. The presidents, in this case, will lead the way.
Statement Of The Turkish Presidency On Trip To Armenia,Embassy Of The Republic Of Turkey, Washington, D.C. Press Release
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has invited President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to watch a soccer game to be played between the Turkish and Armenian national teams in a World Cup group qualifier.
This match presents significant opportunities beyond a mere sporting event. Especially at a critical time when developments in the region worry the peoples of the Caucasus, all parties should make best use of such an opportunity. A visit on this occasion may also contribute to a new climate of friendship in the region. With that understanding H.E. President Gul has accepted the invitation.
It is believed that the match will present an opportunity to remove the impediments to rapprochement between the two peoples with common history, and to prepare a new ground. We hope that the visit will give the two peoples a chance to better understand each other.
Issues Dividing Armenia, Turkey, By The Associated Press
GENOCIDE: Bitterly divided by killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I, which many scholars consider first genocide of 20th century. Armenia wants it recognized as one of worst humanitarian atrocities. Turkey denies it constituted genocide, contending toll has been inflated and dead were victims of civil war and unrest that killed Muslims as well as overwhelmingly Christian Armenians.
NAGORNO-KARABAKH: Disagree over Nagorno-Karabakh, predominantly ethnic Armenian region of Azerbaijan controlled by separatists. Turkey closed border with Armenia in 1993 in solidarity with ally Azerbaijan, with which Turks share common language, culture and religion. Move hurt landlocked Armenia's economy.
SLAYING OF TURKISH DIPLOMATS: Relations strained by murders of dozens of Turkish diplomats in 1970s and '80s by extremists seeking Armenian state in eastern Turkey and vengeance for slayings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks. Militants also attacked Turkish Airlines counter at Paris's Orly Airport in 1983, killing eight people and wounding 56.
Azeri Democratic Party: Turkey Always Betrayed Azerbaijan
05.09.2008 /PanARMENIAN.Net/ Turkey has always pursued its own objectives, an Azeri politician said.
In the beginning of last century it changed 3 military blocs. First, it was a member of the Entente and fought against Italy, then it joined the Tripartite Alliance and fought against the Entente. When these two blocs collapsed, Turkey threw itself into Russia's arms," said Sardar Jalaloglu, head of the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan.
Turkey always betrayed Azerbaijan. "It started was against Safavids and then surrendered our republic in early 20th century. Now Gul goes to Armenia. It's in Turkey's habit to betray Azerbaijan. We should not be surprised but should build our policy to avoid cataclysms," he said, 1news.az reports.
The Presidential Hypocrite
I am not against the decision of President Abdullah Gul to visit Armenia, but I am against his well-known hypocrisy which is crystallized once more:
He was the same guy who said the following words in 1993, when Suleyman Demirel, then the Prime Minister of Turkey, had invited the President of Armenia to participate a state funeral in Ankara:
"With this policy, the government has mortgaged our future. This mortgage has been clinched in such a way that it allowed the Armenian President to show the courage to attend the state funeral in Turkey. He could do it, because he knows what a compromiser you are... When it comes to protecting Turkey's national interests, he knows that you can never be a hawk. He knew how soft you were, so he could come.
Show me one country that her brothers would be in war; they would kill her brothers, saying that "Turkey is responsible on this," telling that "the borders of Europe are clear, but the maps of the Middle East and Asia are not drawn completely yet," argueing that Kars is the territory of Armenia; and then, this man would come to Turkey and you shake hands?.."
Abdullah Gul: 15 years ago and now...
I dislike such twists of character, especially in politics. I don't believe that Abdullah Gul is sincere about anything. I fear that the only outcome of this trip would be the rotten eggs that might be targeting him, thanks to the unending Tashnak fanaticism.
ANCA: Gul Should Attend Armenian Genocide Memorial In Yerevan 05.09.2008
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), expressed hopes and reservations regarding Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul’s impending visit to Armenia, at the invitation by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, to watch the September 6th Turkey vs. Armenia soccer match in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, ANCA told PanARMENIAN.Net.
“We are, as you can imagine, watching this matter with vigilance, mindful of the risks that Armenia is taking for peace, hopeful that Yerevan’s diplomatic initiative will bear fruit, yet cautious regarding the realistic prospects for progress given Ankara’s long-standing and deeply troubling track record of antagonism toward Armenia,” explained ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, in a September 4th letter to House and Senate Members.
Asserting that this visit cannot, by itself, substitute for real progress in improved Armenia-Turkey relations, Hachikian remained hopeful “that Armenia’s pro-active diplomacy, if matched with real movement by Turkey, can serve as a first, cautious step toward a true reconciliation based on truth and justice.”
To that end, Hachikian outlined some immediate and long-term steps President Gul could take to demonstrate his sincerity in accepting President Sargsyan’s invitation, including showing the “willingness to walk the mile from Armenia’s national soccer stadium to the Tsitsernakaberd, Armenian Genocide Memorial, a tradition long honored by foreign dignitaries visiting Yerevan.”
In the days and weeks following President Gul’s departure from Armenia, Hachikian urged:
* Lifting domestic restrictions on the study, discussion, and recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and abandoning opposition to international recognition and commemoration of this crime against humanity - including by the White House and the U.S. Congress.
* Lifting its blockade of Armenia, allowing free Armenian access to its traditional transportation routes, ending its opposition to the incorporation of Armenia in regional and international initiatives impacting the Southern Caucasus, and removing restrictions on Armenian stewardship of cultural and religious heritage sites within Turkey.
* Publicly and in practice adopting a truly neutral position as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group charged with mediating a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, ending military support for Azerbaijan’s armed forces, and openly calling on all parties to reject any non-peaceful resolution to this conflict.
* Lifting all restrictions on the collective rights of the Armenian community in Turkey.
* Accepting Armenia’s offer to negotiate the establishment of normal diplomatic relations without any preconditions, and agreeing to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues in a peaceful, non-violent manner.”
'Yerevan Needs To Stop Genocide Cry' 05 Sep 2008, Leader of Turkey's Republican People's Party Deniz Baykal
Turkish opposition leader says Yerevan must stop pushing for recognition of the Armenian genocide ahead of a visit by President Abdullah Gul.
"What has Armenia done to change its policy of hostility towards Turkey over the issue… what has it done to withdraw from Azerbaijani territory? Nothing," Deniz Baykal, the leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), told the Turkish news channel NTV.
"Perhaps he [Gul] could go and pray at the site of the Armenian genocide and lay a wreath while he is there," added Baykal, repeating his staunch opposition to the president's visit to the Armenian capital.
Gul has been invited by his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan to attend a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Yerevan on Saturday afternoon to become the first Turkish president to go to Armenia.
The diplomatic ties between the two countries have long been severed over the issue of the killing of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire.
Turkey rejects the 'genocide' label and enjoys close relations with Azerbaijan.
In 1993, Turkey shut its border with Armenia in a show of unity with Baku, which was then at odds with Yerevan over its independence-seeking Armenian-majority region of Nagorny Karabakh.
Ankara hopes Gul's weekend visit, though sharply criticized by Turkish opposition parties and nationalists, would favor Ankara's Caucasus Stability Pact - a proposal that would intensify political and economic cooperation in the region.
State Minister Mehmet Aydin has noted "The facts that we have do not support the theory that the visit will resolve all the problems, but it is not right to assume that nothing will come of it either."
Talking With Elected Politicians Instead Of Diaspora By Kenan Dagci*
Both Armenia and Turkey are eager to preserve the status quo in bilateral relations. Armenia developed an official policy involving Armenian genocide allegations and territorial claims whereas Turkey closed all communication channels to Armenia and created an official stance vis-à-vis this country. It closed its borders with Armenia; additionally, it has also declared that it would never abandon its current policy unless Armenia gives up on its allegations with regard to so-called Armenian genocide and the territorial claims.
Status quo disruptive to interests of both countries
Armenia’s uncompromising stance alienates Armenian people with international community; for this reason, Armenia fails to integrate with the civilized world. The people are suffering from extreme poverty because of this policy. Armenia’s integration with the West and the international community through Turkey which shares sea and land borders with the Western world. An Armenian with good ties with Turkey may become a country which enjoys economic prosperity and greater political independence.
Likewise, Turkey expects any probable change in Armenian attitude without compromising from its official policies. However, preservation of the current status quo is harmful to both Turkish and Armenian interests. Armenia is an important country –at least as important as Georgia is—in terms of geopolitical location. It serves as a vital bridge for Turkey’s reach to the eastern markets and its energy policies. It also has a crucial place for Turkey in terms of its connection with the Turkic republics in Central Asia. As observed in the recent war between Georgia and Russia, Turkey’s reliance on policies that only consider Georgia in the region may bear great risks for the present and for the future.
Instead of remaining inactive, Turkey can create an island of peace and stability in its east by developing new instruments. Why is Turkey anticipating the first step that will be useful for its interests from Armenia?
Whether or not President Abdullah Gül should watch a soccer game between Turkish and Armenian national squads on September 6 has been extensively discussed. Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan’s invitation can actually be interpreted as their eagerness to take some action and to voice the will of Armenian people. President Gül positively responded to the olive branch extended by Sarkisyan by accepting the invitation. Turkey should be able to use this invitation as a new instrument.
Should Turkey hold talks with the elected Armenian President or the Armenian Diaspora?
Serj Sarkisyan is the President of Armenia who was elected to this post after receiving support of 57 percent of Armenian people. For the first time, Sarkisyan took such a great risk after his election as president. He ignored harsh criticisms by the diaspora and extremely nationalist Dashnak Party and invited Gül.
In Turkey, National Movement Party (MHP) and People’s Republican Party (CHP) carried out a campaign to prevent Gül’s visit to Yerevan. MHP described Gül’s visit as a historically grave mistake, adding that this would injure our national honor and pride. CHP leader Baykal who said, “I rather go to Baku instead of Armenia,” tried to put pressure over the president. However, the discourse of both parties does not involve a vision that will contribute to the resolution of the existing problems. What could this approach do other than sustaining the current status quo? However, Gül’s visit to Yerevan could serve as a great opportunity that will initiate a peace process between the peoples of Armenia and Turkey. If such opportunities are properly used, the current situation cannot be changed. A dialogue process that could possibly include Armenia Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia could open new communication channels and ultimately contribute to the improvement of stability and peace in the region.
Improved relations between Turkey and Armenia could contribute to resolution of Karabagh Question
Improved relations between Armenia and Turkey and opening of new communication channels in these relations are also helpful for Azerbaijan to attain its goals. Policies pursued in regards to the Karabagh Question under the auspices of countries and international organizations including the US, Russia and Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have not produced any fruitful results for many years. It is evident that these policies will not be useful at the present time as well because big powers which have interests in the region do not want to see this issue resolved. As long as the Karabagh issue remains, Azerbaijan and Armenia stay dependent on big powers including Russia and the US. Sustenance of this state of dependence is consistent with the interests of big powers because they are able to keep their control and influence over Azerbaijan and Armenia. For instance, Russia has installed bases in Armenian territories by exploiting the tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia in connection with this issue whereas the US seeks to maintain political and economic influence in relation to the energy issues relying on this problem.
Normalization in the bilateral relations between Turkey and Armenia in a geography where big powers have such certain and important interests may also serve to the interests of Azerbaijan. Turkey can play an active role in the resolution of KArabagh Question after making sure that the projected policy is well explained to Azerbaijan. Last but not least, Gül’s visit to Yerevan will create a positive image of Turkey in international arena, further showing that it is pursuing a constructive policy vis-à-vis the Armenian issues. And of course, such moves will take Turkey to a stronger position in international relations. It is time for Turkey to reconsider its policy towards Armenia.
* Associate professor Kenan DAGCI.05 September 2008,
Turkey Seeks To Destroy Or Neutralize Armenian Factor, 04.09.2008
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ One of the goals of the Turkish state is to destroy or, at least, neutralize the Armenian factor in the form of Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Samtskhe-Javakheti, which hamper the expansion of Turkish influence throughout the Caucasus, an Armenian expert said.
“For Russia, the Armenian factor acts as restraint for the West and is an important bastion to neutralize the Turkish threat. Moreover, Armenia’s growing influence in the Middle East can speed up the process of extruding anti-Russian forces,” said Eduard Abrahamyan, expert at Mitq analytical center.
“Knowing this, Ankara will act as “well-wisher” and will possibly open the border while Armenia will unconsciously fall into dependence from Turkish communications. Thus, Turkey will not only gain control over Armenia but will also inflict a defeat on Moscow,” he said.
Turkey ‘Not Ready’ To Reconcile With Bloody PastBy Hande Culpan, AFP
Turkish President Abdullah Gul's visit Saturday to Armenia is a brave step, but it is unrealistic to expect a quick reconciliation of two countries with such a poisoned past, analysts said.
Gul will fly to Armenia to watch a qualifying match between the two countries for the 2010 World Cup finals after he was invited by Armenia's President Serzh Sarkisian.
"Gul's visit is a bold move, but one should not expect much from it," said Cengiz Aktar, an international affairs expert at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University. "First of all, there is no a real desire in Turkey to make peace with Armenia and the atmosphere is not suitable for ground-breaking moves."
Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic relations and are hostage to a tragic past. Armenia claims that up to 1.5 million of its people were killed in systematic killings by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917, which it wants recognized as "genocide".
Turkey categorically rejects the genocide label. It argues that 300,000-500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in strife during World War I when Armenians revolted against Ottoman rule and sided with invading Russian troops. That resulted in an order to deport them en masse from their homelands.
The Armenian question has for years remained a taboo in Turkey. School books give only a brief paragraph to the people sent into forced exile for betraying the Ottomans. The official account clears Turks of all guilt for the deaths.
Only recently have liberal-minded intellectuals and the educated elite in Turkey begun to question the official line and alternative books re-examining history begun to appear on shelves. But the self-reflection has yet to spread to rural Turkey where many still believe deeply in official nationalist history.
"Fundamentally, the Turkish population is deeply nationalist and one of the founding stones of the Turkish nationalistic streak is animosity to Armenians," Aktar said.
Last year, ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, reviled by many for calling the Armenian killings a genocide, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul by an ultra-nationalist youth. Several intellectuals, among them Turkey's first Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, have been tried in court for remarks contesting the official version of events.
"The loss of Hrant opened the way for Turkish people to come closer mentally to discussing what happened in those years, but politically we are still far from any reconciliation with the past," said Etyen Mahcupyan, who replaced Dink as chief editor of the Armenian newspaper Agos.
The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is too weak to make any ground breaking moves. The Islamist-rooted ruling party just survived a legal bid seeking its closure; it is under pressure over a controversial investigation into an ultra-nationalist gang and the influential army's top brass has begun to step up warnings of rising Islamist threats to the secular country.
"There needs to be a period of stability in order to see clearly ahead. Turkey is lacking that at the moment and that is why it is unable to discuss the past," Mahcupyan said.
The Armenian massacres is also fodder for domestic politics on both sides of the border, preventing an honest discussion, he explained. Opposition parties attacked Gul even before he confirmed his visit to Yerevan.
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia when it gained independence in 1991 but no diplomatic relations were established because of the international campaign for the genocide label. In 1993, Turkey shut its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, which was at war with Armenia over the Nagorny-Karabakh enclave.
Armenia And The New Turkish Proposal, Richard Giragosyan, "Noravank" Foundation, 04 September 2008
As the conflict in Georgia over the past two weeks has so demonstrably confirmed, there is a glaring need for stability in the South Caucasus region. As part of a broader Turkish initiative to assert geopolitical influence, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently launched a new bid for bolstering stability and security in the region.
Hailed as the "Platform for Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus," this new Turkish initiative seeks to forge a new cooperative attempt at conflict prevention, multilateral security and regional stability.
Heralding this new initiative, the Turkish prime minister arrived in Baku on August 20 to meet with President Ilham Aliyev and to more clearly define the proposal's goal for securing the now vulnerable energy export routes running from the Caspian basin to Europe.
The Energy imperative While one of the most pressing needs is to rapidly resume the flow of oil exports through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, or BTC, pipeline, closed since August 6 after an explosion damaged the Turkish portion of the pipeline and has not been reopened since the subsequent conflict in Georgia raised fresh security concerns. Although preliminary testing of the Turkish section of the pipeline began on August 18, serious concerns linger, especially as the BTC's back-up route, the 90 ,000-barrels-per-day-capacity Baku-Supsa pipeline, has also been shut down after a key railway bridge was destroyed in Georgia.
Erdogan's Azerbaijan visit comes in the wake of earlier meetings in both Moscow and Tbilisi last week, where he also pressed for support of the new initiative. Most importantly, it is the imperative of stability for energy that is the key to the initiative, as the recent outbreak of hostilities in Georgia has raised new concerns over the viability of not only the BTC and Baku-Supsa pipelines, but also the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural-gas pipeline and the U.S.-EU backed Nabucco gas pipeline project, which proposes bringing an additional 31 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe once operational by 2020.
Mutually positive messages Although Azerbaijan and Georgia have obvious vested interests in the Turkish proposal driven by their shared energy ties, the exclusion of Armenia from the regional energy infrastructure will only exacerbate the challenge of convincing Armenia of the need to accept and support the initiative.
Although this challenge seems to be recognized by Ankara, as seen by Prime Minister Erdogan's recent statement promising, "We will discuss the project with Armenia to construct a cooperation region with five countries," made at the Turkey-Africa summit in Istanbul, Armenia seems by no means ready to follow Ankara's lead without any serious improvement in the two countries' non-exis tent relations and closed borders.
Yet there have been some recent signs of optimism from both sides, demonstrated by both Turkey's relaxation of its air space quota for Armenia in order to ease access for humanitarian aid flows into Georgia via Armenia, and President Abdullah Gul's August 16 reconciliatory message to Armenia.
That statement noted that Turkey is "no enemy" and pointed out that the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia affirms the need for "early measures to resolve frozen problems in the region and ... prevent instability in the future." The Turkish president went on to state, "This is our understanding on all problems. We are no enemy to anyone in the region," before reiterating the Turkish proposal to set up a regional forum for stability in the Caucasus.
In addition, after a round of secret talks in Switzerland, there is ample room and even greater necessity for a historic breakthrough in relations between Turkey and Armenia.
If Gul rejects the invitation But Gul's conciliatory remarks were not part of an attempt to restore bilateral ties, but were in response to a question on whether he would accept an invitation by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian to go to Yerevan in September to attend a World Cup qualifying match between Turkey and Armenia on September 6. And as he replied that he was still "evaluating the invitation," ther e is a danger that Armenian public opinion will be angered and disappointed by a Turkish rejection of the invitation, which seems likely at this point.
Such a negative Armenian reaction to a likely Turkish decision not to come to Yerevan would also set back recent Armenian overtures, including an Armenian decision to unilaterally suspend its visa regime with Turkey to facilitate the arrival of Turkish fans for the upcoming first-ever match between the two countries' national football teams. An earlier and far more significant overture came earlier this summer, when Armenian President Sarkisian signaled his government readiness to accept, in principle, a Turkish proposal to form a joint historical commission, which would theoretically also examine the historical veracity of the alleged Armenian genocide of 1915.
Thus, it seems equally clear that while Ankara is not yet willing or able to tackle its unresolved bilateral problems with Yerevan at this time, Armenia will remain unwilling to accept or support this new Turkish initiative for regional stability. And Armenian public reaction, both within Armenia and its worldwide diaspora, is certain to reject any move to sign up to the Turkish regional initiative prior to the restoration of normal diplomatic relations and the opening of the closed Armenian-Turkish border.
Items From Armenews Are Automatically Translated By Google & May Contain Errors
Charles Aznavour Attend The Armenia-Turkey Match In Yerevan 5 September 2008, by Stéphane / armenews
The singer Charles Aznavour, of Armenian origin, will attend the Armenia-Turkey match on Saturday in Yerevan within the framework of qualifications for the World Cup Football-2010, in the presence of Heads of State of both countries, announced Thursday its service press.
"For the first time, the president of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, accepted the invitation of Armenian President, Serge Sarkissian, and will attend the match. Charles Aznavour, who works for reconciliation between the two peoples, welcomes this historic meeting, "said the press service of the singer in a statement.
Abdullah Gül Saturday will be the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia, ending two decades of diplomatic silence between the two countries due to a deep dispute over the issue of Armenian genocide.
Charles Aznavour, 84, was born in Paris of Armenian parents and has always maintained close ties with Armenia. In its 80 years, the singer, whose real name is Aznavourian, had been appointed in 2004 "national hero" of Armenia.
"A Meeting Sincere Or Purely Tactical?" , 5 September 2008, by Stéphane / armenews, By Marie Simon, updated on 04/09/2008
The Turkish President Abdullah Gül will attend this Saturday, the football match between Armenia to his country, Yerevan. A visit "historic". Gaïdz Minassian, a political specialist Armenia and author of South Caucasus, the new cold war (Otherwise, 2007), welcomes the willingness of "dust" the Armenian-Turkish dispute but questioned the sincerity of this approach.
The President Gül finally agreed to come to Yerevan. Are you surprised by this decision?
No, many positive signs have accumulated for some time. Some Turkish diplomats have recently went to Yerevan, for example, to prepare the visit of their president. And since the installation of the new team in power in Armenia in February-March 2008, the climate appeared to favour a certain tension: Yerevan launched this invitation and accepted the Turkish proposal to create a joint commission of historians to discuss the recent past. But it does focus on examining the facts, thought to be in Yerevan, because there, the question of genocide remains on the diplomatic agenda. The invitation was launched in June, the answer is arriving Wednesday, September 3, this is proof that it has not been taken lightly.
What makes this visit is it historic?
That in itself is already a historic visit. The two states have no diplomatic relations since the collapse of the USSR. Until a short time, Ankara require the lifting of the blockade imposed in Yerevan on two conditions: the stopping of any awareness among world parliaments to recognize the genocide of 1915 and the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the territories under their control around Nagorno-Karabakh, the scene of a conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which has 30 000 dead and nearly a million refugees, of whom 600 000 Azerbaijanis. Ankara has been supportive of Baku.
It is also a paradox: Ankara sends its president in Armenia while the Turks are still refusing to open their border with this country. This first meeting has just dusting the old Armenian-Turkish disputes and is in itself a positive step. But that does not mean that there are negotiations or a roadmap for normalization. Yerevan took advantage of the timing of playoff games to qualify for the 2010 World do a good tactical move.
A "good coup" for Yerevan, ie?
In launching his invitation in June 2008, Armenia has reduced the critics who stood on the part of Europeans and Americans after the controversial election of new president Sarkissian and clashes in March that were 10 dead including 8 demonstrators. By launching this invitation to his Turkish counterpart, President Sarkissian hopes to silence criticism of Westerners, who also were heavily tassées past two months, while remaining political prisoners in Armenia. It also hopes to increase its credit from the Western capitals and become a strategically important regional player, especially since the weakening of Georgia. In addition, the presence of Turkish President allows him to try to separate Turkey from Azerbaijan, which sees this approximation of a bad eye.
In addition, I would remind you that the invitation was from Moscow, apparently at the request of Russia, energy and economic partner of Turkey and very interested in the issue of normalizing Armenian-Turkish. Until now, Europeans and Americans were very involved in this process. Without tangible results. Now, the Russians took the measure of the stake and invest in their turn. Moscow, as we have seen in Georgia, is afraid to see the South Caucasus switch in the American lap. And the Armenian-Turkish standardization under the aegis of Westerners is in this perspective, unbearable for the Russians.
What wins Turkey to accept this invitation?
First, refuse would have been regarded as a closure to any dialogue. Hard at negotiations with the EU. In accepting the invitation, Ankara sends a signal to Brussels on its willingness to appease the climate with the Armenians in perspective with the reopening of its border with Yerevan closed since 1993 and that Europeans are demanding since the launch of negotiations on l 'Integration Ankara to the EU.
The Turkey also wants to become more involved in the South Caucasus for which it has just proposed a few days ago the creation of a Stability Pact. Turkey is also seeking to consolidate its weight and its regional diplomacy empowerment compared to the Americans but also the Europeans.
The "yes" Abdullah Gül to his Armenian counterpart also contains a section inside the Armenian taboo is it to train jumping in Turkey? This part-t-il de la dékémalisation of society and Turkish institutions?
It is much more than a football match then ...
Sport and diplomacy are a couple often harmonious relations. But in this case, is it saves time while other issues weigh much heavier in the balance? Is it to draw the contours of a climate of trust which is so lacking between the two countries to normalize their relations? For now, there are on each side, a willingness to dust the Armenian-Turkish issues and in this context of crisis in the South Caucasus, this meeting shows that there is at least an intention to overcome an obstacle. But is it sincere, profound and irreversible or tactical, cynical and cyclical?
Erdogan: "Armenia Should Observe The Un Resolution" , 5 September 2008, by Stéphane / armenews
The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that he supported the decision of President Abdullah Gul to visit Armenia at the football match between the national teams of both countries.
"You can not get as you leave the table. You should put a table and let the others leave, "said Erdogan to journalists in Syria where he met the leaders of Syria, France and Qatar during a summit on the Middle East.
"They (the two presidents) will discuss a course shortly after the match," said Erdogan. "The main point is the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. We believe that we should conclude the Minsk process in a fair. Besides, Armenia should observe the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations on the issue. "
Mr. Erdogan has confirmed that the Turkish Minister of Foreign affiares Ali Babacan will accompany Turkish President in Armenia adding that the second round of talks will continue between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries.
"Not everything can be completed in one minute. It will take time, "said Erdogan.
"Armenia" Will Follow Armenia-Turkey , 5 September 2008, by Stéphane / armenews
Members of the association "Armenia" will follow very closely the Armenia-Turkey match in Yerevan on September 6, a meeting with the qualifications for the World Cup 2010 (Europe Zone, Group 5).
An explosive match, given the historical relations between the two countries with the Armenian genocide carried out by the Turkish state in 1915. Krikor Amirzayan, president of the association "Armenia" and press correspondent with many Armenian newspapers including the weekly "Football Plus" appearing in Yerevan is adamant "the weight of history and especially the denial of the Turkish state which continues to deny the genocide and the memory of 1.5 million Armenians massacred under the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 will be present in all minds. Even if it's only a football match, the historical context and the difficult relations between Armenia and Turkey are at this meeting, a game that goes beyond football. " Surrounded by many friends, members of "Armenia" are formal "this match to be held at Hrazdan Yerevan between the selection and the Turkish national team of Armenia goes beyond the football field. It will be followed by millions of people across the planet. "
Krikor Amirzayan "Obviously we hope the victory of Armenia on the Turkish team that has demonstrated his talents during Euro 2008. For his part, Armenian selection is in great shape. Last May it took to defeat Moldova (2-2) and especially Greece (0-0) Champion of Europe 2006. But beyond the result, our hope is that this match takes place under good conditions and especially in a spirit of fair play. To ensure that the winner is sport and respect between players. " For this meeting as "historic" by number of shares of the Armenian and Turkish press, the Hrazdan stadium Yerevan was largely restored. Some 100 000-seat bleachers where piled in the seventies supporters Ararat Yerevan (USSR champion in 1973 and winner of the Cup in 1973 and 1975) today, the stadium offers 36 000 seats to international standards set by FIFA.
Cultural Association "Armenia". 130 rue Marcel Paul - Bourg-les-Valencia
Gul Travel In Armenia: Analysis Of Hayk Demoyan , 5 September 2008, by Stéphane / armenews
At a press conference Wednesday Haik Demyan, director of the Institute Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan said, "Serge Sarkissian has done well to invite his Turkish counterpart in Armenia. This is a good chance for both countries. " "Nothing can erase the memory of the nation," he stated adding that Turkey does not recognize the genocide because of "dangerous process of a review of the Turkish history."
The idea of forming a commission of historians is only an attempt to earn dividends as the director of the institute. "If it emerges, such a commission will bring together many scientists, including those who are persecuted in Turkey on the issue of genocide" said Demoyan.
Exclusive : Meeting With Unal Cevikoz Vice-Secretary of State to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, 5 September 2008 by Ara / armenews
Charles KECHKEKIAN: What were the main topics that you discussed with your counterparts in Armenia today?
UNAL CEVIKOZ (Vice-Secretary of State to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey) I have come to this very day a Yerevan to meet Armenian President and deliver him a message from my President. For the moment, I am already with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Armenian Edward Nalbandian, and his Vice-Minister Arman Kirakossian. The mission that led me here, brings together two goals. Firstly, preparing the football match which will soon oppose Armenia has Turkey, a meeting which my President could attend; secondly, the evocation of the regional context Caucasus after the last Russian-Georgian war. But recently, Turkey has initiated a project entitled "Platform for Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus" that we wanted speaks with the Armenian side.
Charles KECHKEKIAN: Even though it is a major regional player, how Turkey can help the countries of the Caucasus to meet these objectives?
UNAL CEVIKOZ: First, we are convinced that the establishment of mutual trust between these countries is a necessary step to take. Indeed, 17 years after the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, unresolved conflicts are still many in the region. Indeed last month, we all have seen that these frozen conflicts may at any moment turn into a hot conflict. Therefore, if existing mechanisms did not allow for the time being to prevent this risk, we believe that a new and original, as the "Platform Stability and Cooperation", could help overcome these difficulties. Even though this concept aims to stimulate a new synergy between the countries of the region, it is not intended in any way exclusive, the timing, it can always rely on other mechanisms, states or organizations as the existing ' OSCE, the European Union or the BSEC, are also concerned by the same objectives of peace and stability.
Charles KECHKEKIAN: Should we conclude, for example, that Turkey be involved more in the Minsk Group (the group in charge of resolving the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh)?
UNAL CEVIKOZ: No, we did not think specifically the Minsk Group when this initiative was developed. Turkey, anyway, is already a member. By the way, the work of this group always follow their course under the auspices of three co-chairs that are France, USA and Russia. Although it is very important, the commission has still failed to reach a solution between Armenia and Azerbaijan, although it has significantly closer to their positions.
Charles KECHKEKIAN: The Turkish concept summarized by the phrase "Zero problems with our neighbours", will apply there also to Armenia?
UNAL CEVIKOZ: of course, this is one aspect that we look through the platform that we offer. So far, Turkey is probably the only country to maintain good relations with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. While it is also true that relations between Ankara and Yerevan are suffering from a lack certain, we do not believe that this situation represents a major handicap. Indeed, by definition, our platform should rightly facilitate future normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey.
Charles KECHKEKIAN: Your country can be truly achieve this, if it does not offer the same attention to the three Caucasian republics?
UNAL CEVIKOZ: It is partly the reason for my presence here. We have already discussed the establishment of this structure with the foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and it was therefore important to share this idea with our neighbours Armenians, and discuss with them Details this proposal. In my view, it was very well received by the Minister Edward Nalbandian.
Charles KECHKEKIAN: The possible venue in the coming days, Turkish President Mr. Abdulah GUL Armenia, could mark the opening of a new chapter in the Armenian-Turkish relations?
UNAL CEVIKOZ: I think it is appropriate to make such an interpretation. When the President SARKISYAN took the kind initiative of inviting the President GUL, the latter has studied with the utmost seriousness. Therefore, if it came al'accepter, the two heads of state shared responsibility. This joint initiative and concluded could be a new step towards normalization of relations between the two countries.
Charles KECHKEKIAN: Before concluding the interview, could you tell us which of Armenia or Turkey, has the best chance of winning the match who will oppose?
UNAL CEVIKOZ: I can not really speculate on this issue, especially as you are aware that soccer players under 21 years have already encounters, and that Armenia won the match 2 goals to 1. By consistently, the only comment I will make is this: that the best man win.
Charles KECHKEKIAN: Is it not possible that the two nations to emerge winners every two?
UNAL CEVIKOZ: That the President GUL come or not attend the match with the President SARKISYAN, the mere fact that the match can proceed normally already represents a great victory for both countries.
Yerevan, Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Director of the Editorial
Magazine PAREV COTE D'AZUR
Internal Political Crisis And Diplomatic Turning Point , July 2008 by Ara Toranian / armenews
The internal political crisis in Armenia will it lead to a downward revision of its positions on the Armenian question? Or in other words, the current regime intends to redeem its credibility on the international scene by compensating his misconduct toward democracy through greater "flexibility" towards Turkey and the question of genocide?
The statements by the President of the Republic, issued on June 23 in Moscow, confirmed in all cases a marked shift in foreign policy vis-à-vis Turkey. By inviting his counterpart Abdulah Gul to attend the football match Armenia-Turkey, which will take place on September 6 in Yerevan, Serge Sarkissian has done more than reach out to Turkey. He knowingly trivializes the nature of the dispute with the state and thus contribute to a normalisation of its image in the world. And this at a time when, after the vote on October 10 of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. Congress on genocide, and especially with the current position of Barak Obama on this issue, the USA take back to respect of Turkish nationalism. More seriously, saying he was "not opposed to the creation of a commission of experts Armenian-Turkish" on the events of 1915, which could be considered "only when the border between our countries will open" Serge Sarkissian is not content to practice an opening against Ankara: it also opens a breach in the device up defence against Holocaust denial.
The proposal to create a joint commission of historians, formulated in 2005 by Erdogan, had been rejected at the time by Robert Kocharian. The previous president had responded against a proposal, calling for the holding of a general dialogue with Ankara over the Armenian-Turkish disputes, but not the only part related to history. A position motivated by the fact that a structure to establish the truth about the events of 1915 that lead to the reality of genocide - proven and recognized by many States despite constant pressure Ankara-is therefore questionable . The International Association of researchers on genocide, composed of the largest specialists on this type of crime, had addressed a public warning about the "dishonest" of the Turkish proposal. In an open letter sent to Tom Lantos, chairman of the U.S. Congress, dated October 5, 2007, AICG wrote that "a" commission of historians "would only serve the interests of those who deny the genocide committed by Turks ". Could it be that Serge Sarkissian ignore the dangers of this "supply" of Erdogan, or composed with her, however, condition its approval of a prior opening of the border by Ankara? Could it be that enters this game, he accepts a "deal" of this kind, even though the mask of Turkish denial is in the process of becoming not only the international level, with the series of recognitions that occurred in the four corners of the world in recent years, but Turkey itself, as a result of a number of intellectuals and researchers? Has it measured the consequences of such an attitude towards the "historic interests" fundamentals of the Armenian people? And, without going further on the philosophical and moral significance of this style of posture, he thought, in the shorter term, its possible political implications, domestically, up to and including the unity of its own coalition Government? How to respond to the FRA Dachnakstoutioun effect, to mention it, which is a diaspora of the spearheads of the struggle for recognition of genocide?
This case is serious. The "exit" the head of state could have been relativized as a gaffe, a slip poorly controlled. But we must note that it is part of a series of statements on foreign policy more and more "conciliatory" towards Ankara. The tone and content of the message from the new Minister of Foreign Affairs with regard to Turkey, shows a marked shift of the Armenian diplomacy. Thus Mr Edouard Nalbandian there since he took office, tended several poles in Ankara. He stated that he wrote to his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan to propose a "personal and direct dialogue", and he recalled that wants to hear that Armenia poses no prerequisite for the establishment of diplomatic ties and economic with the Turkish state. At a press conference on May 5 at the Quai d'Orsay, with Bernard Kouchner, it positioning itself even in the applicant, expressing "the hope that the border is open and is reached to" turn the page history "... How not to put these statements in conjunction with those made by Serge Sarkissian October 18, 2002 in the Greek daily Eleftherotypia. In an interview, which was resumed by AFP as the remarks made seemed detonated over the Armenian ambient speech, the one who was still defence minister had said, just go: "Armenia supports the aspirations Turkey's EU. " At a time when the diaspora is mobilized against its integration into the EU, he expressed his support for "the European march" of Turkey, hoping that this perspective would reduce tensions between Yerevan and Ankara.
These words, which at the time were surprised, take a new significance in light of recent statements by the same man, now head of state. They indicate, at least, a certain vision of the Armenian-Turkish relationship. This approach is, paradoxically, not so far removed from that, often decried, defended at the time the first president of independent Armenia, Levon Ter Petrossian, his rival unfortunate the presidential February 2008 ... But should it surprising, given the political past two common men?
Anyway, these signs of diplomatic shift must also be viewed in light of changes in Russia, with the coming to power Dimitri Medvedev. The dolphin Putin, ex-chairman of the Gazprom company, under the aegis of which was constructed the famous pipeline "Blue Stream" which enables the delivery of Russian gas to Europe via Turkey, is even more likely that his predecessor to move closer to this country. More significant to promoting the economic factor in diplomacy than defending the values traditional Russian geopolitical, closer to the business community that the military, its guidelines can not be without influence on the choice of Yerevan vis-à - vis Ankara. To the extent that they are part of the continuation of a trend strategic heavy: the rapprochement with Turkey, inaugurated in early 2000 by Vladimir Putin.
In addition, in an even more pressing at this time of energy crisis, an increased willingness by Washington and Europe to improve the climate and ease tensions in the region and strongly innervée énervée - by the passage of hydrocarbons.
While competition for a long time since this qu'Erevan tempered its demands for justice. But the current situation, reinforced by the increase in the Russo-Turkish rapprochement, leaves less room for manoeuvre to Armenia to enforce its rights and interests. A fortiori if its internal instability undermines its attempts at resistance and strength of conviction.
Will she leave her succeed at the game, continuing to practise the policy of complementarity implementation time Oskanian, former Minister of Foreign Affairs? Nothing is less certain.
Especially since Serge Sarkissian and Edouard Nalbandian, deemed closer to Russians than their predecessors, seem naturally more prone to listen to concede easily. It is also in this context that we must explain the small phrases of the Head of State and the "turning point" that is taking diplomacy of Armenia.
This new deal will it result in a violation of the axiom so far respected by all victims of crimes of genocide: namely that we shall not discuss with the Holocaust deniers? One thing is certain all cases. If they were to be confirmed, these changes relate to fighting a coup led by survivors of the business of extermination. They also could eventually weaken the weight of Armenia whose international prestige is based on the support it provides the diaspora and its ability to defend its dignity history, its values and the memory of martyrs of the first genocide of the twentieth century.
Anca Outlines Concerns About Gul Visit To Armenia & Text Of Anca Chairman Ken Hachikian's Letter To Senate And House Members Regarding Turkish President Abdullah Gul's Impending Visit To Armenia
Armenian National Committee Of America www.anca.org, Press Release September 4, 2008 Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
"For this initiative to succeed, Turkey's leaders need to view this as a true opportunity for enduring peace, not simply as a photo opportunity to help alleviate the growing international pressure it is under to recognize the Armenian Genocide." - ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian
WASHINGTON, DC - The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), today, expressed hopes and reservations regarding Turkey's President Abdullah Gul's impending visit to Armenia, at the invitation by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisyan, to watch the September 6th Turkey vs. Armenia soccer match in Armenia's capital, Yerevan.
"We are, as you can imagine, watching this matter with vigilance, mindful of the risks that Armenia is taking for peace, hopeful that Yerevan's diplomatic initiative will bear fruit, yet cautious regarding the realistic prospects for progress given Ankara's long-standing and deeply troubling track record of antagonism toward Armenia," explained ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, in a September 4th letter to House and Senate Members.
Asserting that this visit cannot, by itself, substitute for real progress in improved Armenia-Turkey relations, Hachikian remained hopeful "that Armenia's pro-active diplomacy, if matched with real movement by Turkey, can serve as a first, cautious step toward a true reconciliation based on truth and justice."
To that end, Hachikian outlined some immediate and long-term steps President Gul could take to demonstrate his sincerity in accepting President Sarkisyan's invitation, including showing the "willingness to walk the mile from Armenia's national soccer stadium to the "Dzidzernagapert" Armenian Genocide Memorial, a tradition long honored by foreign dignitaries visiting Yerevan." In the days and weeks following President Gul's departure from Armenia, Hachikian urged:
"* Lifting domestic restrictions on the study, discussion, and recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and abandoning opposition to international recognition and commemoration of this crime against humanity - including by the White House and the U.S. Congress.
* Lifting its blockade of Armenia, allowing free Armenian access to its traditional transportation routes, ending its opposition to the incorporation of Armenia in regional and international initiatives impacting the Southern Caucasus, and removing restrictions on Armenian stewardship of cultural and religious heritage sites within Turkey.
* Publicly and in practice adopting a truly neutral position as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group charged with mediating a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, ending military support for Azerbaijan's armed forces, and openly calling on all parties to reject any non-peaceful resolution to this conflict.
* Lifting all restrictions on the collective rights of the Armenian community in Turkey.
* Accepting Armenia's offer to negotiate the establishment of normal diplomatic relations without any preconditions, and agreeing to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues in a peaceful, non-violent manner."
The complete text of the ANCA letter to Congress is provided below.
Text Of Anca Chairman Ken Hachikian's Letter To Senate And House Members Regarding Turkish President Abdullah Gul's Impending Visit To Armenia
Dear Senator/Representative _________________:
In light of the announcement this week by Turkish President Abdullah Gul that he will accept Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan's invitation to watch the September 6th Armenia-Turkey World Cup qualifying match in Yerevan, we wanted to share with you the Armenian American community's perspective on this new and potentially significant development, and to reaffirm our community's fundamental commitment to universal recognition and a just resolution of the Armenian Genocide.
We are, as you can imagine, watching this matter with vigilance, mindful of the risks that Armenia is taking for peace, hopeful that Yerevan's diplomatic initiative will bear fruit, yet cautious regarding the realistic prospects for progress given Ankara's long-standing and deeply troubling track record of antagonism toward Armenia.
As you know, since Armenia's independence in 1991, successive Armenian governments and the worldwide Armenian Diaspora have -despite the unresolved legacy of the Armenian Genocide and Ankara's ongoing and deeply painful denial of this crime - consistently sought sincere and sustainable progress toward improved Armenia-Turkey relations. President Sarkisyan's invitation represents only the most recent such outreach on Armenia's part, although by no means the only one. Both of his predecessors visited Turkey in their official capacities as president, although, sadly, neither of their visits resulted in any moderation of Turkey's policies toward Armenia.
Armenia's invitation represents a pro-active gesture by Armenia - a small country populated in large part by the descendents of Armenian Genocide survivors - to reach out to a large and heavily armed neighbor that, as heir to the Ottoman Empire, denies this horrific crime, blockades Armenia, and pursues a broad array of anti-Armenian policies - both at home and abroad. President Gul has accepted the Armenian President's invitation even as his government has made it clear that they do not plan any changes in these policies, which, it is worthwhile noting, include:
* Turkey's continued denial of the Armenian Genocide, continued threats against other nations that consider recognizing this crime against humanity, and continued allocations of tens of millions of dollars annually for lobbyists, academic mercenaries, and outright fabricators to attempt to rewrite this profoundly important chapter in world history.
* Turkey's continued efforts to silence any recognition of the Armenian Genocide within its own borders through Article 301 and other provisions of its criminal code (e.g. Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk), continued intimidation and unofficial acts of violence (e.g. Hrant Dink), and the perpetuation of a deeply flawed educational system that indoctrinates successive new generations of Turkish students to believe that the Armenian Genocide is a lie and that all Armenians are inherently enemies of Turkey.
* Turkey's continued attempts to economically weaken and isolate Armenia through its illegal 14-year blockade; its attempts to exclude Armenia from regional and international initiatives that provide economic benefit to the Southern Caucasus; its continued attacks on Armenia within the United Nations, the OSCE, and other international venues; and, its ongoing military, economic, and political support for Azerbaijan over the Nagorno Karabagh conflict.
* Turkey's continued mistreatment of its remaining Armenian population as second-class citizens, continued enforcement of unfair and burdensome restrictions on the Armenian Church, and the continuation of policies intended to drive out the remaining Christian minorities within its borders.
We are, given this record and Turkey's past efforts to manipulate public opinion, profoundly concerned that President Gul's visit will be used by Ankara to advance its short-term "public relations" interest in creating the image of movement, at the expense of the broader and far more meaningful interest of the United States and the international community in actual progress toward a durable improvement in Armenia-Turkey ties. For this initiative to succeed, Turkey's leaders need to view this as a true opportunity for enduring peace, not simply as a photo opportunity to help alleviate the growing international pressure it is under to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Recognizing that this visit cannot, by itself, substitute for real progress in improved Armenia-Turkey relations, we do, however, remain hopeful that Armenia's pro-active diplomacy, if matched with real movement by Turkey, can serve as a first, cautious step toward a true reconciliation based on truth and justice. At the same time, we remain deeply concerned that if, as may very well be the case, Turkey treats this visit as a superficial undertaking - yet still garners undeserved credit internationally for an essentially empty gesture - we may in fact witness a tragic setback to the worthwhile cause of a real and enduring peace between Armenia and Turkey.
In this spirit, we respectfully ask that you look beyond Ankara's rhetoric concerning this visit, and focus instead on the substance of the Turkish government's real-world policies toward Armenia. The best - and most immediate - test of President Gul's sincerity will be his willingness to walk the mile from Armenia's national soccer stadium to the "Dzidzernagapert" Armenian Genocide Memorial, a tradition long honored by foreign dignitaries visiting Yerevan. In the days and weeks following his departure, we urge you to track Turkey's movement toward:
* Lifting domestic restrictions on the study, discussion, and recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and abandoning opposition to international recognition and commemoration of this crime against humanity including by the White House and the U.S. Congress.
* Lifting its blockade of Armenia, allowing free Armenian access to its traditional transportation routes, ending its opposition to the incorporation of Armenia in regional and international initiatives impacting the Southern Caucasus, and removing restrictions on Armenian stewardship of cultural and religious heritage sites within Turkey.
* Publicly and in practice adopting a truly neutral position as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group charged with mediating a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict, ending military support for Azerbaijan's armed forces, and openly calling on all parties to reject any non-peaceful resolution to this conflict.
* Lifting all restrictions on the collective rights of the Armenian community in Turkey.
* Accepting Armenia's offer to negotiate the establishment of normal diplomatic relations without any preconditions, and agreeing to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues in a peaceful, non-violent manner.
Progress in each of these vitally important areas - not the level of skill of Turkey's public relations firms in spinning this visit - will represent the true benchmarks of progress toward improved Armenia-Turkey relations.
Thank you for your consideration of the points we have raised in this letter. We would, of course, welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this matter in greater detail.
Kenneth V. Hachikian Chairman
Turkish Milliyet Published Speech Made By Parliamentarian From Refah (Welfare) Party Abdullah Gul In 1993 Condemning The Government’s Policy On Armenia
Condemning Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan’s arrival in Ankara to attend the funeral of the deceased President Turgut Ozal, Abdullah Gul said it was inadmissible to establish any relations between the two countries.
“Look, what capitulatory policy the government pursues, Armenian president dares to attend the funeral of our president. He knows that you run for your interest, will behave cowardly when the question is the state interests of Turkey and are compliant and that’s’ why he dares to come to Turkey. Show me a country that will wage war against your brothers, kill them, while committing this crime say “Turkey is to blame for everything”, dare to say “Europe’s map is complete, but there is a need to draw the map of the Near East, Asia”, claim that Kars belongs to Armenia, and after all the president of that country will come to Turkey and you will shake hands with him. How could it be possible?” he said.
It was specified yesterday evening that Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who said this 15 years ago, will leave for Yerevan to watch Armenia-Turkey football match on September 6.
How Can One Shake Hands With Armenian President?"
Armenian Citizens In Turkey Are Pleased About President Gül's Visit
Armenian origin people in Turkey stated that the visit which President Abdullah Gül will make to Armenia is very pleasing and it will help a friendship atmosphere to be formed. Armenian origin citizens said that they want Turkey to win the match.
The question, “Will Abdullah Gül go to Yerevan for watching Armenia-Turkey match?”, which was keeping public engaged for a long time, found it’s answer.
With a written statement from Presidential Press Center, it is declared that President Gül will go to Yerevan. The Armenia visit of President Gül have an importance about warming the relations between two country which is highly strung. Although some authors and opposition parties raised their voices against Gül’s visit, Armenian origin people in Turkey find this decision of President Gül very affirmative.
Born and raised in Turkey and working as a care-taker in Armenian Church in Kumkap?, Hanefi Demirci said, “Ties of friendship could be made by the visit”. Making comments on the reactions of opposition parties, especially on Deniz Baykal’s, Demirci said, “They can’t seperate sports and politics from each other. And they use sports for politics. In my opinion this visit is very important and very worthy step. We want such sort of relations and friendship to remain. My wish is a draw for the match, which will be friendly”
A retired casting worker in Kumkap?, Cesur Y?ld?z finds the visit decision favourable too. Y?ld?z said, “The friendship which will be made between two countries will bring great benefits and i hope Turkey wins the match.
S,ahin Payel, who works as hardware dealer for years, said that the doors of friendship may open with this match. Payel said wittily, “Turkey should win this match with many goals of distance, otherwise it would be a shame for Turkey”
A jewellery dealer in Grand Bazaar, Murat Ekmekçiog(lu finds visit very important for normalizing the relations between two country. Asking for hostility between two country to be finished, Ekmekçiog(lu said, “My wish is for Turkey to win the match, but more than score it’s results on friendship is important”.
Artificier in Grand Bazaar for years, Alen Tekb?çak said, “We should leave the hostility and historical ideas. We should leave these for historians. A possible friendship between two countries would be so benefit economically and socially”.
The 'Yes' Echoing Beyond Ararat
September 5, 2008
Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s planned visit to Armenia is currently the number one news in country’s prominent newspapers and televisions. Yerevan is ready to host the Turkey-Armenia national football game. Necessary security precautions have been taken
Vercihan Ziflioglu, Yerevan
As the number one story in Armenian newspapers and on television, Turkish President Abdullah Gül's expected attendance at the Turkey-Armenia football match Saturday continues to captivate Armenian audiences.
“Gül's visit to our country is highly important. We, Armenians, suffered a lot in the past. It is not possible to forget about all those pains. But now we should look to the future,” said Armenian President Serge Sarkisian in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Tashnaks, readying for protests against Gül, seem to have received little public support. Attendance was low at a demonstration they organized Tuesday to draw attention to the Nagorno-Karabagh issue.
“Aggressive behaviors by Tashnaks put the people of Armenia into a difficult position,” said Vahak, a 23-year-old Armenian citizen, who refrained from giving his surname. “We have not forgotten our past experiences. We all suffered in the ‘genocide.' Each Armenian on Earth has the same pain in his or her heart. But the future of Armenia is more important than the Tashnaks,” he said.
During the rally held by the Tashnaks, Armenia's Radio Liberty announced that Gül would be in Yerevan on Saturday for the match, despite the fact that no official statement about Gül's planned visit was made by Turkish authorities at that time.
Why are Turkish fans not attending?
A Turkish Daily News reporter has been conducting interviews with citizens of Armenia in the streets of Yerevan. Those interviewed said they saw Gül's visit as an important step in the development of relations between Armenia and Turkey. But, they were also very curious about why Turkish fans were not attending the game.
“The significance of political relations cannot be denied,” said Hayk Vartanyan, a citizen interviewed on the street. “But close contacts between the peoples of two countries are more important.”
Meanwhile, strict security precautions have been taken in every corner of Armenia. Though daily life appears normal, Tashnaks have already begun preparations to protest Gül. However, they repeatedly note that no violent acts will take place during the protests.
TRT's 30-member team in Yerevan
According to a statement made by the Armenian Football Federation, the number of official attendees from Turkey to the match is 113, including 30 members of TRT, the state-owned broadcasting corporation of Turkey. The other attendees will be from different newspapers and television stations. The Armenian Football Federation formed a press desk at the Marriott Armenia Hotel, located in the center of Yerevan, for Turkish journalists who arrive in Armenia to attend the game. The press desk will be open until Oct. 6. A Turkish Daily News reporter was at the Armenian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to fulfill accreditation procedures. According to information provided by the ministry, foreign media shows great interest in the Turkey-Armenia national football match. Buses, especially scheduled for Turkish and foreign journalists, will carry them to the H?razdan Stadium on Saturday.
Final Touches On Presidential Visit To ArmeniaSeptember 5, 2008, Turkish Daily News
The fine-tuning of the Turkish president's landmark visit to Armenia to honor his Armenian counterpart's invitation to watch the national football match in Yerevan is nearly complete.
President Abdullah Gül will visit Armenia on Saturday for the soccer match, said the President's Office late Wednesday, marking a major diplomatic step for the two neighboring countries, which have no diplomatic ties.
Armenia and Turkey will play against each other in a qualifying match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“We believe that this match will be instrumental in removing the barriers blocking the rapprochement between the two peoples with common history and prepare for new ground,” said a statement posted on the Presidency's official Web site.
“We hope that this will be an opportunity for the two peoples to understand each other better,” it said.
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian invited Gül to watch the football match and called for closer ties with Turkey. Gül's key trip became certain after Turkish diplomats led by Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, the deputy undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, visited Yerevan on Wednesday.
Besides talks with Armenian diplomats, Çeviköz also met with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
“Minister Nalbandian mentioned that Armenia was continuously in favor of the establishment of good-neighborly ties with all regional countries and lasting solidarity in the Caucasus,” said a written statement released by the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
The two also discussed the details of Gül's visit, the statement said.
Of the diplomats that accompanied the Turkish delegation, some stayed in Yerevan to contribute to security during the presidential visit while the remaining members, including Çeviköz, returned to Turkey. Gül will board an official “ANA” plane for Armenia and his program will be limited to five to six hours and he will return home the same day.
He is expected to hold a one-hour face-to-face meeting with his Armenian counterpart. However, core problems that have troubled the two countries' ties, including the alleged genocide of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire and the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, will not be discussed during the talks. Instead, the high-level meeting will mark a goodwill move for the beginning of dialogue along the Ankara-Yerevan axis.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan will separately fly to Yerevan from Syria.
Erdogan deems visit ‘positive'
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an, who was in Syria yesterday, said he considered the president's visit to Yerevan “positive” and warned that the rejection of the official invitation could have been used as a political instrument.
“Thus, the decision made by our president precluded such a possibility,” Erdog(an was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency. “Sports and politics are two separate issues.”
The prime minister said he also discussed the visit with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and added he did not believe that would create a problem.
“You cannot gain anything by running away from the table,” he said.
September 5, 2008
Why Is Gül Going To Yerevan?, Ismail Küçükkaya, Aksam
President Abdullah Gül will visit the Armenian capital Yerevan on Sat. Is this the right move?
Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties. Correspondence is handled through Georgia. Armenian President Serge Sarkisian sent the letter of invitation via Turkish Embassy in the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
Foreign Ministry believes this could be a fruitful visit as long as it is conducted well. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan will accompany with Gül. But no officials of the government party are going to Yerevan, due to possible internal reactions.
Turkey has begun to see the benefits of the multi-dimensional diplomacy, since it has been involved in the Syrian-Israeli talks as the mediator.
Incidents in Georgia mark the beginning of a new period. The hottest region in the 21st century will be the Caucasus and the Middle East. Ankara sits at the center of these two fire balls. Fights over energy and water source have begun already. We are in the middle of a power struggle. So Turkey has to take a central and effective role in this region. And Ankara should form a suitable ground for itself.
Gül's visit to Armenia is the first step in this direction.
Turks Have A Better Chance, Says Armenian Coach, September 5, 2008, Turkish Daily News
The “EURO 2008 semifinalist” tag surely makes Turkey the team to watch out for, and Armenian national team coach Jan Poulsen thinks so too. He even admits Turkey is favorite to win in the World Cup qualifying game at the Hrazdan Stadium Saturday.
Speaking to the Anatolian news agency, the Danish coach said that Turkey has an important place in European football, as seen in the European Championship earlier this summer.
“Turkey is an important team,” said Poulsen. “Turkey is close to a win.”
However, the Dane, who was appointed as Armenia manager in January 2008, managed to turn Armenia into a hard-to-beat team, and has been defeated only once in its last six friendly games. He led Armenia to win against lowly Belarus, Malta and Kazakhstan, while his team grabbed a precious draw against Greece.
The Turkey test will be his first competitive game at the helm of this Armenian side, which was coached by Scottish Ian Porterfield in the EURO 2008 qualifying stage.
Although he believes Turkey is the stronger side, Poulsen naturally hopes to get a positive result Saturday.
“Turkey has a better chance to win,” said the 62-year-old. “But we will play to get a good result anyway.”
A good game ahead:
Armenian players believe that the match will be a tight and interesting one.
“I am sure that it will be a game that will be a pleasure to watch,” said goalkeeper Gevorg Kasparov, who plays for Armenia's Ulisses Yerevan. “I'll do my best if I find the chance to play.”
The 28-year-old said he knew the Turkish side well and his favorite player was striker Semih S,entürk, who plays for Fenerbahçe.
When it comes to midfielder Levon Pachajyan, he names striker Villarreal's Nihat Kahveci, who will be unavailable for the game due to an injury he picked at EURO 2008.
“We are aware of the strength of our opposition,” said Pachajyan who is playing for Sweden's GAIS Gothenburg midfielder. “We will do what we can on pitch, but at the end, I hope the friendship will come through.”
The Armenia-Turkey game, which will be the first high-profile sporting event between those politically troubled countries, has already become a diplomatic flash point. Most recently, Turkish President Abdullah Gül officially declared Wednesday he would watch the game in Yerevan, responding to Armenian President Serge Sarkisian.
Armenia players are happy with that decision. Pachajyan and Kasparov said Gül will be welcome in Armenia, adding that they were not interested in politics and only concentrated on football.
Gül's Visit To Armenia Is The Right Step, Mehmet Ali Birand
I have given my support to President Abdullah Gül's visit to Armenia since I heard the news. I thought that he should accept the invitation by the Armenian President Srege Sarkisian and I didn't do this to score against Armenians.
Some groups liken bilateral relations to a football match played before the international community. If one of the parties scores, the other one must score too. The aim is not finding solution to the issue. What is important for them is who will get the highest score.
For me, the important thing is finding a solution to the Armenian issue, one way or the other. That's why I support Gül's visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan.
I have visited the Armenian capital many times. So I know very well how the Armenian public thinks and feels towards Turkey. Armenians hate us because almost all, whether for rightful reasons or not, are brain washed and hear real stories from their families.
But I assure you that most Armenians, not those who live in diaspora, do not want to fight with a giant like Turkey anymore. Yes, they do believe the genocide took place and it is impossible to change their mind in the matter. Still, they want to put bilateral relations back on track and increase the quality of their lives, without changing their views about the past.
The new Armenian administration wants to iron out the relations with Turkey somehow, to let go of the genocide idea, to open to Europe via Turkey therefore to overcome their economic difficulties.
Groups raising objections to a similar approach in Armenia, just like those in Turkey, are taking their strength from the tension and grudge.
Gül had no other choice but either to give peace a chance or turn down the invitation.
He did the right thing and accepted the invitation. I hope nothing goes wrong and a taboo comes to an end. I hope peace is given another chance…
'Caucasus Conflict Gave Rise To Turk-Armenian Rapprochement', September 5, 2008, Vercihan Ziflioglu
YEREVAN - Turkish Daily News
The recent conflict in Georgia is one of the reasons the Turkish president decided to accept his Armenian counterpart's invitation to travel to Armenia, an Armenian expert said in a recent interview.
“Turkey thought it could pursue its policies in the Caucasus via its alliance with Azerbaijan and Georgia, excluding Armenia. However the latest developments have shaken the balances, so Turkey is searching for new opportunities,” Prof. Ruben Safrastyan from the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia told the Turkish Daily News this week. “Relations with Armenia have a great importance in this respect,” he maintained.
Defining Armenian President Serge Sarkisian's invitation to his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gül, to watch a football game between the two countries' national teams as an “important step,” Safrastyan said Armenia would never give up its claims of genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
“Genocide is an issue proven both by Armenia and the world. The documents that would make redundant all discussions are in the archives. The only problem is Turkey's official history,” he said. Still Safrastyan maintained that the genocide problem should not hinder bilateral relations.
Evaluating the conflict in the Caucasus, Safrastyan said: “Determining their own destinies, communities declared their independence in Georgia. Karabakh could also declare independence within one year.”
“Azerbaijan has a great importance for Turkey, but a country like Turkey cannot disregard its interests for Azerbaijan,” Safrastyan said.
Commenting on Russia's position in the region, Safrastyan said the country would use Azerbaijani oil to its benefit. “The West is not aware of Russia's power. It has the power to challenge the world. Intense developments await the Caucasus,” he said, claiming that a third world war would erupt in the East.
“A small conflict in Georgia has reshaped the world's map,” he said.
'Yerevan Expedition': Remembrance, RecallingSeptember 5, 2008, Cengiz ÇANDAR
Daily Radikal's editor-in-chief, I.smet Berkan, in the last sentence of his article the other day, wrote, “If this happens, I will be proud as the editor-in-chief of a paper made contributions to this.”
He refers not only to mending Turkish-Armenian ties but also to the formation of a base of constructive talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the meeting to take place between Turkish President Abdullah Gül and his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian, on Sept. 6. With the “pitch in,” Berkan refers to the interviews by Radikal's Murat Yetkin first with Sarkisian on Aug. 28 and with Gül on Aug. 29.
The ice will expectedly be thawed by “football diplomacy” and that is compared to the “ping pong diplomacy” fixing American-Chinese relations in 1972.
I think this also reminds of the surprise, or rather shocking, visit of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977.
That visit, raising the hell in the Arab world, paved the way for a peace treaty signed between Egypt and Israel and for the establishment of diplomatic relations. Since then, the political situation in the Middle East has changed dramatically. Gül's Yerevan expedition has “similar potential”.
Two very famous American journalists, Walter Cronkite and Barbara Walters, had played a role in Sadat's visit to Jerusalem. The biggest name in Arab journalism Mohammed Hasaneyn Heikal's book, titled “Secret Channels,” is full of insights into the peace talks. Sadat, in a parliamentary address, announces his plans to pay a visit to Jerusalem. He even says that he could deliver a speech at the Knesset for the sake of peace. Cronkite calls him and asks if he really wants to go to Jerusalem. “Yes. I announced this already.” Sadat seems determined. When Cronkite asks, “When are you going?” Sadat replies, “When I am officially invited.”After this phone conversation, Cronkite gives a call to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and mentions about the conversation with Sadat. Begin tells Cronkite that he expects to see Sadat in Israel and that the official invitation would be made through U.S. Embassy. Sadat should know about Israel's three preconditions in advance, says the Israeli prime minister and tells them to Cronkite.
Walters is also involved in this traffic. Her simultaneous TV interview with Sadat and Begin is “a revolution in the history of journalism.” Walters also claimed her fame with the role she played in the Egypt-Israel relations, one of the most troublesome issues in international affairs. What Yetkin did last week was not much different.In politics, especially in foreign policy, unusual steps are being reacted to at first and cannot be taken in right away. Naturally this is true for Gül's visit to Yerevan. Negative reactions were shown even before its official announcement. The government is half willing. Parliamentary representatives of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, say, “The opposition will exploit this politically,” so they do not give a nod of approval to the Yerevan expedition. The Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, oppose the visit with an almost identical reason: Armenia occupied Azerbaijan's territory.
If this logic is valid in international relations, Turkey, then, should put an end to relations with Israel because the Palestinian land and the Golan Heights in Syria are occupied by Israel since 1967.
Through the same perspective, we should cut ties with Russia, too. The reason is Russian occupation in Georgia, which is the most important, even strategic, partner of Turkey in the Caucasus beside Azerbaijan. It is the ring connecting Turkey to Azerbaijan.
Disconnection doesn't help:
Obviously, Armenia is an “occupation force” in the Caucasus. The Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has been on the agenda since the early 1990s. Azerbaijani lands encircling Karabakh, seven administrative regions, called rayon, are under French occupation since 1993.
Disconnection between Turkey and Armenia did not end this occupation; on the contrary reinforced it. Establishing ties between two neighboring countries and their normalization will inevitably end the Armenian occupation in the Azerbaijani territory.
Why this is so? … That's the subject of another article in the days to come. But even just for this reason Gül's visit is beneficial. Lastly, in my humble opinion, Gül should read the slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink's only book, titled “Two close nations, two distant neighbors.”
Three Messages, September 5, 2008, Yusuf Kanli
Three important events took place on Wednesday, producing three different and indeed extremely important messages in one day.
The first and perhaps the most important development was in the banner headlines of both the pro-government media newspapers as well as the mainstream media and hard-core anti-government publications on Thursday, and naturally the lead story on all TV news bulletins.
Two top retired generals, S,ener Eruygur and Hurs,it Tolon, were detained on the first day of last July in military compounds. Later the two former four-star generals were subjected to a detailed questioning and were arrested by a court in connection with the so-called Ergenekon gang probe. They are not yet charged, though they are not only tried and sentenced but indeed executed as well in the Islamist or pro-government media “on firm conviction“ that they were senior leaders of a coup plan to unseat the Islamist Justice and development Party, or AKP, government of the country.
When the generals and scores of others – journalists, businessmen, politicians – were detained, some were arrested and some were released pending outcome of the trial, the top commander of the country was Gen. Yas,ar Büyükan?t. Yas,ar Pasha did not utter a word about the detention and later arrest of the two retired top generals and scores of other retired officers including the retired three-star General Veli Küçük all implicated at varying degrees in the pro-government media of involvement in some scandalous “deep state” activities aimed at destabilizing the country and preparing grounds for a military takeover.
On Aug. 30 Gen. I.lker Bas,bug( became the new top commander and Yas,ar Pasha became a “retired general.” Three days passed, Galip Mendi, a three star general, still on active duty, a person implicated in alleged “deep state” activities while serving in northern Cyprus in the 1990s – including the 1996 murder of journalist Kutlu Adal? – visited the two retired generals in prison and the Office of the Chief of General Staff issued a statement saying the visit was realized on orders of gen. Bas,bug(.
The message is clear: The change in the military is not restricted with the name of the top commander…
Gül's strong message:
Despite all the nationalist and conservative uproar, President Abdullah Gül took a wise decision and announced that he has accepted the invitation of his Armenian counterpart, will travel to Yerevan and watch the first-ever soccer game between the national teams of the two countries together with the Armenian president. This will be a social event which may have some diplomatic results as well. By deciding to go to Armenia Gül has demonstrated the existing political will in Ankara for a diplomatic and negotiation resolution of existing problems.
If we have problems with a country, we cannot negotiate resolution of those problems through talks with some other countries. We have to talk with our counterpart. We have problems with Armenia and we should talk with Armenia. If conditions are not ripe for diplomatic openings, why not test possibilities through social contacts?
Mixed messages on Cyprus:
There appears to be some serious confusion in Cyprus as comprehensive talks for a settlement to the island's decades old problem of power sharing between its two peoples. The U.N. stressed that there are reasons to believe that a Cyprus settlement has finally become discernible. President Mehmet Ali Talat of northern Cyprus said that there was no aspect of the Cyprus problem which the two sides ignored in discussions over the past several decades and thus the new talks should not take long because they would not start from ground zero. Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias said the process would be a difficult one and that there should be no time limitation.
Talat said the new Cyprus would be a partnership state based on the two states on the island, Christofias said the biggest compromise of Greek Cypriots was to agree back in 1977 that the new Cyprus would be a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. He said his people cannot go further than that. He said the new Cyprus will be a continuation of the Cyprus republic on a federal basis and the federation will be between the two communities of the island, not two states.
And, these were the “strong messages” of the “difficulty” on Cyprus, of course for those willing to see…
(Yusuf Kanli can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
Estranged Nations Have To Start Somewhere, September 5, 2008, Semih IDIZ
President Gül's decision to go to Yerevan, on the invitation of President Sarkisian, in order to watch the Turkey-Armenia match tomorrow, does not entail a major surprise. Both Gül and his foreign policy advisors were keen from the start to respond positively to this invitation. What took Gül so long to decide to go was the uncertainty surrounding some questions, which had to do more with the domestic politics of the two countries. There were also security concerns which had to be done away with. Contacts between Turkish and Armenian officials have always been an issue that hawkish nationalists on both sides have shunned. As far as this segment of the societies of the two countries is concerned, relations between the two nations are a “zero sum game” of sorts.
Dashnaks and the MHP:
Put another way, one side has to definitely lose if the other is to win, according to this outlook. Thus the ultranationalist Dashnak party in Armenia was quick to condemn the invitation extended to President Gül, and make it known that they would be protesting him when he arrives in Yerevan. For this party the matter is a simple one. Until Turkey officially acknowledges the events of 1915 as “genocide, ” and not only pays compensation, but also concedes land to Armenia – these being demands that take place in the Dashnak charter – then there can be no meaningful contacts with this country. On the Turkish side, the picture as far as the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is concerned is not too different to that of the Dashnaks - this party's direct counterpart on the Armenian side. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli has said that Gül's traveling to Yerevan would be “folly” and entail a loss of prestige for Turkey. The MHP argument is, of course, a reverse image of the Dashnak one. According to this party, Gül's visiting a country that not only wants to have Turkey labeled a “perpetrator of genocide,” but also refuses to acknowledge its territorial integrity, and occupies not just the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, but also a large swathe of Azerbaijan proper, does not merit the honor of hosting a Turkish president. Of course the supposedly social democratic Republican Peoples Party (CHP) has also come out in opposition to this visit. CHP's stance in one of pure political opportunism, of course. Under normal circumstances a social democratic party should be keen to avail of any opportunity that will contribute to peace between peoples and nations. But the CHP continues to insist on a cheap “opposition for the sake of opposition” stance, purely to hit out at the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, from whence President Gül came. CHP leader Deniz Baykal argues that this visit is wrong when Azerbaijani land is occupied by Armenians. But, while it is not too happy over the new overtures between Turkey and Armenia, Baku is nevertheless keeping a low profile on this score, a fact that Baykal conveniently overlooks. The latest developments in the Southern Caucasus, as a result of the occupation and division of Georgia by Russia, have seriously ruffled feathers in Azerbaijan too. Moscow's hard response to Tbilisi, for trying to bring its unruly province of Southern Ossetia in line by force, is also message to Baku not to try the same over Karabakh. Given that Armenia is dependent on Russia for its security, this is not a message that the Azerbaijani side can afford to overlook. Baku, which is dependent on the US more than ever under these circumstances, is also aware that Washington is highly keen on a rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey.
The demand for peace:
Playing the spoiler under these circumstances could rebound on Baku, a possibility which President Aliev can clearly not overlook at this stage. There is also the fact that the situation as far as the Karabakh issue is concerned is not as dormant as Mr. Baykal may think, seeing as there is a process underway under the OSCE to try and solve this problem. The fact, however, is that starting with the influential Association of Turkish Businessmen and Industrialists, or TÜSIAD, there are influential quarters in Turkey that want peace with this northeastern neighbor, for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the headache that the Turkish-Armenian estrangement causes for Turkey internationally. There is also Turkey's growing interest in stability in the Caucasus, mostly due to energy issues, which of course is not possible as long as Ankara and Yerevan remain at odds. The situation in the Caucasus is also complicated for Armenia and it is becoming clearer to ordinary Armenians that unless there is a rapprochement with Turkey, they are unlikely to come out of its present geographic isolation. Russia, on the other hand, while providing security has actually contributed little to alleviate the serious economic problems of Armenia. In addition to this there is the fact that Armenians consider themselves naturally to be of the western bloc rather than the eastern one, to use Cold War terminology. Put another way this country would also like one day to become an EU member but knows that the current stalemate in the Caucasus is an obstacle in this respect. It is highly unlikely – given this situation – that President Sarkisian would allow radical Dashnaks to create ugly scenes during Gül's visit, which would put Armenia in a bad light internationally. The fact is that Yerevan needs normalized relations with Turkey today more than Ankara needs it with Armenia. One thing must be made clear however. The issues between Turkey and Armenia are formidable. Then there is the potentially negative role that the rich and generally comfortable members of the Armenian diaspora in the West can play, and it is a fact that this diaspora is largely Dashnak driven.
Don't expect miracles:
Therefore, it would be wrong to expect miracles to emanate from this visit by President Gül. A pragmatic approach to proceeding from this point on has still to be discovered so that the two countries can enjoy normal relations, even if they beg to differ on some very important issues for the two nations. But as someone who visited Yerevan earlier this year and enjoyed the friendship of Armenians there — and there was not one instance of enmity that I encountered as a Turk — it is clear that there is a big people-to-people potential that can be activated to the advantage of the two nations. Estranged nations have to start somewhere, after all, and it is hoped that the occasion of the football match tomorrow with do just this. But it is going to take political courage on the part of President Gül and President Sarkisian to take matters further towards fully normalized ties between these two close and yet so distant countries.
The Right Time And Place,September 5, 2008, Mithat MELEN
People who should never speak are speaking incessantly and the ones who should speak don't open their mouths in Turkey. Recently, the new trend is to speak about almost every subject knowingly or unknowingly. Whenever they have the opportunity to grab a microphone they start talking and making their own assessments, especially on Turkey's foreign policy.
Everything around us is developing rapidly. On the international arena, very important issues are unfolding. So many very important meetings are being held behind closed doors, and it becomes difficult to follow them. Without knowing what is going on, it is difficult to make assessments. The ones who have access to top-secret information and documents insistently keep silent. That's why, especially on foreign policy issues, we continue to listen to theories of conspiracy.
Turkey and Russia:
Dr. Ian Lesser is an analyst working for the German Marshall Fund. “Even if she withdraws to the drawn lines in Georgia, Russia's strategic position in Georgia will continue from now on. Ankara, on the other hand, will again start to feel Russia's power on her borders. In the short run, Turkey will have a difficult time trying to balance Western interests and finding alternative policies for reconciliation. Meanwhile, NATO will have to reconsider her strategies and position in view of recent developments,” Dr. Lesser opines.
Prime Minister Erdog(an, responding to a question on the state of bilateral relations with Russia at the August 30 Victory Day reception, gave the following interesting reply: “Our relations with Russia are continuing. Most of our energy resources come from Russia. Our contractors are doing good jobs in that country. On the tourism sector, Russians are the biggest groups to come to Turkey. Turkish businessmen have big investments in Russia.”
Most probably, with this reply, our prime minister meant that the government would handle the situation as it usually does. This week, the Georgian and Russian foreign ministers paid visits to Turkey. We are working to shape a platform for the Caucasus. President Gül will visit Armenia to watch the football match between Turkish and Armenian teams.
Is a new foreign policy shaping up here? Are we witnessing a new doctrine coming to life, or are we entering a new phase of the Cold War? Nobody knows what is going on. But most probably, a new policy that will include Iraq and Iran is being drawn up for this region.
“I would like to make a master's degree study on the economy of energy. Where can I do it?” a student of mine recently asked me. For days, to no avail, I tried to find the right educational institution for my student. It seems we have failed, also in this issue. Recently, people are speaking about the economy of education, health and energy. But it seems we couldn't adjust our academic system to these new issues.
Lack of information:
Almost 200 students are doing their PhDs on Turkey at Moscow University. I wonder how many Turkish students at Turkish universities are doing a PhD on Russia. Coming to our government, Turkish foreign policy seems to be handled by a few people who really are not qualified for the job. Unfortunately, neither the foreign minister nor any other official bothers to brief the Grand National Assembly on the recent goings on. Therefore, we try to get pieces of information from the media or some experts. This is the reason we turn to foreign media or experts as sources for information.
As the government of Turkey, you are responsible to inform your nation and share with her whatever you have done so far. Neither the media nor the opposition is waiting to criticize the government. They only want to have their worries for the future assuaged and try and be constructive in moments of crisis. Of course, there will be criticisms. But the reality is that there is a new world order and new indications are coming to the forefront. Especially Turkish citizens have the right to know the recent developments. The ones who should speak have to speak at the right time and place.
US Hopes Gül Visit Will Facilitate Improved Ties With Armenia, September 5, 2008, Ümit Enginsoy
WASHINGTON - Turkish Daily News
The United States said Wednesday it hoped President Abdullah Gül's planned historic visit to Yerevan would facilitate moves for an eventual normalization of ties between Turkey and Armenia.
Gül's office shortly earlier announced he would travel to Armenia to attend a World Cup football game between Turkish and Armenian national teams. He was also due to meet with Armenian President Serge Sarkisian.
"We welcome President Gul's decision to travel to Yerevan," Mark Toner, spokesman for the U.S. State Department's European bureau, told the Turkish Daily News.
"We commend both presidents for their courage to take steps to strengthen peace and prosperity throughout the region," he said.
"We hope this historic meeting will help build momentum toward the full normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations," Toner said.
Gül had been evaluating Sarkisian's invitation for weeks, and eventually he and the government opted to make the visit.
The opposition in Turkey had been opposed to the visit amid Armenia's ongoing accusations of an Armenian genocide dating back to World War I and its occupation of part of Azerbaijan.
Conversation with Bush
Gül and U.S. President George W. Bush had discussed the visit one day before Wednesday's announcement came.
At the time National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe hinted the visit was likely take place.
"The two leaders talked about their support for efforts to improve Turkish-Armenian relations," he said Tuesday.
The Bush administration opposes two genocide resolutions pending in Congress, but urges Turkey to normalize diplomatic ties and open the border with Armenia.
It had been seeking an opportunity for a long time to thaw relations between Turkey and Armenia, and the football game gave that chance.
Armenians Waiting For Gül With Open Arms, September 4, 2008
While Turkey is debating what kind of reaction President Abdullah Gül will get in Armenia when he goes to watch Saturday's football game, a voice rising from the other side of the Mount Ararat is quite welcoming. 'The Armenians are hospitable people, we have total respect for your president,' says the football federation chief Ruben Hayrabedyan
Vercihan Ziflioglu, Yerevan - Turkish Daily News
As a novel occassion is approaching with the football game between Turkey and Armenia, both countries have seemingly forgotten about sports as all eyes are on the prospective meeting of presidents Abdullah Gül and Serge Sarkisian.
Gül has not officially confirmed his visit to Yerevan for the World Cup qualifying fixture, but it has been reported that he would accept Sarkisian's invitation to watch the game together at Hrazdan Stadium.
However, Gül will not be the only Turk watching the game at the 55,000-seat venue. The Turkish Football Federation expects 113 of their members to be present at the game, declared the Armenian Federation head Ruben Hayrabedyan.
Previously, it was reported that 5,000 seats were reserved for Turkish fans. Hayrabedyan said visitors coming to Yerevan would make an important contribution to solving the problems between the two countries.
“We need contact to overcome problems between Turkey and Armenia,” the federation chairman told the Turkish Daily News. “Yes, there are painful memories of the past, but they should not be preventing the bridges of fraternity in the future.”
Saturday's encounter has already become a diplomatic issue, surpassing the sporting event, but the Armenian football chief tried to bring the game back to the forefront of people's minds.
“Football may seem to be overshadowed by the politics these days, but that is not true,” said Hayrabedyan, adding that football fans are eagerly awaiting the match.
There are worries about serious protests against the Turkish side, especially against Gül, and although Hayrabedyan did not deny that protests might take place, he said they would not be aggressive.
“The Armenians are hospitable people,” said Hayrabedyan. “Our people want peace to be obtained between two countries. Our people have complete respect towards the President Gül.”
As the Armenian side played down the possibility of tensions off the pitch, they expressed a strong belief that their national team would give a hard time to the Euro 2008 semi-finalist Turks on the pitch.
“The Armenian team has become more and more strong recently,” said Hayrabedyan, adding that many players on the squad are playing abroad, especially in Russian, Iranian, Romanian, Dutch and Danish clubs.
“Of course I want Armenia to win the game. But what is more important than that, is my hope that the friendship will be the one winning in the end.”
Bülent Kenes, firstname.lastname@example.org Key To Caucasus Initiative: Armenia
Turkish President Abdullah Gül's visit to Yerevan for the match between the two countries' national soccer teams has the potential to emerge as an important turning point for relations between Turkey and Armenia.
Also, this visit will definitely have a confidence-building effect on the Caucasus, which is currently host to a very dangerous crisis.
The importance of this visit does not stem, as claimed by those who oppose it, from its being the first contact between Turkish and Armenian authorities. Indeed, Turkish authorities, including ministers and diplomats, have met with their Armenian counterparts many times in the past. We know that Gül, acting as the Turkish foreign minister and deputy prime minister, had talks with his Armenian counterparts on several occasions. For this reason, the approach taken by opposition parties such as the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Republican People's Party (CHP) -- which not only criticize Gül's visit, but also accuses him of treason out of some internal political considerations -- is not fair.
Moreover, unless a very exceptional situation had arisen attributable to the Armenian side, Gül had no other choice than to go to Yerevan. This is because Armenian President Sarksyan invited Gül to the match in a considerably successful move, giving the international community the very clear message that Armenians cannot be held responsible for the tension between two countries, and without bringing any liability to his country.
The experienced Turkish diplomacy is well aware of the fact any failure by Gül to accept this invitation would be interpreted by the international community as clear proof that it is the Turkish side that resists conciliation and dialogue for settlement of the problems between the two countries, and that it could not respond even to a simple gesture. Thus from the moment this invitation was made, Gül has known that this visit was inevitable. The crisis fueled in Georgia after this invitation was extended further added to the visit's inevitability, adding significance to it as well. Why? I will try to elaborate.
First of all, in the post-Georgian crisis era Turkey has built its Caucasus policy entirely upon the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Initiative, intending with this initiative to build confidence among the problematic countries in the region and create a positive atmosphere that will aid a peaceful settlement of the Caucasus crisis. One of the five possible participants in the Caucasus initiative is Armenia. It is impossible to construct an environment of security and stability in the Caucasus and exclude Armenia. If Turkey intends to reinforce mutual security and confidence among countries for the success of the initiative, there is nothing more meaningful than Turkey starting with Armenia, with which it has several unresolved problems. Also, no player other than Turkey has the resources and capabilities to halt the dangerous course of events in the Caucasus, where Russia is officially at war with Georgia, and Azerbaijan with Armenia. This becomes clearer as we remember that the Minsk group acting under the roof of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has failed.
As noted by diplomatic sources, Gül's visit does not contain any new proposal concerning the existing problems between the two countries. Turkey has not waived any prerequisite it has set up for dialogue with Yerevan: namely, an Armenia withdrawal of genocide claims, its halting the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Lachin corridor, withdrawal of its territorial claims, its cessation of using the Armenian diaspora against Turkey, etc. However, the talks conducted by the foreign undersecretary, Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, in Yerevan ahead of Gül's visit imply that Turkey, too, expects a new initiative to emerge in the bilateral relations.
This initiative will largely depend upon how the Armenian side welcomes Gül. It is obvious that the Armenians also need to establish a fair dialogue with Turkey in order to get rid of the country's isolation. They may either help two societies to overcome an important psychological threshold by adopting a constructive attitude during the visit, or they may frustrate this initiative, never to be repeated. Turkish diplomatic sources estimate that the signals of good intentions are to be given to the Turkish side during this visit -- progress cannot be made with prerequisites, but through parallel processes.
Turkey does not want to see another crisis caused by crazed steps similar to those taken by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, and is ready to take initiative to this end. The traditional attitude adopted by Armenia and Azerbaijan in the face of common problems consists of just buying time. Armenia thinks that its claims on the lands it has occupied will in time turn into status quo while Azerbaijan still needs more time in order to build a military force using the economic revenues from its energy resources. If no progress is made though a peaceful initiative about the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, a conflict similar to the one among Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia might also emerge in this part of the region. Even if no such conflict erupts, Turkey is still worried about the possibility of polarization caused by a confrontation between the Georgian and Azerbaijani alliance and the Armenian and Russian alliance in the Caucasus, and about this polarization's irreparably damaging regional peace.
Yavuz Baydar email@example.com Signs Of A Dangerous Bipolarity In Politics
As I hopefully will have reached Yerevan early this morning, not only to watch football, but to witness an unprecedented visit -- the first in history -- by a Turkish president, my initial intention was to write about glimpses of my earlier personal encounters with this mysterious, sad city and its sorrowful and deeply proud people, to comment about the true meaning of rapprochement between those who are truly Anatolians -- Armenians and Turks -- in that order.
I meant to express a wish, however unrealistic it may be, that President Abdullah Gül might pass beyond the threshold of denial and pray at the "Genocide Monument," mourning the tragic fate of Ottoman Armenians, who perished in the folly of war some 90 years ago.
Alas, the shaky agenda of Turkey never leaves you alone. Wherever you go, part of your mind is always kept occupied with the notion of "what's next?" And the puzzle of politics never leads to closure but only becomes more intriguing.
The main questions before me and my readers, as I understand it, is what to expect in the coming months of politics and where we stand in the ongoing, seemingly endless battle for power in "deep Ankara."
In a way, we have seen cards being reshuffled recently and that redistribution has begun. I am referring to some major turning points and minor events. With the Justice and Development Party (AKP) "having received a severe warning" -- to use an expression by a top court judge -- Turkey is to continue with a new top command, which made its stand clear in recent days on how much more deeply involved in politics the military will be. The picture is reminiscent of an older one depicting an arduous, uphill battle between the elected and the appointed.
The annual ceremony of the top command handovers told us the same story: filled with lengthy robot talk, it was, as some pro-military columnists already wrote, made "obvious even for those with differing levels of understanding" (referring to domestic and foreign observers who question the current military-civilian relations in Turkey) that issues linked with "sine qua non" of the republic will be kept under strict scrutiny by the military and that most of the matters related to the EU reform process were seen as unacceptable by those who are keen on the "unitary" nature of Turkey. In short, the top command says between the lines that the AKP should "forget" a new, liberal constitution.
There are symptoms of trouble already. I mentioned in an earlier article an apparent clash at the decision making level in Cyprus, where Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) President Mehmet Ali Talat was sidelined by the Turkish military over a temporary opening of the border gate for Greek Cypriot worshipers, a minor scandal that could not have happened without the knowledge of I.lker Bas,bug(.
The other incident was a "political statement" by the top command: As reported extensively, two generals under arrest in the Ergenekon case were visited in prison by a three-star general two days ago in Kand?ra. The fact that the visit was done under the orders of the top command and in the name of the chief of general staff is undoubtedly an intervention in the judicial process and likely to have significant consequences in the process of the criminal case.
Add to this a fresh survey on the "state of politics" in Turkey. Today's Zaman reported yesterday on the findings of a Metropoll survey, which somehow seems to confirm what I have been hearing from other "pulse-takers." Let's look at part of yesterday's story: "Asked who they would vote for if there was an election today, 50.9 percent of respondents said they would vote for the AK Party. The figure demonstrated the ruling party's considerable increase in popularity in less than a month, as around 42 percent of those polled had said in early August they would vote for the AK Party if parliamentary elections were to be held the day of the poll. The survey revealed that the CHP and the MHP would remain below the election threshold should general elections be held on the poll date. Only 9.5 percent of respondents said they would vote for the CHP; 6.6 percent said they would favor the MHP and 2.6 percent said they would vote for the Democratic Society Party (DTP)."
Metropoll is a serious opinion investigator. And what it tells us in this crucial segment is of serious concern. It tells us that a) regardless of the "vacuum" of political pledges, the AKP is simply rising; b) after distributing the undecided, the AKP now has around 60 percent of the vote; and c) the opposition is sliding severely, although two parties may pass the 10 percent threshold. The result, therefore, in the upcoming national elections would have to be the AKP dominating more than 90 percent of the municipalities.
With the lack of opposition, the center of antagonism may shift even more to the already tense area between the military and the AKP. Considering the apparent "change of route" of top command, together with the picture above taken by Metropoll, this all comes inevitably as a message for extreme "caution" -- if not alarm -- for Turkey.
Nicole Pope firstname.lastname@example.org Rounding The Circle
President Abdullah Gül is traveling to Armenia for a historic visit; Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an is off to Syria for Middle East talks; direct negotiations are taking place between leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, and the foreign minister of Turkey's neighbor and former rival Greece declares herself hopeful that the two sides will eventually reach a settlement; and Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently visited Turkey.
Set your mind back to the previous decade and remember the state of Turkey's diplomatic relations in the neighborhood. In 1994, it nearly went to war with Greece over the rocky outcrop of Kardak. Tension with Syria reached boiling point in 1998 over Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, and the border with Armenia has remained closed since 1994.
Over the past 10 years, progress has been recorded on most of these fronts. In some cases, circumstances helped: The 1999 earthquakes that devastated both sides of the Aegean generated popular sympathy that allowed politicians to move forward. The prospect of European Union membership also incited the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to depart from the traditional approach on Cyprus and support the Annan plan. Prime Minister Erdog(an's bold gamble at the time was unfortunately not adequately rewarded by the EU, but it was still an important step, which may yet bear fruit if the talks that have just begun yield a settlement.
Ankara's relations with Iran and Syria are at times frowned upon by some of Turkey's more hawkish Western allies, but they are boosting stability in the neighborhood to some degree and promoting Ankara's role as a regional power. Erdog(an's mediation efforts between Syria and Israel have been noted in the West as well as in the Arab world.
Armenia was so far the missing link in the AK Party's deliberate attempts to improve relations with the country's immediate neighbors. The recent events in Georgia have shown that it cannot be neglected for much longer, and there is growing recognition on both sides of the Turkey-Armenia border that developing trade and political dialogue would benefit both sides, even if historical issues like the 1915 massacres and the occupation by Armenia of Azerbaijani territory continue to be contentious. Nationalists in Turkey condemn President Gül's decision to travel to Yerevan, but this first step, if it is followed by others, could eventually have a positive impact in Baku as well.
The more positive regional environment created in recent years does not protect Turkey entirely from the tremors caused by colliding political tectonic plates in the neighborhood. The regions north, east and south of Turkey remain volatile and prone to intractable conflicts. Ankara will still face uncomfortable situations, as is the case now when it trying to find a delicate balance between its loyalty to its NATO and EU allies on the one hand, which back Georgia, and the strong commercial ties it has forged with Russia on the other.
There are also limits to what Turkey can realistically achieve with initiatives such as the ?ÜüCaucasus Stability and Cooperation Project or its peacemaking efforts in the Middle East. But Ankara's more active foreign policy and its willingness to engage former foes leave the country better equipped to find peaceful solutions to regional challenges and show a more flexible aspect of Turkey abroad.
With significant movement now under way on the Cyprus and Armenian fronts, let's hope that the government will also apply its "real politik" approach to the Kurdish problem, which is usually seen mainly as a domestic issue, but also has important implications for Turkey's regional policy and its integration with the EU.
Gül Extends Olive Branch To Turkey's Last ‘Enemy'
President Abdullah Gül was welcomed warmly in the central Anatolian province of Sivas during a visit on Thursday.
President Abdullah Gül has finally ended a guessing game on whether he will accept an invitation from his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, and announced that he will watch a World Cup qualifying game between the Turkish and Armenian national teams in Yerevan on Saturday.
Given the current status of relations with Armenia -- there have been no formal ties between the two neighbors since 1993 -- it was no surprise that it took some time for Gül to decide whether to go to Armenia. Though officials are trying to play down impact the visit will have on relations that have been on ice for more than a decade, expectations are high that it will be a huge leap in restoring dialogue with Armenia, the last "enemy neighbor."
Over the past decade, Turkey has turned long-standing rivalries with Greece, Iran and Syria into cooperation. Gül, the first Turkish president ever to visit Armenia since it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, will meet with Sarksyan for about an hour at the Armenian presidential palace ahead of the match in Yerevan's Hrazdan Stadium. Minutes before the two leaders head for the stadium, Gül will break his Ramadan fast at a dinner hosted by Sarksyan. He will return after watching the game.
"We believe this match will be instrumental in removing the barriers blocking rapprochement between the two peoples with a common history and prepare new ground," a statement on the president's official Web site said on Wednesday. "We hope this will be an opportunity for the two peoples to understand each other better," it said.
Turkish officials say three issues will be raised by the Turkish side during the meeting: a Turkish proposal to create a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform, a mechanism that will also include Armenia; the problematic issue of Armenian occupation in the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh; and a Turkish call for establishing a joint team of Turkish and Armenian scholars to investigate events of World War I in eastern Anatolia, which Armenians claim amounted to genocide but Ankara says were losses on both sides as Armenians took up arms to revolt against the Ottoman Empire while seeking an independent state of their own. Yerevan has already said it welcomed Turkey's Caucasus platform proposal, introduced after a brief war between Georgia and Russia in August following a Georgian offensive in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. The scheme is planned to include Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Despite widespread domestic and international approval for Gül's visit, there are concerns that contacts between Turkey and Armenia could spoil ties with Azerbaijan, a regional ally. In an apparent attempt to assure Azerbaijan that its interests will not be compromised, Gül is preparing to visit Azerbaijan in the coming weeks, officials told Today's Zaman. No exact date was given, but the visit to Azerbaijan is expected to take place before Gül flies to the United States in September.
Speaking on the sidelines of a four-way summit on the Middle East in Syria, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an said he had spoken with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and that Baku had no problem with Gül going to Yerevan for the soccer game.
Azerbaijanis are divided on whether Gül's visit should be condemned or encouraged. Opponents see the rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia at a time when Azerbaijani territory is still under Armenian occupation as a betrayal of the alliance and brotherhood between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Others say it may help resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute if Turkey starts talking to Armenia about this deep-seated conflict.
Warning against high expectations for any breakthrough, officials say Gül will "encourage" Armenia to pursue a settlement on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute on the basis of a set of principles proposed by a group of international mediators.
Armenia says it is ready for diplomatic relations with Turkey without any conditions, referring to the dispute on the genocide claims, and wants the border, closed since 1993, to reopen. But Gül is expected to dismiss any piecemeal approach in the restoration of relations and call for a discussion of all issues pertaining to relations as a whole.
Gül will be greeted by Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian at the airport and will proceed to the Armenian presidential palace along a high-security route. The section of the stadium where Gül will be watching the game will be protected by bulletproof glass as a measure against a possible assassination attempt.
A Turkish delegation, headed by Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ünal Çeviköz, had talks in Yerevan on Wednesday to discuss arrangements for Gül's visit and reportedly told Gül that security measures taken by the Armenian side were satisfactory.
Representatives from international news agencies as well as French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro will be on Gül's plane to Yerevan.
Yerevan excited, preparing for match with Turkey
Officials from the Armenian Football Federation (FFA) were yesterday finishing up with preparations for an upcoming match between the national football teams of Armenia and Turkey, an event that will see the first-ever visit by a Turkish president to Yerevan.Ruben Hayrapetian, the chairman of the FFA, yesterday told the Anatolia news agency that the FFA had completed all preparations for the match and that everybody was ready for it.
Executives from the FFA have stated that they expect the 52,000-seat Hrazdan Stadium to be completely full during the match, saying 12,000 tickets have been sold to date and that 2,700 seats were allocated to Turkish fans. More than 100 foreign correspondents, in addition to 60 domestic correspondents, have been accredited to watch the match, the same executives said.
Armenian officials also noted that all necessary precautions have been taken both for the period of time before and after the match, the Anatolia news agency reported. The Turkish national team will stay in the Golden Palace Hotel, which is a little outside of the Yerevan city center, Anatolia said. Meanwhile, players of the Armenian national team, speaking to Anatolia, expressed pleasure over Gül's visit, while noting that they were interested in sports, not in politics. Ankara Today's Zaman with wires 05 September 2008, Süleyman Kurt Zaman
Brussels, Washington Welcome Gül’s Decision To Go To Yerevan
Both the European Union, which Ankara aspires to join, and Turkey's NATO ally the United States have welcomed President Abdullah Gül's decision to respond favorably to Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan's invitation to visit Yerevan to watch a match between the national football teams of the two estranged neighboring countries.
Both Brussels and Washington also expressed expectations of a complete normalization of bilateral relations between Armenia and Turkey, which have not had diplomatic relations since the early 1990s. Turkey severed ties with Armenia in protest of Yerevan's occupation of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region, over which Armenia fought Turkey's ally Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s.
Gül's office announced on Wednesday evening that the president will visit Armenia over the weekend for the soccer match. Armenia and Turkey will play against each other in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Sept. 6 in a qualifying match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. EU term president France, in a written statement released yesterday on behalf of the EU Council, expressed "pleasure" over Sarksyan's invitation, while voicing "joy" over Gül's decision to respond favorably to his invitation.
"This [historic] visit constitutes a strong and encouraging gesture for relations between Armenia and Turkey. The EU Council Presidency hopes and wishes that this extremely symbolic visit will create the normalization of relations between the two countries," the EU statement said.
In Washington, Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department, told the Anatolia news agency that Washington has welcomed Gül's decision.
"We congratulate both of the presidents' courage to take steps toward strengthening peace and welfare in the region," Toner was quoted as saying by Anatolia. "We hope that this historical meeting will help accelerate the complete normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations," Toner added. Both the US administration and the now 27-member EU have called on Turkey to normalize bilateral relations with Yerevan. The issue has constantly found a place in regular progress reports annually released by the European Commission on EU candidate Turkey. In Damascus, EU term president France's Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday expressed pleasure over Gül's decision to go to Yerevan, calling the move "very positive."
Sarkozy's comments on the issue came at a joint press conference following a summit that brought him together with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdog(an and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani for talks on Mideast stability and peace. The EU statement, meanwhile, also lent support to Turkey's initiative for establishing a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform, calling the initiative "a meaningful contribution to stability, security and development in the region." 05 September 2008, Today's Zaman Ankara
Turkey's Armenians Thrilled With Visit
The Armenian Patriarchate of I.stanbul as well as individual Armenian citizens of Turkey have lauded President Abdullah Gül's decision to travel to Yerevan over the weekend to watch a match between the Turkish and Armenian national football teams along with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, who issued the invitation.
The patriarchate, in a written statement released yesterday, first of all said that sports was by its very nature an activity that directs people towards peace and fraternity. "… In this regard, we hope the Armenia-Turkey national football match to be played in Armenia's city of Yerevan on Sept, 6, 2008 will be an occasion for the improvement of mutual friendship and neighborhood relations for the peoples of both countries, which share a common geography," the patriarchate said.
In the Kumkap? district of I.stanbul, Hanefi Demirci, a Turkish-born Armenian, said Gül's visit could help build bridges of friendship between Armenia and Turkey. Reacting against opposition leaders who suggested that Gül's visit would help nothing but would instead damage Turkey's honor, Demirci said they were "confusing sports and politics with each other."
Cesur Yildiz, another Armenian citizen of Turkey, said friendship between Armenia and Turkey would bring advantages to both countries.
Murat Ekmekçioglu, a jeweler at the Grand Bazaar, said he believed the visit was very important for building a friendship between the two countries. He added that this friendship would be beneficial for both Armenia and Turkey. In the central Anatolian province of Kayseri, Karnik Teke, an 83-year-old Armenian citizen of Turkey, also applauded Gül's decision to go to Yerevan.
"The fact that Abdullah Gül is from Kayseri, that he is from our city, pleases us. Gül's attitude is a step toward friendship, for peace. This should be followed [by other steps]," Teke told the Anatolia news agency yesterday.
05 September 2008, Today's Zaman Istanbul
Turkish Columnist On The Armenian Issue Blogian 05 Sep 2008, Turks Cannot Be Without Armenians, Armenians Cannot Be Without Turks!, By Ayse Hur – Taraf Newspaper, September 1, 2008 (translated from Turkish by the Zoryan Institute; published by Ayse Hur’s permission)
While waiting for President Gul to make a decision on whether to attend the Yerevan soccer game on September 6, I tried to assemble all the facts, and I wonder if you agree with them. We still could not agree on how to define the events that befell on the Armenians 93 years ago. In the 85-year history of our Republic, we found only four Armenians deserving to enter the Parliament. We were unable to see any Armenians in the public and military sectors. We tried to erase the names and memories of Armenian settlements and locations, Armenian authors, artists, architects and statesmen. We converted Armenian cultural institutions and churches into mosques, military buildings, and if not feasible to do so, into animal stables, and if that did not work, we demolished them. We ruined the Armenian businessmen in 1942 with the Capital Tax, and then on 6-7 September 1955 with wholesale plunder. We repossessed the Armenian charitable foundation buildings in 1974. At last we succeeded in reducing the Armenian population of Turkey to 70,000.
We filled the school history books with definitions of the Armenian enemies. We forced Armenian students to write compositions derogatory to the Armenians. We witnessed government ministers, religious and intellectual leaders, soccer fans and historic society presidents using derogatory terms such as “from Armenian seed,” “Armenian bastards,” “unfortunately Armenian.” We also witnessed the secret investigation of converted or crypto Armenians since the 1930s to the 1980s. We saw persons are set free with suspended sentences after sending death threats to the Armenian religious leaders or community newspapers. We saw the most peaceful leader of the Armenian community shot to death from behind, as well as the murderers protected by the state at various levels. We observed the numerous lame excuses brought forward by a country of 70 million people in order not to open borders with a tiny country of 3 million.
Definition of an Event
As we conduct ourselves in such a manner toward a minority and toward a tiny country, do we really think that the world would believe our version of the 1915 events? Forget the world, can we believe ourselves? In my opinion, the word “genocide” is not only a legal term defining the 1915 events, but is also an all-encompassing definition of our behavior toward the Armenian minority, their culture, history, state, diaspora, our denial, exclusion, hatred and animosity toward the Armenians. The level of civilization in a society should be seriously questioned if there is complete indifference or lack of empathy to other people’s griefs. Therefore, I see a lot more benefits than strategic advantages in President Gul’s acceptance of Yerevan’s invitation, including the possible unlocking of 90 years of barriers.
Children of These Lands
The historic Armenian kingdoms stretching from Cilicia to Caucasus were quite advantageous as far as rivers are concerned, but quite the contrary geopolitically. These lands were repeatedly the scene of endless battles and occupation in wars between Rome, its successor Byzantium and Persians and Arabs, resulting in Armenians being massacred, prosecuted and deported. The Cilician Armenian kingdom did achieve its golden age during the 10th and 11th centuries, partially with the support of the Crusaders, maintaining continuous independence for more than three centuries. Although this last kingdom ended in 1375, the Catholicosate of the Armenian Apostolic Church continued to exist in these lands until 1441. After the fall of the kingdom, although some Armenians chose to stay in these lands, others settled in Italy, Russia, Syria and France.
Birth of Nationalism
After 1453, the country of Armenia was split between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Safavid Empire. The Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror invited the Armenians living in Cilicia, Western Anatolia and Bulgaria to his capital city, and established a policy combining assimilation with recognition of an Armenian millet – “community” in the Empire. Starting from the 17th century, Armenian merchant communities started to appear in various parts of the world. The first nationalist ideologies started to take root at this phase. Armenian dictionaries, literature, history books started to appear, mostly through the efforts of Catholic Mkhitarist religious organizations. The first Armenian printing house and newspaper was established in Madras, India in 1794. Unfortunately, the awakening of Armenian nationalism within the Ottoman Empire had tragic consequences. The failure of implementation of reforms in Anatolia brought clashes between the Armenians and the Ottoman government, resulting in the 1894-1895 Sasun-Urfa and 1909 Adana massacres.
Abandonment of Ottoman Identity
The proclamation of the 1908 Constitutional government in the Ottoman Empire was greeted with enthusiasm by all minorities and the non-Muslims; however, once the non-Muslims realized that the governing Ittihat Terakki Party would continue the Sultan Abdulhamid’s policies of Pan-Islamism and even replace it with a Pan-Turkism, they started moving toward independent nation-state ideals, following European trends. During a Samatya-Istanbul mass meeting before the Balkan Wars, the Finance Minister Cavit Bey stated that “Even if our Armenian citizens have complaints about our government, they are always ready to help the fatherland. I assure you, Armenians cannot be without the Turks, Armenians are the true blood brother of the Turks;” however, the 1912 Balkan War, which started with slogans of “We Ottomans will terrorize the whole world,” “Long live the Army, long live our War,” “Ottomans all the way to the Danube,” “Sofia will be ours, Philippopolis will be ours,” resulted in huge land and people losses and the Ittihat Terakki leaders, mostly originating from the Balkan territories, went into a shock. The participation of a few Caucasian Armenians in the ranks of Bulgarian and Serbian armies started to ring the alarm bells for the Armenians.
The Ottoman Armenians were encouraged by the support and promises of protection by Russia, as well as the weakened state of the Ottoman government after the Balkan War. In a rare state of unity, the Dashnak and Hnchag leaders of the Armenian community sent a letter to the Sadrazam – Prime Minister, demanding the arrest and punishment of the officials and civilians involved in the massacre and plunder of the Armenians in the Eastern Provinces. In the end, on January 8, 1914, the Ittihat Terakki government relented to implement a reform plan for the Eastern Provinces, under pressure from the European powers. Although this reform plan was much needed, it had become a mechanism of manipulating the Ottomans and aligning the interest of the individual European States.
The complete breakdown came about six months later. The Central Committee of the Ittihat Terakki Party sent Bahadin Shakir, Omer Naci and Hilmi Bey to the 8th World Congress of the Tashnag Party in Erzurum, on August 14, 1914. They tried to convince the Armenians to side with the Ottomans against the Russians in the event of a possible conflict, promising Armenian independence. The Armenians refused, sensing positive international sentiment on their side. The Armenian leaders, swollen with nationalistic ideas under the Europeans’ influence, had a plan similar to the one that would shape the nationalistic goals of Mustafa Kemal five years later – to sever the ties with the dilapidated, weakened Ottoman Empire and to found a nation-state.
Zeytun and Van Events
The Ittihat Terakki leaders who had given up on the Ottoman multinational ideology and had adopted the Turkish nationalism principles, had finally realized that there is no hope of getting the Armenians’ support; in fact, they completely understood that the Armenians would pose a big problem for them. Therefore, they started looking for pretexts to force them to leave their lands. The events of Zeytun (Suleymanli district of Kahraman Marash province) happened at this time. According to the Ottoman sources, about 60 draft dodgers had arrived in Zeytun on August 30, 1914, and along with 500-600 other Armenian youngsters, had barricaded themselves in the most secure building in the region, at the St. Mary Monastery. The army had ordered the arrest of these Armenians by Major Hursit Bey, who organized attacks by four army units, two cavalry units and two cannons. The battle of the uneven forces, which lasted all day on March 25, 1915, resulted in 37 dead and 100 wounded by the Armenians, and 8 dead (including the Major) plus 26 wounded by the Turkish army. The Armenian mayor of Zeytun, Sergeant Nazaret was also among the dead and his corpse was brought to Marash to be exhibited.
The Van events followed immediately thereafter. Although the cruel conduct of the young and inexperienced Van Governor, Cevdet Bey, is widely accepted by even the Turkish sources as a trigger for the Armenian revolt in Van, the Armenians helped the surrender of the Van Fort to the Russians in March 1915. These two events initiated the activation of a long prepared Ittihat Terakki plan. First, a large group of Armenian intellectuals from Istanbul were arrested and sent to Ayas and Chankiri, then others followed and eventually the entire Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire was driven toward the Syrian Desert.
We will not go into the details but we can categorically state that these politically initiated deportations were not limited to the Armenians in the “war zone” or only in the Eastern Provinces, but covered all regions of the Ottoman Empire. Contrary to Turkish allegations, there were also deportations from Istanbul and Izmir. Not only nationalistic Armenians were deported, but also all loyal Ottoman subjects. Not only able bodied Armenians were deported, but also newborn babies, the sick and elderly in their deathbeds. Not only the Gregorian-Apostolic Armenians were deported, but also the Catholics and the Protestants. In some regions, the Armenians were given 15 days notice prior to the deportations; in most regions, they were deported immediately, without even being allowed to carry anything other than what they were wearing on themselves.
The toll of these deportations over a period of 17 months was immense. Even Talat Pasha, the architect of the deportations, admitted in his memoirs, “The essentially militaristic prevention project had become a tragedy in the hands of officials with no conscience and no character.” (Talat Pasha Memoirs, published by Alpay Kabacali, Istanbul, Turkiye Is Bankasi Cultural Publications, 2006, p. 72). Acording to the War Crimes Committee formed by the Ottoman Interior Ministry after the war under the direction of Mustafa Arif Deymer, the number of Armenian victims was 800,000 (Vakit newspaper, March 15, 1919). The Army Chief of Staff indicated in a 1928 document that “The Eastern Provinces of Anatolia lost 500,000 Moslems during the war; another 800,000 Armenians and 200,000 Greeks died due to massacres and deportations.” (Hikmet Bayur, Turk Inkilap Tarihi, v. 3, part 4, Ankara, Turk Tarih Kurumu Yayinlari, 1991, page 787). The semi official “state historian,” diplomat Kamuran Gurun significantly discounted these numbers by stating, “Therefore, no matter how we estimate, the number of Armenians that lost their lives due to various reasons does not exceed 300,000.” (Ermeni Dosyasi, page 27).
Formation of Diaspora
The Armenian survivors of the deportations eventually travelled to all four corners of the world. At present there are communities with a population of 2 million in Russia, 800,000 in the USA, 320,000 in Georgia, 350,000 in France, 150,000 in Ukraine, 110,000 in Lebanon, 100,000 in Iran, 80,000 in Syria, 60,000 in Argentina, 60,000 in Turkey, 100,000 in Canada and 60,000 in Australia. There are also smaller communities ranging from 3,000 to 25,000 in England, Greece, Germany, Belgium, Brazil, Sweden, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Holland, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia and Switzerland. (There are claims of Armenian communities in 60 or even 85 countries). It is estimated that about 5 to 6 million Armenians live in the Diaspora.
In Turkey, the term Armenian Diaspora is automatically and negatively defined as “hated for Turks” or “confrontation.” The word Diaspora is made up of the Greek roots speiro – distributed seeds, and dia – from head to head. The word was first used to describe the Jews driven from Babylon as they were dispersed all over the world, as well as the Greeks’ various colonies. At present, all communities that had to leave their fatherland due to conditions related to war, famine, torture, economics, etc. are defined as “diaspora communities.” It is said that in the future, diasporas will become “a force without a state,” as the history, area and population of diaspora people will be greater than nation-states. There are more than 150 diaspora groups in the USA alone, and some political scientists have re-named the EU as DiasEuropa.
Regardless of their origins, all diaspora groups have some common characteristics. First of all, they keep memories of the fatherland alive, they create myths around the home and the old country, and they pass these along to the next generation. Secondly, they have a mistrust that their new adopted country will truly accept them, they feel discriminated against, they still feel strong ties toward their first country and therefore, they condition the next generation to return to their home country once the conditions are right. Third, they do their utmost helping the home country. Lastly, in order to keep their ethnic identity until it is time to return to their home country, they organize and maintain events of cultural, historic and artistic heritage. The Armenian Diaspora fully displays all these common traits. It is obvious how much effort is spent by the Armenian Diaspora in maintaining their identity when faced with forces of globalization, which is even wiping out nation-states.
Policies of the Turkish Republic
Even though we cannot decide today how to define the 1915 events as “deportation,” “massacres,” “murders,” “destruction” or “genocide,” it was not that difficult to talk about these events just when they happened. But after the 1920s it became increasingly impossible to open this subject. Certain people got annoyed when this subject came up. Who were these people? Falih Rifki Atay, who stood by Mustafa Kemal throughout his life, states in his Cankaya book that all those Ottoman officials that the Allies started to investigate and prosecute for the Armenian deportations and war crimes took up arms and joined Kemal’s resistance forces. In fact, “National War Heroes” such as Yenibahceli Sukru, Nail, Deli Halit, Kucuk Kazim, Ipsiz Recep, Dayi Mesut, Kara Aslan, Kel Oglan, Giritli Sevki, Cerkez Ethem, Serezli Parti Pehlivan, Topal Osman, Yahya Kahya are all organizers of Armenian massacres.
What is more, Ottoman officials involved with the Armenian deportations such as Deportation and Immigration General Director Sukru Kaya, Bitlis and Aleppo Member of Parliament Mustafa Abdulhalik Renda, Public Health General Inspector Tevfik Rustu Aras (in charge of mass burial of Armenians), Security Director Ahmet Esta Uras, Van Gendarmerie Commander Kazim Ozalp, Ittihat Terakki Party Aegean Inspector Celal Bayar, have all moved on to hold government posts in the new Turkish Republic, such as member of parliament, governor, minister, security director, speaker of parliament and president. Obviously it is unrealistic to expect these officials to freely talk about or admit to the “1915 events.”
Mustafa Kemal’s Attitude
What was Mustafa Kemal’s opinion about these events, who was also a member of the Ittihat Terakki Party but was pushed to the sidelines by Enver Pasha in the leadership struggle? It is a well accepted fact that Mustafa Kemal himself was not involved in the Armenian deportations. But it is uncertain what he “really” thought about these events. When he was asked about the Armenian massacres by American General Harbord in Sivas in September 1919, he responded that the Armenian massacres and deportations were the action and responsibility of a small committee that controlled the government, and that he himself “criticized and blamed” them. (Rauf Orbay, Rauf Orbay Memoirs, Yakin Tarihimiz Dergisi, v. 3, page 179). In his April 24, 1920 dated speech in the Parliament, he named the 1915 actions against the Armenians as “a shameful act in the past.” (Ataturk’un TBMM Acik ve Gizli Oturumlarindaki Konusmalari, V.1, Ankara Kultur Bakanligi Yayinlari, 1991, page 59).
After General Kazim Karabekir’s 15th Army defeated the Armenians and took back Kars, and after the Armenians gave up all their land claims with the Gumru Treaty dated December 3, 1920, his interpretation about these events changed. In an interview dated February 21, 1921 to a reporter of Public Ledger – Philadelphia, his response is clear: “World opinion which is indifferent to Great Britain’s wartime and peace time actions in Ireland, cannot find any valid accusation against us for our decisions about the Armenians. Contrary to allegations against us, the deportees have survived and most of them would have returned to their homes, if the Allies had not started another war with us.” (Ataturk’un Milli Dis Politikasi 1919-1923, C.1, Ankara, Kultur Bakanligi Yayinlari, 1981, page 273).
Bury the Past
As we know, the toughest negotiations for the Turkish delegation at the Lausanne Peace Conference were about the subject of trial and prosecution of the officials accused of the Armenian deportations. In fact, the re-opening of this subject was undesirable not only for the Turks, but also for the Allies, who could have been held indirectly responsible. More importantly, the interests of Great Britain and the new Soviet Union coincided in having a strong Turkey acting as a barrier in between. Throughout the discussions, the Armenian deportations were defined as a blot against civilization, their pain and suffering were continuously brought forward but in the end, it was decided to forgive all war crimes committed between August 1, 1914 and November 20, 1922 in a desire to bury the past. What is worse, a whole series of legislation followed preventing the Armenians from returning to their homes.
It was not only the Kemalist elite and government circles who desired to bury the past, but also the Turkish merchant bourgeoisie, which enriched itself on Armenian properties and possessions, many Turks and Moslems who plundered the abandoned Armenian homes or seized Armenian boys and girls, as well as people who moved into the void left over by Armenian craftsmen, tradesmen and businessmen. Therefore, a consensus was formed first to forget about the wrongful actions against the Armenians, and then, to forget about the Armenians themselves.
The Crisis of “The Forty Days on Musa Dagh”
But within ten years, an incident made obvious that the victims’ memory would be different than the perpetrators’ memory. The alarming incident was the news that Prague born Jewish intellectual Franz Werfel’s book, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (Belge Yayinlari, Istanbul, 2007), would be made into a US movie. Werfel’s novel described the resistance and rescue of a group of 5,000 Armenians near Antakya during the 1915 deportations, who went up the mountain of Musa Dagh under the leadership of Gabriel Bagratyan and fought the Ottoman army until rescued by a passing French warship.
The novel had created real interest when first published in March, 1933 in Vienna, but Turkey did not realize the impact until nine months later. In response to Turkish government and media pressure, Nazi Propaganda Minister Goebbels prohibited the publication of the book in Germany. However, the book had already become the favourite bedside novel in every German Jewish household. Turkey started to really panic when the book broke all records in the US by selling 35,000 copies in two weeks and when the Viennese publisher convinced Werfel to sell the movie rights for 20,000 dollars to the movie giant MGM. Led by the newspapers Cumhuriyet and Ulus, the media kept printing reports that MGM was a “Jewish company” and that there was an “Armenian-Jewish conspiracy.” In a few days, the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate Council members were forced to give a statement denouncing these developments. A group of Armenians gathered on December 15, 1935 at the Istanbul Pangalti Armenian Church and burnt copies of the book “full of false accusations against the Turkish nation,” while singing the Turkish National Anthem (Rifat N. Bali, Musa’nin Evlatlari Cumhuriyet’in Yurttaslari, Iletisim Yayinlari, Istanbul, 2003, Page 109-140).
When MGM announced in 1936 that they had decided not to pursue going into movie production of this book, Turkey appeared to have won the first “lobby” victory. But this incident made the Turkish statesmen suspicious, defensive and apprehensive toward international opinion, because they started thinking that they would be held accountable if not too careful.
The Yerevan Monument
While the minorities in Turkey were being harassed and weakened by the 1942 Wealth Tax and the 6-7 September 1955 plunder incidents, the Armenian Diaspora communities worldwide started gathering strength economically and politically. Another development was the relationship between Armenia and the Diaspora. The Tashnags driven out of Soviet Armenia in 1921 had attempted to prevent the influence of Soviet Armenia over the Diaspora Armenians and as a result, most Diaspora communities, especially in Lebanon, Iran and Greece, had become extremely nationalistic in the 1950s. Combined with the worldwide trend of emerging independence movements, the Armenian nationalists in various countries also adopted a new model.
Due to intense pressure by Armenians both within Armenia and outside, the Soviet regime in 1965 allowed for the first time the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1915 events. The mass meetings brought together hundreds of thousands in Yerevan. On April 24, 1967 a Memorial Monument for Genocide – Medz Yeghern – was opened. Prominent Armenian participants in the ceremony included all Armenian Communist Party leaders, the Armenian Catholicos and Patriarchs, World Astronomical Society Chairman Viktor Hampartsumyan, Soviet Atomic Energy Committee Chairman Antranig Bedrosyan and MIG Warplane Company Chief Designer Artem Mikoyan. The spontaneous gathering of 100,000 people outside the State Academy Theatre during the ceremony, with chants of “We want back our lands, our fatherland,” and protests of the Ittihat Terakki Party, surprised and alarmed the Armenian Communist government, and they had to rely on the Armenian Catholicos to calm down the masses. The protests lasted all day in Yerevan, expanding to most side streets. On the same day, hundreds of Armenian university students in Moscow marched on to the Turkish Embassy and lowered its flag (Haig Sarkissian, “50th anniversary of the Turkish Genocide as Observed in Yerevan,” Armenian Review 19, no. 4, Winter 1966, pages 23-28).
The Hurriyet newspaper reported on April 9, 1965: “The April 24 Armenian massacre commemorations organized all over the world with encouragement of the Greeks are being condemned by tens of thousands of our Armenian citizens living in Istanbul. These commemorations appear to be a conspiracy by the Cyprus Foreign Minister Kiprianou and unfortunately, some Armenian groups have unknowingly become instruments of his work. The Turkish Armenians have forgotten the past and at present enjoy a completely happy and peaceful life.”
The interesting aspect of this news item was the attempt to use the Turkish hatred for the Greeks due to the Cyprus issue to mobilize the masses against the new Armenian nationalism. This was a logical tactic because without the benefit of Cyprus as a catalyst, the Turks could not be brought to hate the Armenians, as the Turkish people could not understand the reasons for the Armenian nationalism after decades of conscious attempts to make them forget about the Armenians and their causes. Realizing the extent of the potential threats to the Turkish Armenian community, Armenian leaders including The Armenian Catholic Bishop Bogos Kirecyan, community leader Dr. Garabed Arman, former Senator Berc Turan, Armenian Patriarch Shnork Kalusdyan and Nubar Gulbenkyan – son of Calouste Gulbenkyan, also known as Mr. Five Percent of British American oil companies, decided to have a joint declaration pledging their allegiance and loyalty to the Turkish government. After this declaration, Milliyet newspaper chief editor Refii Cevat Ulunay wrote: “As stated by Ahmet Refik Altinay in his book, the issue is two massacres by two parties, by Ittihat Terakki and by the Tashnags. Nobody, not even historians needs to re-open these issues.” (Rifat Bali, Turk Basininda ve Turk-Ermeni Toplumunda Ermeni Kiyiminin 50th Yildonumunun Yansimalari, Toplumsal Tarih, Mart 2007, No. 159, Page 62-65).
Shock of ASALA
All of Turkey was shocked when Gourgen Yanikian, an elderly Armenian rug merchant who had immigrated from Turkey to the US, assassinated the Turkish Consul in Los Angeles and his assistant in 1973. Although the killings were not political, they inspired future activities of ASALA (Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia), which lasted from 1975 to 1985. This organization, which was probably founded in 1972, in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon in cooperation with PLO and PFLP terror groups, had the objective of publicizing the years of Turkish silence and denial of Armenians’ demands and it chose a ruthless method of assassinating Turkish diplomats starting from 1975 in 35 different operations against Turkish embassies and Turkish Air Lines offices. Although it received clandestine support both from Western and Eastern Bloc countries, France withdrew its support in 1983 when French citizens were hurt in the ASALA attack on Turkish Airline offices at the Paris Orly Airport. ASALA wound down when its leader, Agop Agopyan, was murdered and world opinion also turned against it in 1985; however, it achieved its objective of bringing the Armenian Genocide issue to international attention. But it also left a deep mark in Turkish public opinion, with increased hatred of the Western countries as enemies supporting ASALA. In fact, it reinforced the idea that Ittihat Terakki had been right in eliminating the dangerous Armenians.
Another result of the ASALA activities was that the Turkish Foreign Ministry staff, known as the most level headed and experienced public sector employees in Turkey, converted to become the most reactionary and vengeful, as the issue became revenge for personal attacks on its members.
Starting from the 1980s, many countries with active Armenian diaspora communities started commemorating April 24 as Genocide Memorial Day, which increased the Turkish paranoia in looking for Armenians behind every negative international decision. Turkey felt cornered when, one by one, many parliaments started recognizing the Armenian Genocide. In such an atmosphere, the Soviet Union broke up and Armenia declared independence on August 25, 1990. Turkey recognized Armenia after one and a half years, on December 16, 1991, but without any active diplomatic relations as the existence of Armenia seemed to be the reincarnation of ghosts which were supposed to be buried. The borders were kept closed, apart from a few short exceptions, in order to prevent any potential warming up relations between the two people. The reasons for not opening the borders were given as Armenia’s non recognition of the 1920 Gumru Treaty, Armenia’s mention of the Genocide in the 11th clause of the 1990 dated constitution, and the existence of Mount Ararat on the state coat of arms. Although Armenian government leaders repeatedly stated that they had no objections to the Gumru Treaty and no land claims, they could not convince the Turkish leaders. In 1992, the Armenian lobby in the US succeeded in limiting US aid to Azerbaijan by amending the Freedom Support Act. This further incensed the Turkish nationalists who regarded the Azeris as their blood brothers. The growing influence of the Armenian lobby within the US Congress and the media increased the Turkish hatred toward the Armenians. The Nagorno-Karabagh issue aggravated the situation even more. But what is Turkey’s involvement with this issue, you may ask? None, except for the ties with brotherly Azeris.
The Nagorno-Karabagh Issue
The Nagorno-Karabagh region, with an area of 4.400 square kilometers, came under Russian control at 1828. At that time the Azeri population was slightly more than the Armenians, but soon after the Armenians started to surpass the Azeris. Especially after 1915, when some Armenian groups deported from the Ottoman Empire also settled here, the Armenian population increased to 80-85 % of the total. A meeting of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia Communist Party leaders was convened on December 1, 1920 to decide the fate of Nagorno-Karabagh. Despite the Azeri leader Nerimanov’s objections, it was decided to annex Karabagh to Armenia. This decision was relayed to Lenin and Stalin by the Russian Caucasus representative Orkhonokidze, and this decision was also published in the December 4, 1920 Pravda state newspaper as a confirmation by Stalin. Based on the Moscow Treaty between Soviet Russia and Turkey a few months later, the region of Nakhichevan was annexed to Azerbaijan as an autonomous region. When the Armenian Tashnags started a revolt in Armenia’s Zangezur region a month later, the Russians divided Zangezur between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in addition, gave Karabagh to Azerbaijan. Zangezur is today Armenia’s border to Iran, the only friendly neighbour, and Azeris still complain that they have lost half of Zangezur because of the Russians.
The Armenian communist leaders and intellectuals gradually started to vocalize their historic arguments and rights on Karabagh and Nakhichevan after 1965. This was also a test of Soviet Russia’s abilities to resolve issues related to nationalism.
The Soviet Supreme Communist Party did not interfere in the arguments between Armenia and Azerbaijan until 1967. But when an Armenian boy was murdered by an Azeri in Karabagh in August 1967, followed by non-punishment of the murderer by the Azeri authorities, the Armenians revolted. The situation could only be calmed down by the Soviet Army moving in. This was followed by the overly enthusiastic greetings in Baku for the Turkish Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel during 19-29 September 1967. These two events were interpreted by the Armenians as signs of negative change in the Soviet Russia and Azerbaijan foreign policies. Azeri historian Ziya Punyatov’s statement that “Karabagh Armenians were originally Azeri Christians who had first became Georgians in the 11th century and then had become Armenians,” created more controversy. This was followed by various Turkish writers claiming that the Soviet Union intended to create a new Israel in Armenia. It became obvious that the Soviets could not resolve nationalistic issues (R.H. Dekmejian, “Soviet-Turkish Relations and Politics in the Armenia SSR,” Soviet Studies 19, no. 4 April, 1968, pages 510-525).
The Armenian leaders were disappointed as these issues were shelved and frozen for the next few decades. When the Eastern Block was about to break down during the years 1987-1991, armed conflicts between Armenians and Azeris resulted in numerous deaths and the seriousness of the situation became apparent. The Azeris murdered Armenians in Sumgait and Baku, while the Armenians committed murders in Khojali. As Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabagh starting from 1989, nearly 200,000 Azeris became refugees, still living in subhuman conditions in camps in Azerbaijan.
The EU has tried to resolve the situation by using the Minsk Group organization to put pressure on the Armenians. Meanwhile, Turkey, which faces similar ethnic conflict situations, has refused to enter into diplomatic relations with Armenia until this 200-year old conflict is resolved. But many people think that Turkey could facilitate and mediate if it agrees to start relations with Armenia.
The Creation of the “Alleged” Terminology
If we leave the Nagorno-Karabagh issue and return to the taboo subject of the historical Armenian Question, Taner Akçam’s 1992 book was the first time that the official denial policy could be questioned (Turk Ulusal Kimligi ve Ermeni Sorunu, Iletisim Yayinlari, Istanbul). Although this book did not sell in large numbers, Taner Akçam and subsequent historians and researchers provided documentation that the main objective of the deportations was “to destroy the Armenian ethnic existence,” regardless of the disputed number of victims. According to them, there was a crime of “genocide” and as per international law the numbers were not an issue in proving the crime of genocide. The Turkish state countered that since the term “genocide” was first used in 1944, it could not be used to describe the 1915-1917 events. They also created a strange new terminology defined as “the alleged Armenian genocide,” so that it became impossible to refer to this subject without adding the term “alleged” to the words Armenian genocide.
Next came the revision of numbers. Kamuran Gurun’s number of 300,000 got reduced to 100,000, then to 6,000, and eventually the thesis became that it was the Armenians who had committed genocide against the Turks. When these arguments were based on evidence from massacres committed by Armenians in the Erzurum region returning with the Russian armies in 1916, or by Armenians in the Antep region returning with the French armies in 1919, the masses found them believable without understanding the cause-effect or chronological sequence of events. Next came many monuments erected in various parts of Turkey, in memory of Turks genocidally massacred by the Armenians.
As per Article No. 305 of the Turkish Penal Code, it is a crime to state that “a genocide of Armenians occurred during the First World War.” A conference titled “Ottoman Armenians during the last years of the Ottoman Empire: Responsibility and Democracy Issues,” was organized by Bosphorus University on May 25, 2005, but had to be cancelled after the Justice Minister Cemil Cicek declared that this conference was tantamount to “stabbing Turks in the back.” These examples proved the emptiness of official statements such as “Let us leave the Armenian issue to the historians.” Hrant Dink’s murder also demonstrated the deadly consequences of getting involved with this issue. When and how will we be able to open the 90-year old rusty lock on this issue?
Old Foes Armenia And Turkey Put Faith In Football Diplomacy
· Presidents To Hold Talks Before World Cup Qualifier
· Neighbours At Odds Over First World War 'Genocide' ,Robert Tait in Istanbul, Guardian, Friday September 5 2008
The first tentative steps towards healing generations of bitterness between Turkey and Armenia will take place in a football stadium in Yerevan tomorrow when the two nations meet in a World Cup qualifier watched by their respective presidents.
In what has been termed "football diplomacy", Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, will attend the match after accepting an invitation from his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian, in an attempt to kick-start relations between the two neighbours, who do not have diplomatic ties.
An estimated 5,000 Turkish fans are also expected in Yerevan, Armenia's capital, after the Armenian authorities waived normal visas controls for the match in a goodwill gesture.
The presence of a large travelling army of supporters has provoked fears of violent clashes with Armenian nationalists, who have vowed to demonstrate against Gul's visit, the first to Armenia by a modern Turkish head of state.
In a sign of the political sensitivity, Gul only confirmed on Wednesday evening that he would make the trip, ending speculation that had been growing since the invitation was sent in July.
A carefully worded statement from his office said that the occasion had "meaning beyond being just a sporting event". It added: "The visit held in the context of a match will contribute to the creation of a climate of friendship in the region. The match will be an opportunity to overcome obstacles and prepare a new ground to bring the two people together."
The presidents are expected to watch side-by-side after discussions on a catalogue of issues that evoke emotion, mistrust and vast differences in perception.
Ankara and Yerevan have long been at odds over Turkey's refusal to accept as genocide the deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman troops during the first world war. Turkey insists that far fewer died, and that many of the deaths were caused by starvation and disease, but proposes establishing a joint historical commission to examine the issue.
Despite that longstanding disagreement, Turkey was among the first countries to recognise Armenia's independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But formal relations were subsequently frozen when Armenia occupied the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region following a war with Azerbaijan, Turkey's close ally. Turkey also resents Armenian territorial claims on its eastern borders.
The troubled backdrop drove opposition politicians to urge Gul not to accept the invitation, with Deniz Baykal, leader of Turkey's oldest party, the Republican People's party - founded by Ataturk, declaring that he would rather watch the game in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital. Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Action party, said the president "should not go before the problems between Armenia and Turkey are solved".
Plans for a parliamentary delegation from the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) to accompany Gul were scrapped amid fears of the trip becoming submerged in party politics.
However, the government supports rapprochement with Armenia as part of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's proposal for a Caucasus stability pact, promoted by Turkey following the recent clash between Russia and Georgia. It is also keen to prevent the genocide issue clouding future relations with the US and the EU, which have both given favourable hearings to arguments presented by Armenian diaspora groups.
Mensur Akgun, foreign policy programme director of Tesev, a Turkish thinktank, said the visit could lead to an accord on the question, thus improving international perceptions of Turkey. "There may be some progress on the joint commission to see if it was really genocide under the 1948 UN definition, meaning we will be able to face our own history which is obviously really good for a democracy," he said. "With respect to Turkey's international relations there is a lot to be gained."
Alexander Iskandarian, director of the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan, said normalised relations with Turkey would provide Armenia with a direct pathway to Europe, which the landlocked country lacks. "At the moment we have open borders with just two of our neighbours, Georgia and Iran," he said. "It costs us the same to import 1kg of goods from Europe as it does from Australia, yet most of our trade is with Europe. Open borders with Turkey would be very important to us."
The opening for the thaw in relations came when Turkey and Armenia were drawn in the same World Cup qualifying group. It will be the first time they have met at a senior level. President Serge Sarkisian of Armenia saw it as a chance for "football diplomacy" based on "ping-pong diplomacy", when the restoration of US-Chinese ties in 1972 was presaged by table tennis matches.
"Just as the people of China and the United States shared enthusiasm for ping-pong ... the people of Armenia and Turkey are united in their love of football," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. "Whatever our differences, there are certain cultural, humanitarian and sports links that our people share, even with a closed border."
Amid fears of clashes between fans, Turkey's coach, Fetih Terim, called for calm, saying: "This is only a football game not a war. We cannot carry the weight of history on our shoulders."
Progress Possible In Armenian-Turkish Relations, Ra President Says
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said that progress is possible in the Armenian-Turkish relations if the sides manifest political will and consistency.
“Inviting my Turkish counterpart to Armenia, I acted according to my convictions that directs contacts are the only effective way to normalize relations,” he said at a meeting with Armenian top diplomats.
“Of course, I have some political expectations. We should remember the past and face the future, without setting preconditions,” the President said.
He also stressed the importance of putting into operation the Gyumri-Kars line. “With facts in hand, we should prove that several kilometers of the railroad will contribute to regional cooperation,” Sargsyan said.
Most Turks Welcome Gul’s Decision To Visit Yerevan
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic & Social Research Center polled 1,251 people in several Turkish cities from Aug. 29-31 to find their views on the current political situation in the country, including President’s Gul’s decision to visit Yerevan.
Asked whether Gul should go to Yerevan to attend a soccer match between the Turkish and Armenian national teams upon an invitation from his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, 67.4 percent of those polled said he should go and 22.9 percent said he should not accept the invitation, Turkish media reports.
Armenia Should Have Good Relations With Neighbors, Without Forgetting Its National Interests
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict was is focus of an annual meeting of Armenia’s ambassadors, RA Foreign Minsiter Edward Nalbandian told a news conference on Wednesday.
Touching on Armenia’s international image, the Minister said, “Armenia should have good relations with neighbors, without forgetting its national interests.”
As to recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Minister Nalbandian said that nations have the right to determine their destiny. “This is Armenia’s position,” he said. “We believe that conflicts should be resolved peacefully, with respect for the right of nations to self-determination.”
NKR Foreign Minister Georgy Petrossian also attended the meeting.
Dashnaks Give More Details Of Anti-Turkish Protests, By Anna Saghabalian
President Abdullah Gul will face protests the moment he arrives in Yerevan and hear calls for Turkey to recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide during the football match which he is due to attend on Saturday, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) said on Thursday.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders gave details of their planned demonstrations against the first-ever visit to Armenia by a Turkish president the day after its official confirmation by Ankara.
A statement posted on Gul’s website said he has accepted his Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s invitation travel to Yerevan to watch the World Cup qualifying match between Armenia’s and Turkey’s national football teams. It expressed hope that the historic trip would provide an opportunity for the two countries to understand each other better and create a new climate of friendship in the region.
Sarkisian likewise hopes that the visit will make it easier for Ankara and Yerevan to build on the recent thaw in Turkish-Armenian relations. But Dashnaktsutyun, an influential party represented in his government and favoring a harder line on Turkey, is less than enthusiastic about Gul’s arrival.
“There is so much bizarre enthusiasm surrounding all this at the social level that one might think we are to greet our missing brother,” complained Armen Rustamian, one of the party’s top leaders. He said Dashnaktsutyun will press ahead with the planned protests to show the world that Turkish-Armenian reconciliation is impossible without the recognition of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Giro Manoyan, another Dashnaktsutyun figure, said failure to stage such protests would allow the Turks to claim that genocide recognition has lost its urgency for the people of Armenia. “We will express our political stance in a normal and acceptable way,” he said.
According to Rustamian, the demonstrations will start at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport where Gul is scheduled to arrive on Saturday morning. He said “thousands” of Dashnaktsutyun supporters will rally there before flocking to the Hrazdan stadium where they will chant genocide recognition slogans during the match. In the meantime, another crowd of activists will march to the genocide memorial on the nearby Tsitsernakaberd hill to light torches in memory of more than one million Ottoman Armenians killed between 1915 and 1918, he told journalists.
Rustamian added that Dashnaktsutyun leaders have discussed the planned actions with Sarkisian and that the president is not unhappy with them. “There is a full understanding on the issue between us and the president,” he said.
“We believe our president will understand and our people will participate,” Manoyan said, for his part.
The Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) has said that local soccer fans will be banned from bringing genocide-related and “political” banners to the 53,000-seat stadium. The FFA also controversially changed the Armenian team’s emblem last month. Its new logo no longer depicts the biblical Mount Ararat, which is located in northeastern Turkey but is considered by many Armenians as their main national symbol.
The FFA insists that the emblem change was not politically motivated. But Rustamian cast doubt on the credibility of these assurances, saying that it would be “shameful” if the federation thereby tried to please the Turks.
Gul’s upcoming visit has highlighted Dashnaktsutyun’s differences with Armenia’s long-running policy toward Turkey. Sarkisian and his predecessors have stood for an unconditional normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations and reopening the land border between the two neighboring states.
Manoyan reiterated on Thursday Dashnaktsutyun’s belief that an open border with Turkey would not necessarily be good for the Armenian economy. “Unless we are internally prepared, that border may also have negative consequences,” he said.
Manoyan also stressed the importance of genocide recognition in any Turkish-Armenian dialogue. “It’s not a precondition for starting relations,” he said. “But relations can not be normalized if Turkey fails to recognize the genocide.” www.armenialiberty.org
Inviting Turkish President Can Contribute To Restoration Of Diplomatic Relations Between Two Countries, Vice-Chairman Of Rpa Youth Wing Considers, Noyan Tapan, Sep 3, 2008
YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 3, NOYAN TAPAN. Turkish President Abdullah Gul's visit to Armenia can contribute to restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries and opening of the border. Edgar Hovhannisian, the Vice-Chairman of the youth wing of the Republican Party of Armenia, reported at the September 3 press conference. According to him, the opening of the border is a very important issue, as Armenia is almost in an economic blockade because of the Georgian-Russian conflict. At the same time he said that the issue of recognition of Armenian Genocide is not withdrawn from the agenda.
According to Hayk Asatrian, the responsible person for the ARFD youth structure office, Dashnaktsutiun would not invite Gul to Armenia, as Turkey's policy has not changed at all. Though H. Asatrian is for opening the border, he does not consider that in that case better relations will be established with Turkey than today we have with Georgia. He said that Armenia has always been for it, but Turkey has put forward preconditions in that issue. "Opening the border at the price of Turkey's preconditions will be a very big mistake," H. Asatrian said.
According to Narek Galstian, a representative of Hnchakian Party's Sargis Tkhruni student union, "it is strange that after all kinds of aggressions towards Armenia the Turkish President receives an invitation to visit the country." "This is a manifestation of capitulation for us: we as a state and a nation after 17 years' struggle show that we are not ready for continuing the struggle," N. Galstian said. According to him, Armenia's foreign policy should not have undergone such a radical change. N. Galstian considers that opening the border with Turkey is indeed necessary, but "in case of having a normal state and not a country having an oligarch economy, a clan system."
Turkish-Armenian Football Diplomacyturkish President Abdullah Gul's Visit To Armenia This Weekend Signals That Tensions Between The Two Countries Are Cooling Stephen Kinzerguardian.co.uk, September 03 2008
The announcement this week that President Abdullah Gul of Turkey will visit Armenia on Saturday suggests that the long and highly emotional estrangement between these two neighbours might finally be ending.
That would be a spectacular breakthrough for both countries. Turkey is assuming a new and promising role as a peacemaker in the Middle East and the Caucasus, but cannot be fully effective as long as it is feuding with a neighbour. Armenia is wretchedly poor and isolated, and could begin to reconnect with the wider world through a new partnership with Turkey.
There have never been high-level negotiations between these two countries, so Gul's visit can safely be described as historic. Officially he is going to attend a football match between Turkish and Armenian teams. He has let it be known, however, that he intends to do some serious negotiating with his host, President Serge Sarkisian.
"I met him in Kazahkstan," Gul told me in Istanbul last month. "I told him, 'We are the sons of this land, you see, and we have to solve our problems, not with hostile feelings - we should not feed hostile feelings.' I saw him reasonable."
Turkey was among the first countries to recognise Armenia after it became independent in 1990, but closed its land border three years later after Armenian fighters seized the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Gul is likely to discuss ways to resolve this long-festering dispute.
Turkey is paying great attention to regional security issues these days, and the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia has riveted its attention. In its wake, Turkey has proposed that all countries in the region join in a new Caucasian Stability and Cooperation Pact. Such a pact, however, would not be credible without Armenia's participation.
Turkey's rise to regional-power status has been possible only because it has dramatically improved its relations with its neighbours. Armenia is the sole exception. For more than a decade, Turkey has sought to isolate Armenia by keeping it out of regional groupings and cutting it out of oil pipeline plans. Strategists in Ankara have concluded that this policy is no longer viable. They now appear willing to seek compromise.
Whether the two leaders can make substantial progress this weekend is not the only uncertainty surrounding Gul's trip. Armenian nationalists, who match their Turkish counterparts in fanaticism, are outraged by the prospect of his visit. Some may try to disrupt the match or set off protests inside the stadium. Turkey's ruling party has denied permission for a group of its leading members to attend the match, citing security concerns.
Youth groups from the two countries, though, are planning to stage pro-peace demonstrations in and around the stadium. In Yerevan, the effort is being led by young radio announcers, one of whom told a Turkish newspaper that the time had come "to start dialogue and share our pain". That led a Turkish group called Young Civilians to organise a 50-member delegation that plans to wave peace banners at the stadium.
"We do not need official ideologies any more," the group said in a statement. "There, in that stadium, we will stand shoulder to shoulder."
Some of Turkey's powerful military commanders are said to be troubled by the idea of better Turkish-Armenian relations. So are some in the Armenian disapora, who want Turkey to admit the role that Ottoman leaders played in organising the massacre of Armenians in 1915. Within Armenia, however, most people are focused on their own troubles. A poll last year found that only 4% of Armenians think that what Turkey says or does not say about the massacre 93 years ago should matter today.
The authorities in Yerevan had to rein in the diaspora this summer.
Armenian-Americans, who have powerful influence in Washington, had managed for months to block the US Senate's approval of a new ambassador to Armenia because the nominee refused to describe the killings of 1915 as genocide.
Armenian leaders, however, decided they needed an American ambassador in Yerevan, and arranged for their friends in Washington to call off their campaign and allow the new ambassador to be confirmed.
By agreeing to begin top-level discussions, Turkey and Armenia are seeking to break the awful grip that history has on their relationship. They are realising that better relations would have dramatically positive effects on both sides of their long-sealed border - and perhaps far beyond.
What Others Say: Going To Yerevan, Turkish Daily News, Aug 31 2008
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian invited his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to watch the Turkey-Armenia national football match in Yerevan on Sept.6. I think this is a positive approach.
Gul has not announced his decision yet, but I have the impression that he will accept the offer.
Turkish people are having a hard time forgetting about the Armenian terror in the 1970s and '80s. But if Turkey wants to be self-sufficient in its region, it should be able to solve its own problems or at least show good will. Animosities should last.
The first Armenian committee was formed in 1887 with the aspiration of having an independent state.
Armenians adopted socialism. But in World War I especially, Armenian gangs in the eastern provinces helped the Russian army. So the state decided to remove them to camps in northern Iraq. Armenians were then forced to leave homes in the Ottoman Empire. But this was certainly not genocide.
Today, many countries have made allegations that the happenings then were genocide. Those who criticize us today should consider that the Japanese-Americans were put into camps during World War II. They lived in tent cities for years.
If Turkey wants to be effective in the Caucasus, as it is in the Middle East and the Balkans, it should do everything to bring peace to the region.
We should evaluate the Armenian Diaspora and Armenia separately. Moreover, Armenians in Turkey have nothing to do with this fight.
Armenia Coach: Everybody Expects Turkey To Win04 September 2008, APA
“Turkey is ranked the 10th while we are 98th in FIFA list. Turkey is considered as a favorite but they will have a psychological pressure here. Everybody expects them to win, though”, Armenia coach Jan Poulsen told a press conference today.
Danish trainer stated that his team plays at home which gives them priority in the match.
“We should perform the same play against Turkey as we did against Poland and Portugal. We know how to play against strong rivals”, he said.
Armenia – Turkey match will take place on September 6 in Razdan stadium, Yerevan.
'We're Not Hooligans,' Says Dasnaksutyun, 04 September 2008, Tdn
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.
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.
Abdullah Gül's 'Yerevan Expedition' (Cengiz Çandar), 04 September 2008, Tdn
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 …
Usual Suspects Oppose Turkish-Armenian Rapprochement (Mustafa Akyol)04 September 2008, TDN
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
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?
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.
Freezing Relations With Armenia More Necessary For Turkey Itself: Co-Founder Of Azerbaijani Youth Movement
Trend News Agency,
Azerbaijan, Baku, 3 September /corr. Trend News J.Babayeva /Azerbaijani youth are concerned by Turkish President Abdulla Gul's visit to Armenia.
"We hope that the purpose of Gul's visit to Armenia is not only to watch the football match, but also to obtain from Armenia concrete, significant reciprocal steps as a result of this gesture. If Gul does not attain this, the results of his visit to Armenia can be dangerous for Turkey and for the entire Turkic world," Co-founder of Azerbaijan Youth Movement 'Ireli', Jeyhun Osmanli, on 3 September.
The President of Armenia, Serj Sarkisyan, invited Abdulla Gul to the match of the Turkish and Armenian national football teams which will take place on 6 September in Yerevan.
The public of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Armenia attentively follows whether Turkey will receive the invitation of Armenia, with which it has no diplomatic relations.
There are no diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia and the Turkish-Armenian borders have been closed since 1993. For the re-establishment of the bilateral relations, Ankara calls upon Armenia to give up its policy of internationally recognition of 'Armenian genocide', reported to be committed by the Ottoman Empire, to recognize borders of Turkey and withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territories.
Accordign to Osmanly, some people erroneously think that Azerbaijan is interested in the absence of relations between Turkey and Armenia. "Freezing Turkish- Armenian relations is more necessary for Turkey itself. Because the parliaments of more than 20 countries of world officially recognized so-called genocide, claims on which Armenians advanced against Turkey. But Armenia respectfully approaches the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan because today self-proclaimed republic Nagorno-Karabakh was not recognized by any country, even by Armenia itself.
The diplomatic victory of Armenia above Turkey is obvious. Until now Turkey followed balance because of the absence of relations. Turkey's demonstration of unilateral softening of positions, while Armenia does not reject claims against it and Azerbaijan, it will end with the fact that the country will lose the existing means of political pressure," said Osmanly.
According to Osmanly, Turkey pretends to become the center 300mln Turkic world, and constantly voicing this desire, it undertakes concrete steps in this regard. "In order to become the center, Turkey must demonstrate sensitivity in moral questions of its supporters and its people," he added.
Osmanly also noted that the majority of the youth movements of Turkey negatively relate to Gul's visit to Armenia. "They expect nothing new from this visit. Young people hope, but probably among the purposes of the visit there are moments unknown for them, of which results will be in favor of Azerbaijan and Turkey," said Osmanly.
Arf-Dashnaktsutyun Will Not Meet Gull With Eggs 04 September, 2008
“If it’s permitted to make a rally against the President, it means it’s also permitted to make a rally against President’s guest as long as those rallies are within civilized manners,” Kiro Manoyan, Head of the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun office of Hay Dat and Political Affairs announced today once more. The events related to Turkey President Abdullah Gull’s visit are inevitable.
He mentioned that it’s not every day we evidence Gull’s arrival in Armenia and we can’t miss our chance to introduce our views to him. “His visit doesn’t make any changes. We will raise the existing issues between Armenia-Turkey relations with the help of our political activities and do hope they will be solved. Turkey President should be aware that we don’t take his visit as a big “favor”. I think we will be understood right both by Armenian people, Armenia and Turkey Presidents.
Mr. Manoyan also mentioned that Turkey had encountered problems with Armenia starting from the very first day of Armenia Independence. In political outlook of Turkey, there has been no Armenia since 1920. They have never imagined that there can be an independent Armenia next to them. After Armenia had got independence, they started thinking the only independent Armenia they can stand is poor, miserable and dependent on Turkey. The easiest way for them is not to have any relations with Armenia. We believe in starting frank discussions of issues between the two countries without applying military force and without pre-conditions.
Mr. Manoyan doesn’t consider the Recognition of 1915 Armenian Genocide by Turkey a pre-requisite put by Armenian side and he grounds, “We don’t put conditions, but how can we start relations with a country, which committed a sin against humanity by realizing 1915 Genocide and now doesn’t accept it?” How will Gull’s visit be reflected on Aremenian-Turkish relations and Nagorno-Karabakh issue? Replying to this question, Kiro Manoyan pointed out, “Turkish incentive derives from the outlook that the policy which they started in 1993, that is Armenia blockade, and setting pre-conditions, hasn’t been justified.” I’m not doubtful that we should yield to Turkey. If Turkey stops talking to Armenia in a manner of ultimate conditions, there can be changes in relations. Otherwise, I don’t see any sense in his visit. It will not result to any consequences.
Finally Mr. Manoyan, reminded us that when our Patriarch visited Turkey, there were rallies, even eggs were thrown at him. However he assured us that ARF-Dashnaktsutyun will not meet Gull with eggs.
Can Armenians And Turks Be On Friendly Terms?, A1+ 03 September, 2008
Today the main theme of discussions in Armenia's political circles is Turkey's President Abdullah Gul's upcoming visit to Armenia. A1+ tried to know our fellow-citizens opinion on Gul's arrival.
"Turks have always been our enemies. They always hated us and felt disgust towards Armenians. What is the use of inviting them to Armenia today? Do we really need them?" said 69-year-old Knarik. Her grandfather was murdered by Turks in 1915.
In the main, old-age people agree with Grandma Knarik saying that Turkey will never be on good terms with Armenia.
"Turks are fraudulent people. No matter how much our president tries to reconcile the sides his efforts will surely fail doing harm to Armenia," said 62-year-old Vardan.
Unlike elderly people youth welcome the authorities' step. "They simply want to better the tense bilateral relations," said 24-year-old Hasmik who wants to live in peace.
"Surely we should forget neither the Genocide nor its perpetrators. And yet, we shouldn't allow our countries to speculate the matter for their good. Armenia and Turkey had better solve their problems with joint efforts," said 20-year-old Hayk.
18-year-old Alina says her friends from Iran write to her every day and scold for the invitation. "They say they don't live in Armenia because of the Turks."
37-year-old Vigen doubts that Armenia and Turkey can ever reconcile.
"They instill hatred in Turkish children towards Armenians still in cradles. How can Turks love us?" wondered 37-year-old Vigen.
"The youth of the 21st century are against wars. We are ready to conciliate with Turks. We do believe that Turkish youth will agree with us," said 19-year-old Laura.
Turkish People Have Refused To Visit Armenia A1+ 02 September, 2008
Turkey Football Federation has officially rejected its disposed tickets for September 6, 2010 World Cup qualifying match. This news was announced by Ruben Hayrapetyan, the chairman of Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) at today's press conference.
"According to FIFA regulations host country is obliged to place 5% of match tickets at visiting country's disposal, but Turkey Football Federation has officially refused pointing out that their fans will not arrive in Armenia. Their delegation consists just of 130 people", said the chairman of Armenian Football Federation.
Armenian national team introduced a new emblem on occasion of Armenia-Turkey match. Its official presentation took place at the beginning of the conference. Ruben Hayrapetyan explained the change of the emblem of FFA by the request of football fan community. Many football fans didn't like the previous one. But what refers to the point of Mt. Ararat image on the previous one, there were no complaints on that and nobody was to prohibit us. We simply considered right to change it to meet the social claim.
Ruben Hayrapetyan excluded that Armenia and Turkey teams can hold an arranged results match taking into consideration the existing political situation between the two countries. "How could respected countries make a deal like that?"
Coming to the footballers' trainings the chairman of FFA drew attention to the fact that team candidates have already joined the National Team being physically fit. "Yesterday we had part-team slight trainings. Four people hadn't arrived yet but they have already arrived by now and will take part in today's trainings. I have talked to the coach and he was pleased with all the candidates. It makes me happy that none of them has any injuries. Yesterday I also conducted a meeting. All the footballers have strong competitive will and it's indisputable that we will be a success in this match".
At that gathering Ruben Hayrapetyan aimed the footballers to win the match in the upcoming competition. "The Team has also a task to attain a pass to 2010 World Cup final. It has been 6 years I am the chairman of FFA and I have never set a goal to draw the match. My targets are maximum gains and I always aim the team to win."
Ruben Hayrapetyan appealed football fans arrive at the Stadium 30-40 minutes before the match. "When there is a big crowd, it's physically impossible to provide their entrance to the Stadium on a high level".
A Game Neither Side Can Lose Andrew Finkel
Never underestimate the power of sport. A curious side effect of the Olympic Games in Beijing is that they have helped stave off a looming recession on the other side of the globe.
It seems that the "feel good" factor that followed in the wake of Great Britain's heady climb up the medal tables has contributed to a sense of optimism about the future. This, in turn, has nudged consumers into spending today without worrying about tomorrow.
So it is not surprising that investors and anyone concerned about Turkey and its region's future will be watching, shoulders tensed, the 2010 World Cup qualifying match being played in the Armenian capital of Yerevan this coming Saturday. But it is not the score that matters. Indeed, most eyes will not be on the pitch at all but on the conduct of the crowd and on the body language of two spectators at the front of the VIP box -- President Serzh Sarksyan of the host nation and Abdullah Gül, president of Turkey.
Turkey and Armenia share both a border and a troubled recent history. The unprecedented visit by a Turkish head of state, even just to watch a football match, has already been hailed as a major breakthrough. The Russian invasion and continued occupation of parts of Georgia have lent the visit a much graver significance now than when first proposed many months ago. Unlike Tbilisi, Yerevan has accepted its place within Moscow's orbit. Yet it has paid a high price for the Russian destruction of the region's transportation network and Moscow's blockade of Georgian ports. Restoring friendly relations with Ankara and reopening the Turkish frontier to commercial traffic matters more now than ever.
Mr. Gül's initiative is in his own nation's interests. Having hostile relations with an adjacent neighbor undermines Ankara's claim to be on the side of the angels in brokering peace in a slew of other conflicts, including that between Israel and Palestine, as well as between the West and the "axis of evil" nations Syria and Iran. The Turkish decision to keep its border shut was initiated in deference to its important and energy-rich ally in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan. However, to the rest of the world, the Goliath-like stance against a pint-sized neighbor appears to be little more than a form of denial of Armenia's accusation that the Ottoman treatment of its Armenian citizens in 1915 constituted genocide. Mr. Gül's show of good faith in making the short hop to watch a football match at the very least puts Turkey in a more flattering light. Of course it is possible that he will be met with jeers from the crowd (although the Armenian government will be no less forceful than its Chinese counterparts in seeing that the stadium crowd is well behaved). Even in that case, it will be the hosts' lack of civility which will be seen to be at fault.
The case for Mr. Gül not attending the match (it has still not been officially confirmed) is really an argument for a permanent state of hostility. It sits badly beside a Turkey which has afforded hospitality for an Iranian president who disdains to pay a courtesy visit to the mausoleum of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, or with the football diplomacy of the Turkish prime minister, who attended a match in Aleppo with Bashar al-Assad, or even with Mr. Gül's own decision to put diplomacy ahead of morality and shake hands in I.stanbul with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been charged with genocide by the International Criminal Court. Turkey's continued tough stand against Armenia appears less motivated by national interest than out of a calculation that the country, despite its ties to an influential diaspora, is too small to matter. The changing balances in the Caucasus suggest this is not the case.
All this is a lot to put on the shoulders of 22 men kicking a football. They can take heart that this must be a rare moment in professional sporting encounters when it is not whether they win or lose that matters, but how they play the game. 04.09.2008
Armenian Team Changes Emblem Before Turkey Match
The Armenian national soccer team, poised to play against Turkey in a World Cup qualifying game on Saturday, will be using a new emblem featuring the figures of a tiger and a lion instead of a silhouette of Mount Agri, also known as Mount Ararat, in eastern Turkey.
Turkey and Armenia have had no formal ties since 1993. One of the conditions Ankara expects Yerevan to fulfill for normalization of relations is formal recognition of the current border with Turkey. Turkish decision-makers are concerned that the Armenian administration has claims on Turkish territory, and the depiction of Mount Agri on the Armenian national team emblem is seen as a sign of Armenia's desire to claim a piece of eastern Turkey. The Armenian Constitution describes Mount Agri as a "state symbol," and Armenia's declaration of independence mentions eastern Turkey as "Western Armenia."
The new emblem of the Armenian national team was introduced to the public at a press conference in Yerevan on Wednesday. Speaking at the briefing Armenian Football Federation Chairman Ruben Hayrapetyan said the change of emblem was due to a demand to that effect from football fan associations, noting that the previous emblem was not popular among national team fans. An Armenian official in Yerevan told Today's Zaman that the emblem had been changed a month ago and that the new emblem will be used for the first time in the World Cup qualifying match against Turkey. He denied, however, any link between the change and the game against Turkey.
Although officials dismiss a connection between the new emblem and the upcoming match, the change is likely to be considered a good will gesture by the Armenian side. Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan invited his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gül, to watch the game in Yerevan. Gül has not said yet whether he would attend, but he is widely expected to accept the invitation. 04 September 2008, Süleyman Kurt Zaman
Gül's Yerevan Visit Welcomed By All But Extremists, Opposition
A considerable number of columnists in the mainstream Turkish media have welcomed a probable visit on Saturday by President Abdullah Gül to Yerevan at the invitation of his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, to watch the World Cup qualifying game between the two countries' national soccer teams, while extremist newspapers and opposition parties openly criticized the visit, saying it would harm Turkey's image.
Yet, without any direct references to it, the visit has also gained backing from Turkey's NATO ally, the United States.
The White House, commenting on a telephone conversation between US President George W. Bush and Gül, touched upon the recent thaw in relations between the two estranged neighbors.
The main focus of the conversation between Gül and Bush was Georgia and the Caucasus in general. The two underlined the importance of full compliance with a six-point European Union-brokered cease-fire agreement, Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the US's National Security Council, said on Tuesday. "The two leaders also talked about their support for efforts to improve Turkish-Armenian relations and the growing Turkish-Iraqi relationship," Johndroe said.
In Ankara, the Çankaya presidential palace said Gül had informed Bush about Ankara's initiative for establishing a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. Proposed as a mechanism to develop conflict resolution methods among the Caucasus countries, the platform is planned to be made up of Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
In Yerevan, Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, the deputy undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry, met Sarksyan and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to discuss arrangements for Gül's visit, according to the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
Almost all Turkish dailies yesterday covered the issue -- some with news articles and some in columns. The Sabah daily quoted Turkish national team coach Fatih Terim as saying, "This is just a football match, not a war," while the ultra-secularist Cumhuriyet daily preferred to quote a retired ambassador as saying it is the "wrong timing for a visit."
Pro-business Hürriyet on its front page covered a call by the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSIAD) encouraging Gül to pay the expected visit, while Star daily quoted Samson Ozararat, who in the 1990s arranged a meeting between the late Alpaslan Türkes and former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian. "It will be a big step even if they just sit and watch the match," Ozararat was quoted as saying by Star.
Mustafa Karaalioglu, editor-in-chief of Star daily, wrote in his column yesterday that Gül's apparent decision to go to Yerevan is "an appropriate and delayed decision."
Turkey should get rid of its taboos, both inside and outside of the country, Karaalioglu wrote in his column, the title of which said "Gül must go … just as Sezer, Demirel and Özal should have gone," listing names of former presidents and saying such a move should have come much earlier than now.
In Yerevan, Ter-Petrosian, now top leader of the Armenian National Congress (HAK), which is the country's main opposition force, said he would welcome Gül's visit. Ter-Petrosian, who has long championed a Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, said the match offered a good reason for thawing bilateral relations. Meanwhile, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) rallied several thousand supporters in Yerevan on Tuesday to oppose the visit and pledged to hold more such demonstrations during Gül's expected visit. 04 Sep 2008, Today's Zaman
Armenia-Turkey Football Match Against The Background Of Violated Strategic Balance In Caucasus - Analysis
Azeri Press Agency Sept 1 2008 Azerbaijan
For the first time in the history of Armenia a Turkish President will visit the country
Though Abdullah Gul's visit to Armenia aims at watching football match, this visit has more political weight. For the first time in the history of Armenia a Turkish President will visit the country. What makes this visit inevitable? Official reason is to watch a football match, unofficial reason - Turkey's intention to show its interest in the regulation of the relations with Armenia.
Outcomes of Russia-Georgia military confrontation violated strategic balance in the Caucasus. The strategic balance formed in the Caucasus with the participation of all the players of the world and region policy after the collapse of the USSR changed in favor of Russia. This is a great danger for Turkey - one of the main players of the ongoing processes in the region.
The reality is that the West and its main player in the region Ankara may lose levers of influence in the South Caucasus. If Russia forms levers of full influence over Georgia, it will mean Turkey's extrusion from the South Caucasus. Therefore Ankara is going to review all the alternatives to protect its strategic interests in the region, as well as the alternative of regulating the relations with Armenia.
Besides, the European Union is laying down the extension of Ankara -Yerevan relations as an indirect condition. The European Union, which once used Cyprus card against Turkey, now exerts pressure on Ankara in terms of Armenia. Unfortunately, it seems that Ankara will step back with respect to Armenia like in Cyprus issue.
Opening borders with Armenia is one of the chewed topics of the Turkey's agenda and even serious political and economic circles are speaking about its possibility. If Ankara restores at least border trade it will stop mouth of the United States and European Union, which insist in establishing civil relations with Yerevan, and internal pressure groups as well.
Recently pro-government research centers in Turkey use the thesis that if Turkey opens borders with Armenia it will strength it weakened power in the South Caucasus. Supporters of this thesis think that by blockading Armenia Turkey increases its dependence on Russia. "In contrary, widening of political and economic relations with Armenia can weaken its dependence on Russia and increase Turkey's influence in the South Caucasian countries", they said. It seems Turkey's initiative of the Caucasian Stability Pact also bases on this thesis.
Ankara is not cautious in the issues related to relations with Armenia unlike previous period.
a) Intensifying negotiations between the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministries, b) Ankara's non-rejecting of this fact, but justifying it, c) Prime Minister Erdogan's statement "establishing direct relations with Armenia is possible and our initiative aims close cooperation of five countries" d) and at last Abdullah Gul's consent to visit Yerevan to watch Armenia-Turkey match have a such meaning.
"Russia's success in the influential war in the South Caucasus and European energy market caused serious changes in the Turkey's foreign policy. Ankara made relations with Armenia one of its priorities".
Turkish President Abdullah Gul's visit to Yerevan is realized under the dictation of complicated political situation. Will Ankara reach its goal with such gestures? It depends on the development of regional processes rather than Turkey and Armenia. It is doubtless that Turkish-Armenian approach will cause negative reaction in Azerbaijan. Ankara's gestures to Armenia means de-facto refusal of three terms put forward for establishing relations with Armenia. One of these terms relates with Azerbaijan - Armenian withdrawal from occupied Nagorno Karabakh and nearby regions. Is it really that Turkey refuses these terms? Turkish officials have to make clear this question.
Turkey Seeks Assurances From Armenia For Gul's Trip, Turkish Daily News September 1, 2008
A high-level diplomatic and security delegation will be dispatched to Armenia this week, ahead of President Abdullah Gul's trip to Armenia on Sept. 6 for the first-ever international football match between the two countries. The delegation has been sent to ease security concerns and outline the issues to be discussed during the trip. If realized, it will be a first-ever Turkish presidential visit to Armenia and as such its importance may help break certain taboos.
"I will send a delegation to Yerevan to hold talks on the possible visit of President Gul," Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told reporters yesterday during a press conference with his Georgian counterpart. However, Babacan did not give details of what the delegation would discuss with Armenian diplomats. Turkish and Armenian diplomats meet secretly from time to time in third countries. The last meeting took place in Bern last July.
Turkey cut its diplomatic ties and closed its border with Armenia after Yerevan's occupation of Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabagh region in 1993. Armenia's decision not to recognize Turkey's borders and in describing the Van and Kars region as Western Armenia, as well as efforts to promote the alleged genocide in the third countries' parliaments as a foreign policy tool, are two other major problems between the two countries.
In such an atmosphere, the meeting of the two countries' national teams in the same World Cup qualification group sparked a new effort to normalize bitter ties. Armenian President Serge Sarkisian officially invited Gul to Yerevan for the match, a move that was warmly welcomed by the United States and the European Union.
Though the official announcement has not yet been made, all indications show that Gul's assessment will be likely to be positive.
"I am still evaluating. I have not made a decision yet," Gul told reporters late Saturday on the sidelines of a reception held by the Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug.
Babacan to accompany Gul
However, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was much more open on the issue. Erdogan implied that Turkey was ready to discuss the problems and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan would also be present during the trip. The expectation is that the announcement will be made after talks this week.
According to foreign ministry officials, Sarkisian's interview with the daily Radikal last week was an important factor in shaping Ankara's decision. Gul, for his part, does not want to be the one who refuses the invitation that could put Turkey in a more difficult situation in the future.
However, despite the Armenian president's moderate messages there are still points to be solved. Many nationalist groups in Yerevan are planning to hold massive protest rallies Saturday and even during the match, according to some officials.
"Any unexpected negative development during the visit could totally kill the normalization process. That's what we are worried of," officials told the Turkish Daily News on Saturday.
Officials also underlined that Gul's visit would not put Turkey's state policy toward Armenia at stake.
"Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijan's territories is a fact recognized by the United Nations resolutions. This visit will have no affect on our policies," the same officials said.
US is encouraging parties
One of the behind-doors-architect of the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement process, the United States is continuing to push both countries for dialogue
"I am not aware of Gul's decision," Ross Wilson, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey told the TDN on Saturday. "But, the U.S. has long been encouraging both countries for dialogue."
He also said Gul's trip to Yerevan would be an important message to all countries in the region which fell once again into turmoil after Russia's offensive against Georgia. A European diplomat, speaking to TDN on the condition of anonymity, said a rejection to the invitation would be seen as a missed opportunity for Gul.
Baykal: Gul should not go
Meanwhile, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, opposed the idea of a presidential visit to Yerevan, speaking to journalists late Saturday on the sidelines of the reception.
"What has changed that makes the president want to travel to Armenia?" said Baykal, recalling that diplomatic ties were cut as a result of Yerevan's occupation of Azerbaijan's territories. "Did they promise a withdrawal from there or a recognition of Turkey's borders, which they haven't since the early 90s?" Baykal said the rapprochement plan was designed by the United States for the purpose of tearing off Turkey from Azerbaijan
"Turkey cannot take any steps that could hurt its ties with Azerbaijan. His visit would be a major deviation from the state policy," he said
Armenian reactions generally positive Some, like international relations Aram Hagopyan expert were apprehensive about the visit saying, "The most important story in Armenia right now is this game. The possibility of Gul's arrival has left the football in the shadow of the politics. Even those who have no interest in the game talk about it, but nobody thinks Gul will accept the invitation." Hagopyan disagreed with the Turkish press' wrongful citing of Armenian sources, claiming that the local press was expecting 20,000 Turkish fans in attendence.
He said, "as opposed to the Turkish press' claims, the numbers in Armenia are expected to be no higher than in the hundreds." Giro Manoyan, the international representative of the Dashnaktsutyun, or the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, said there were very important historic problems with Turkey that needed to be solved, telling the Turkish Daily News, "There are plans to hold demonstrations for President Abdullah Gul's arrival in Yerevan, but certainly nothing excessive. All we wish to accomplish with the demonstrations is to draw global attention to the topic of genocide." However, the overall view was positive.
"The Armenian people's interest in this game is great," said Yerevan State University academic Siranuys Dvoyan. "President Gul's visit is of course very important, but more important is the two peoples coming together. Prejudices between the two peoples will only be overcome with time and dialogue."
Soccer Diplomacy Moving Forward? by Daniel Beast / September 2, 2008
As it stands we are a mere four days away from the much-heralded soccer diplomacy and leaves everyone asking "what's going to happen?" Officially, we don't even know if Gul is going or not. Sargsyan extended his invitation months ago, shortly after secret talks in Switzerland were leaked to the public, but Gul has yet to officially respond. A late-July visit to Ani was thought to be a nod to and positive sign for Armenia, however based on Gul's comments there, namely "Ani is important to us because...... it is where Turks first entered Anatolia" left me downright angry instead of encouraged. An Armenian reporter on the scene tried to get any sort of positive statement out of Gul but none came. Perhaps he has been coy though, going to Armenia is a major step and major controversy amongst people in both countries and he is likely being careful not to stir the cauldron too much in Turkey. Sargsyan has been more forthcoming and restated his invitation and desire for better relations with Turkey numerous times- aside from the Dashnak minority however I don't think such statements are as controversial within blockaded Armenia.
I've assembled my own timeline of what I think has gone on behind the scenes and why I have always been confident the Turkish president will go, despite what many others have been thinking. News of secret talks were leaked in mid-July, the culprit still a mystery but likely to be either an unhappy faction in the Turkish power structure- it is no secret the military and factions of the opposition want relations with Armenia to remain locked- or Azerbaijan who has been panicking over this development. It is also unknown how long secret talks went on or if they ever would have been revealed if the leak hadn't occured. The invitation to Turkey was extended shortly after, indicating to me it must have been coordinated. Very few things in international relations are not choreographed and I think the fact it shortly followed that round of secret talks is hardly a coincidence. Extending this invitation put Sargsyan out on a limb and Turkey in a corner. Both were put in precarious positions by it, especially Turkey who would look bad internationally by rejecting it. Visiting a nation you have blockaded for 15 years and with whom your "brother nation" is in a state of war with isn't something taken lightly and I can't imagine this invitation wasn't made after careful negotiations and and agreement of both parties behind the scenes. Thus I find it no surprise that all indications are now pointing towards Gul accepting the invitation, which he likely must have done long ago privately, unless we are to believe he actually expects Armenia to completely prepare for his groundbreaking and security nightmare of a visit in a matter of hours.
Speculation on Gul's lack of a response so close to the game has been cause for different speculation in numerous different directions. Some think by not saying yes or no, something can conveniently come up at the last minute which Gul has to attend and he can back out at the last minute, perhaps sending a lesser official or no one at all. However if this was the case I'd think it would have come up already, no sense in having that very important conflicting meeting or event come up just days before the game in what would obviously look like a last minute "I have to stay home and wash my hair" sort of excuse to get out of a bad date. Others think, and what I believe to be much more likely, that this delay is to give those who would protest his visit or seek to cause trouble the least amount of time possible to organize. It makes me wonder why Sargsyan didn't wait longer in extending the invitation if they really want to give them less time, because truly diehard protestors would likely start organizing whether or not he was officially coming just in case, but then again how many diehard protestors can there really be in Armenia itself regarding this issue with so many distractions and the reality of life in Armenia giving them other things to worry about. Speculation as to whether he will or won't attend is rather outdated at this point as over the weekend the small Turkish newspaper Taraf broke the news, though there was still reason to doubt because some speculated it was just a test balloon to gauge reaction. A few days later in an interesting/strange contradiction, Prime Minister Erdogan actually indicated Gul and Foreign Minister Babajan would be in Armenia for the game next week while at the very same event Gul continued to deny he had made a decision. It is also worth noting that there was an interesting exchange of interviews around the same time, one from President Sargsyan and one from Gul, both published in the Turkish newspaper Radikal in which they made friendly overtures to each other, such as Gul telling Armenia that Turkey is not an enemy.
Other occurrences on the sidelines of the drama over 'will he/won't he' we have the total renovation of the Hrazdan stadium preparing to host the event, the novelty that the stadium is only meters away from the Genocide Memorial (though I am quite sure Gul will only be going halfway up that hill), and the recent Turkish proposal of a Caucasian Union for Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey and Russia. Some think this was invented purely as an excuse for heightened negotiations between Turkey and Armenia because nobody thinks a regional alliance can actually work, what with Russia at Georgia's throat and Azerbaijan and Armenia in a state of cold war. The Caucasus is a complete mess and Turkey has long wanted to extend its influence there. While the U.S. supports open borders, it is likely Russia's part in this union as well as Turkey's failure to notify the U.S. ahead of time (as they had come to an understanding that Turkey would do regarding any developments in the region) which caused Matt Bryza, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, to respond very surprised and cooly to word of this proposal. If it wasn't for Azerbaijan's influence over Turkey in this matter I wouldn't be surprised if the border was already open, or at least relations further along, but it has been pressure from Baku which has probably been the biggest roadblock for those within Turkey who want to see relations with Armenia. One can't discount the influence of the military and secularists who by and large have been severely opposed to relations with Armenia as well and have long suffered from a monolithic and unchanging option on relations with it. It has only been the road paved by the AKP which brought some new thinking to the Turkish government while diminished the influence of those previously mentioned forces in the government.
In the past few years Turkey has been extending its influence in the Middle East quite a bit, for example by having peacekeepers in Lebanon and acting as a conflict manager for parties in the region. Its ability to do the same to the east has constantly been curtailed by its total lack of influence over Armenia thanks to locked borders and it has had to rely on Georgia as its only outlet. In that sense the football invitation has had pitch perfect timing. For most of 2008 I had been hearing from some people in the know that the west could no longer rely on Georgia and were now in a full-court press for improved relations between Turkey and Armenia. At the time I don't know if anyone could imagine how quickly things would blow up but they knew Georgia was a ticking time bomb, its instability a secret to no one. In light of the war Sargsyan's invitation became that much more vital as Georgia's east-west road has only recently come unblocked and Russia hanging out just miles away. At the same time, the blockade has all put pushed Armenia into Russia's arms and most of its infrastructure has already been bought up by Russia. Turkey and the west have likely decided this has gone on for too long and if they have any hope to remain a power in this vital part of the world they need to do something fast. So this is where we find ourselves today, on the verge of a possible breakthrough in Turkey-Armenia relations after what has been literally almost a century of silence and bitterness. There are still many concerns, not least of which the feeling that Sargsyan is trying to counter his unpopularity at home with support abroad by such moves- and what we can assume might be tough concessions which come from them. Others doubt anything will come from this visit at all, but how can anything so profound happen without a single result?
No matter what, it seems this historic and extremely improbable visit will be going through after all. With confirmations from just about everyone except President Gul himself, with Turkish special forces apparently already on the ground in Yerevan preparing for his protection, there is little reason to think otherwise. Even frenzied Azerbaijan is coming to terms with the eventuality of the visit, the number of articles decrying the potential visit lessening and Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan Hulusi Kilic announcing "Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Armenia will be useful for Azerbaijan", anger could still bubble over there depending on the visit's outcome. One is left to marvel at the way events have unfolded since last year- Armenia having been grouped in the previous qualifiers with Azerbaijan leading to two canceled games between them after dispute over venues. It was promised that Armenia would not be grouped as such again, only to have it "randomly" picked to face Turkey instead in this group of World Cup qualifiers! From here things snowballed and brought us to today, where football is being seen as the hope to start up diplomatic and economic relations between two long-time enemies, and hopefully start to repair the human and emotional which lies between them as well.
Dashnaks Detail Planned Gul Protests By Hovannes Shoghikian and Ruben Meloyan
The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) rallied several thousand supporters in Yerevan on Tuesday and pledged to hold more such demonstrations during Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s expected visit to Armenia.
The rally held outside Yerevan’s Matenadaran museum of ancient Armenian manuscripts was officially dedicated to the 17th anniversary of Nagorno-Karabakh’s declaration of independence from Azerbaijan. But speakers addressing the crowd in scorching weather mostly touched upon other issues, notably Turkish-Armenian relations and the situation in neighboring Georgia. scorching
Vahan Hovannisian, one of the leaders of the nationalist party represented in Armenia’s government, spent much of his speech making a case for Georgia’s transformation into a “confederation” where the Armenian-populated Javakheti region would have a high degree of autonomy. “In this case, the rights of Javakheti [Armenians] would be protected,” he said.
Hovannisian claimed that giving Javakheti the status of an autonomous region would discourage other ethnic minorities from seeking to secede from Georgia. It was an apparent reference to the populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Dashnaktsutyun has voiced similar calls in the past. Official Yerevan has always disavowed them, placing the emphasis on the need to address grave socioeconomic problems facing Javakheti.
Dashnaktsutyun leaders further exposed their foreign policy differences with President Serzh Sarkisian when they reaffirmed plans to organize street protests against Gul’s likely arrival in Yerevan. One of them, deputy parliament speaker Hrayr Karapetian, said the protests will start at Zvartnots international airport where the Turkish president is expected to arrive on Saturday morning.
“We will properly meet Abdullah Gul,” Karapetian told the demonstrators, many of them school students and other young people bused from outside Yerevan.
“We are preparing to hold a serious, solid and disciplined demonstration in order to show the mood of our people,” another Dashnaktsutyun leader, Hrant Markarian, told RFE/RL. “After all, a counter-propaganda is underway and we must react to it correctly.”
“When the Turkish president visits France, French Armenians demonstrate. When he visits Greece, Greek Armenians demonstrate. So if it would be shameful if we did not make our voice heard in our own country,” he said.
Markarian was careful not to openly criticize Sarkisian for the invitation extended to Gul, citing the need for Armenia to maintain inter-state relations with Turkey. “But the existence of those relations can not cause us to abandon our causes,” he added.
Dashnaktsutyun believes that the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations is impossible without Ankara recognizing the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. The party, which has branches in major Armenian communities around the world, also does not rule out the possibility of Armenian territorial claims to Turkey in the event of such recognition.
Armenia: Politics Banned in Stadium Amid Turkish Visit by Blogian on 03 Sep 2008
Political signs of any kind - including banners about the Armenian Genocide - will not be allowed in Yerevan’s largest soccer stadium this Saturday where Armenia and Turkey will play for the first time. Armenia Liberty quotes the chair of Armenia’s Football Federation as saying, “Only football-related placards will be allowed there. A victory for Armenia would send a much stronger message that a few banners.”
Armenia’s nationalist Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) party, in the meantime, has started protesting Turkish president Abdulla Gul’s anticipated visit to Yerevan to watch the game with his Armenian counterpart.
While Turkey officially denies the Armenian genocide, blockades Armenia and has taken a partisan side in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, many are encouraged by the recent positive developments in the Armenian-Turkish dialogue.
Armenian Football Team's 25
30 August 2008, by Krikor Amirzayan / armenews
(This text has been automatically translated from French by Google)
The Armenian National breeder, Danish Ian Pulsen just given a list of 25 players selected for the Armenians Armenia-Turkey match to be held at Hrazdan Yerevan, Saturday, September 6. A match with the qualifications for Europe-Zone-the World Cup 2010. The team of Armenia will be invited from Monday 1st September to begin preparations for this crucial match. The 25 selected Armenians are:
The 25 selected Armenians to Armenia-Turkey
Goalkeepers: Roman Berezovsky ( "Khimki" Russia), Kevork Kasparov ( "Rahanan" Iran), Krikor Meliksetian ( "Piunig" Yerevan); Defenders: Sarkis Hovsepian ( "Piunig" Yerevan), Robert Arzoumanian ( "Randers" Denmark), Karen Dokhoyan ( "Piunig" Yerevan), Alexandre Tetevossian ( "Vitebsk" Belarus), Aghvan Mkrtchian ( "Comel" Belarus), Hraïr Mkoyan ( "Ararat" Yerevan), Hovhannés Krikorian ( "Panants" Yerevan ), Vahakn Minassian ( "Ararat" Yerevan); midfielder: Ararat Arakélian ( "Metalurg" Ukraine), Levon Patchadjian ( "Pier" Sweden), Arthur Oskanian ( "Vitebsk" Belarus), Romig Khatchatrian ( "Panants" Yerevan) , Ardavazt Karamian ( "Timisoara" Romania), Karen Alexanian ( "Torpedo" Jotino, Belarus), Arthur Edigarian ( "Piunig" Yerevan); Forwards: Edgar Manoutcharian ( "Ajax in Amsterdam, Netherlands), Kevork Ghazarian (" Piunig "Yerevan), Samvel Melkonian (" Metalurg "Ukraine), Hamlet Mkhitarian (" Rahahan "Iran), Ara Hagopian (" Comel "Belarus), Arman Karamian (" Timisoara "Romania), Robert Tchélébian (" Baltika "Russia). Krikor Amirzayan
FOOTBALL:The Turkish supporters désereront forums Armenian
3 September 2008, VA / armenews
The Turkish fans did not finally make in Yerevan at the flagship meeting next Saturday between Armenia and Turkey. The chairman of the Armenian Football Federation (FFA), Ruben Hayrapetian, said, Tuesday, September 2, that few visas will be granted to the Turks between 1 and September 6. This decision émanerait directly from the Turkish Football Federation. "They have only asked for tickets for 115 members of the Turkish delegation and 15 other tickets for VIP. The game will also be well covered by 100 Turkish journalists, "he said. The Turkish supporters déserteront therefore Armenian forums.
According to the rules of the board of FIFA (Federation International Football amateur), a country hosting a match World Cup must reserve at least 5% of its seats for visitors. The Hrazdan stadium, the largest in Armenia, has a capacity of more than 51000 places. At least 2500 Turks have the right to come and support their team. The Armenia was ready to meet these requirements and to welcome Turkish supporters.
The FFA and the Armenian government have repeatedly expressed their enthusiasm to host many Turks. It is a meeting spot for the preliminaries of the 2010 World Cup. Abdullah Gul will attend the meeting alongside Serge Sarkissian.
Turkey's Gul `Accepts' Armenia Invitation by By Emil Danielyan
Turkey's President Abdullah Gul has accepted his Armenian counterpart's invitation to pay a historic visit to Armenia that could improve the historically strained relations between the two nations, Turkish officials and media said at the weekend.
Citing diplomatic sources in Ankara, the Turkish newspaper `Vatan' reported on Saturday that Gul has decided to arrive in Yerevan to watch the September 6 match between Armenia's and Turkey's national football teams. The paper said the decision was made upon the recommendation of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Gul did not confirm the report during an official reception in Ankara on Saturday. `I am still evaluating. I have not made a decision yet,' he was reported to tell journalists.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan indicated that the trip will take place. "I hope it will be good," Erdogan said, according to the Anatolia news agency. `Our foreign minister will accompany [Gul] and a meeting will take place there,' he said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan announced on Sunday that he is sending a diplomatic delegation to Yerevan to discuss with Armenian officials practical modalities of what would be the first-ever visit to Armenia by a Turkish head of state. "A delegation from my ministry will travel to Armenia in the course of the coming week to discuss the form of a possible visit by the head of state," Babacan told a news conference in Istanbul.
A diplomatic source told RFE/RL on Monday that the Turkish delegation will be headed by Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Unal Cevikoz and will arrive in Yerevan on Tuesday morning. The source said the delegation could comprise Turkish security officials planning to assess security measures that would be taken by the Armenian authorities in the event of Gul's arrival.
According to Babacan, the Turkish officials will also explore the Armenian government's reaction to Ankara proposal to form a regional cooperation framework that would bring together Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Turkish leaders have already discussed the proposed Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform with their Russian, Georgian and Azerbaijani counterparts.
Erdogan reiterated on Saturday that he would like Armenia to be part of the regional alliance despite the fact that it has no diplomatic relations with Turkey. `Why is Armenia included in this, why is Georgia included in this? Because we chose [them] for inclusion [in the platform] on a geographic basis. We have to succeed in this so that the region will become a region of welfare and ease," he said, according to Anatolia.
The Erdogan government offered to embark on a `dialogue' with Yerevan shortly after Serzh Sarkisian was sworn in as Armenia's new president in early April. Sarkisian responded positively to the offer before extending the surprise invitation to his Turkish counterpart in June. The move was followed by confidential Turkish-Armenian negotiations in Switzerland on the possibility of normalizing bilateral ties.
In an interview with the Turkish daily `Radikal' last week, Sarkisian said the two governments `have reached the decision-making phase' in their dialogue. `Those will not be easy decisions,' he said. `Those decisions will not be approved by the entire publics in Armenia and Turkey. But I am sure the majority of the publics will support positive decisions.' The Armenian leader did not elaborate.
Turkey has until now made the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of its border with Armenia conditional on a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict acceptable to Azerbaijan. It has also demanded an end to the decades-long Armenian campaign for international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide. Whether Ankara is now ready to drop these preconditions remains unclear.
`The Turkish Daily News' on Monday quoted an unnamed Turkish official as saying that Gul's visit to Yerevan would not signify any changes in Turkey's long-standing policy toward Armenia. `This visit will have no impact on our policies,' the official said.
Copyright (c) 2008 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Turkish Soccer Fans ‘Not Coming To Armenia’ by By Astghik Bedevian
Turkish fans will not after all flock to Yerevan for Saturday’s landmark match between the national football teams of Armenia and Turkey, the chairman of the Armenian Football Federation (FFA) said on Tuesday.
The development will spare the Armenian government a major security headache during Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s anticipated presence at the soccer World Cup qualifier which the two nations hope to use for improving their strained relations.
Under the rules of world football’s governing body, FIFA, a country hosting a World Cup match must set aside at least 5 percent of stadium seats for traveling fans. The Hrazdan stadium, the largest in Armenia, has a capacity of more than 51,000 seats, meaning that at least 2,500 Turks are entitled to cheering for their team there.
The FFA and the Yerevan government have repeatedly expressed their readiness to comply with the FIFA requirement and receive a large number of Turkey fans. To that end the government decided last month to waive visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting Armenia from September 1-6.
“The Turkish Football Federation has officially said that their football fans will not be coming here,” the FFA chairman, Ruben Hayrapetian. “They have only asked for tickets for 115 members of the Turkish delegation and another 15 tickets for VIPs.” The game will also be covered by as many as 100 Turkish journalists, he said.
President Serzh Sarkisian invited Gul to visit and Yerevan and watch the game in June amid fresh hopes for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. Turkish officials and media reported at the weekend that Gul has accepted the invitation and will officially notify Sarkisian about that this week.
A Turkish government delegation headed by Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Unal Cevikoz was due to arrive in Yerevan late Tuesday to discuss details of the historic trip with Armenian officials. A spokesman for Sarkisian, Samvel Farmanian, told RFE/RL that Cevikoz will meet the Armenian president on Wednesday. He also confirmed that the Turkish delegation comprises members of Gul’s security detail who will assess security arrangements at Hrazdan.
Hayrapetian said the FFA has decided to ban Armenian soccer fans from bringing banners referring to the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire and other “political” issues into the stadium. “Only football-related placards will be allowed there,” he said. “A victory for Armenia would send a much stronger message that a few banners.”
Hayrapetian also said Armenian football players and their Danish coach, Jan Poulsen, will be rewarded handsomely if they manage to beat one of Europe’s strongest teams. But he did not reveal the amount of the promised bonuses.
The Turks finished third in the recent European Football Championship and hold 13th place in FIFA’s global rankings of national teams. Armenia is only 94th in the rankings.
Crisis In Caucasus: An Opportunity For Ankara-Yerevan Ties?
Members of an Azerbaijani association oppose a possible Turkish move to open its border with Armenia in a demonstration in Izmir on Aug. 16.
As the possibility grows stronger that President Abdullah Gül will visit Armenia for a soccer match between the two countries' national teams, the debates among businessmen and politicians over whether or not he should go have become more heated.
Diplomatic sources in Ankara have signaled that Gül may accept the invitation of his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, to watch the World Cup qualifying match between the Turkish and Armenian teams in Yerevan on Saturday. Academics, businessmen and politicians are discussing the possible outcomes of this gesture.
Tugrul Türkes, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy and the son of the late leader of the same party, Alparslan Türkes, who initiated efforts to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia, said he is not opposed to the gesture as someone who has participated in developing relations between the two neighbors but that it is Armenia's turn to make a gesture.
Turkey was among the first countries to recognize the independence of Armenia, but it closed its border and severed formal ties after Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. Normalization of ties depends on Armenian withdrawal from the Azerbaijani territory, Yerevan shelving support for Armenian diaspora efforts to win international recognition for Armenian genocide claims and formal recognition by Armenia of the current border with Turkey. "Since 1994, Turkey has made gestures of good will. But the reciprocal moves did not come. Every time there is a new administration in Armenia, Turkey repeats its gestures. I guess President Gül is thinking that going to the soccer game will be helpful for starting dialogue but it is not Turkey's turn to make a gesture," Türkes said.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is against Gül visiting Yerevan. CHP leader Deniz Baykal on Sunday told reporters that the government is trying to reverse the official policy without Armenia meeting any of the conditions requested by Turkey for normalization of ties.
He also warned against alienating Azerbaijan, saying this country is of vital importance for Turkey in many respects. "I want the government to refrain from taking any step that would harm Azerbaijan," he said, and added that he would rather go to Baku than to Yerevan to watch the World Cup game.
Azerbaijan, Turkey's regional and ethnic ally, is likely to be offended by any rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia. But the recent crisis in the Caucasus may force a rethinking of regional balances. The Russian operation in Georgia raised questions about the security of regional transportation and energy transfer lines. With its Armenian border closed, Turkey relies on Georgia as an outlet to the Caucasus.
Associate Professor Mithat Çelikpala from the TOBB University international relations department, who visited Armenia recently, stated that even if Gül visits Yerevan for the soccer game, there is no reason to expect much from this trip, if it actually takes place. "It will be a goodwill gesture by Turkey and that's it. It will not produce that much in the short run. But diplomatically it will be advantageous for Turkey. Other countries used to say that Turkey is a big country and so it should make such gestures," he noted.
Çelikpala stated that the most likely beneficiary from Gül's visit in the short term will be Sarksyan. "He is the person who headed the army during the Nagorno-Karabakh invasion. When he was elected almost a year ago there were protests against him in his country. But after a year he will be the one who was able to compel the Turkish president to visit Armenia," Çelikpala stated, but also recalled that there have been secret talks between the two countries and that the content of these talks has not been made public.
"If there is a concrete outcome from these talks, Gül's visit to Yerevan will perhaps gain more meaning," Çelikpala said.
On the other hand, he recalled that due to the complicated situation in the Caucasus, one of the possibilities is a civil war in Georgia. "If this occurs then Turkey will not align with the east and Azerbaijan. It will have to sit down at the table with the Armenians," Çelikpala noted. Recently a group of Turkish Armenian businessmen and intellectuals called on officials, in view of the war in Georgia, to open the railways and the borders with Armenia, releasing a declaration to this effect.
"The war in Georgia has left the countries of the south Caucasus struggling with substantial risks and challenges. As a consequence of the recent crisis, which further exacerbated an impasse created by the existence of the protracted conflicts, the region is deprived of a vital artery to transport goods through the countries of the region. This is our strongest concern," the declaration notes.
"This crisis should make us assess the situation realistically and initiate a new age of cooperation. The governments in Ankara, Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan have a unique chance to prove their credentials of being good neighbors willing to contribute positively to regional peace and stability. We request that they take collective action and immediately unblock railroad networks in the region," the declaration states. The declaration was signed by people who have been engaging in diplomacy projects, including Tevan Poghosyan from the International Center for Human Development, Noyan Soyak and Aline Özinan from the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council, Natela Sakhokia from the Strategic Research Center of Georgia and Professor Baskin Oran.
The businessmen, especially those dealing with border trade, are hoping that Gül will make the trip to Armenia. One of them is Necdet Aksoy from Van, who spoke to the Cihan news agency.
"We think that this soccer game is a great chance for both countries. President Gül should go there, and he should invite his counterpart here. Both leaders can contribute to opening up the border, which has been closed since 1994. If this border is opened, trade will improve and unemployment will decrease," he told Cihan.
02 September 2008, Ayse Karabat Ankara
Armenia: Yerevan Prepares For Historic Football Match
Although much of the world’s attention is focused on Georgia, another historic event is scheduled for next weekend in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. With the border between the two countries closed and no diplomatic relations in place, Armenia is preparing for a historic World Cup Qualifier match with Turkey.
RFE/RL reports that Turkish security officials are visiting Yerevan to prepare for the possible visit by the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, for the match, and the opposition have postponed a planned rally in order to contribute to improving relations between the two estranged neighbors.
Unzipped welcomes both the match and the move by those opposition forces led by the former president, Levon Ter-Petrossian, to avoid internal problems at a time when there is the possibility to write a new chapter in Armenian-Turkish relations.
However, the blog notes, nationalist parties such as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashnakstutyun (ARF-D) are not of the same opinion and plan to hold their own demonstrations.
This decision which displayed maturity of opposition leaders was made considering current escalated geopolitical situation and complex developments in the region, and particularly upcoming visit of thousands of Turkish citizens (football fans) – and possibly Turkish president, for the first time ever – to Armenia for 6 September Armenia-Turkey World Cup qualifying football match. The importance of that game went well beyond sporting significance and considered a possibly key moment in opening up a new page in relationships between our countries.
Opposition does not want its actions to interfere in any way with the importance of developments in Armenia – Turkey relations and objective necessity by the authorities to take all the necessary security actions.
I can only welcome this decision and join opposition representative Levon Zurabyan in his call to people to avoid nationalistic provocations around football game and diplomacy. In the meantime, governing coalition member nationalist ARF Dashnaktsutyun party plans its rally on 2 September.
Normalize Relations With Armenia Sahin Alpay S.Alpay@Todayszaman.Com
The war between Russia and Georgia has put Turkey in a difficult situation. Russia is Turkey's foremost energy supplier and a major market for its goods and services. Georgia provides Turkey access to the energy resources and markets of the Caspian Sea region and Central Asia.
The conflict between the two has led to tensions between Turkey's Western allies, with the United States in the lead, and its increasingly important neighbor Russia. Neocon-inspired analysts in Washington argue that Turkey must either side with the US or against it, as they did in the days leading to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. This is nonsense.
Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and undoubtedly would abide by the decisions of the alliance. The US is surely Turkey's most important ally, and Turkey has a vital interest in having as close relations as possible with Washington. Turkey, however, did not blindly follow Washington even in the coldest days of the Cold War, and is much less likely to do so now. That Turkey will not side with US policies that are incompatible with its national interests was clearly demonstrated on March 1, 2003, when the Turkish Parliament refused the deployment of US troops on Turkish soil for the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Irrespective of which party is in charge, Ankara is today more likely than ever to adhere to a policy that is defined by its national interests, many of which are not compatible with US policies, particularly those pursued by the George W. Bush administration. Graham E. Fuller, a former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, has made this point most succinctly: "Washington's policies are broadly and fundamentally incompatible with Turkish foreign policy interests in multiple arenas. … We had better get used to the fact that Turkey, strengthened by its popular democracy, is going to pursue its own national interests, regardless of Washington's pressure. Few Turks want it any other way." (LA Times, Oct. 19, 2007)
One of the arenas where Washington's policies are incompatible with Turkish foreign policy interests is Russia. As Fuller puts it: "Although there is some rivalry over the routing of Central Asian energy pipelines to the West -- whether via Russia or Iran and Turkey -- Ankara values its ties with Moscow, and opposes US efforts to bait the Russian bear in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe on NATO expansion and missile issues."
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the US policy has aimed at exploiting Russian weakness to help establish pro-Western regimes in Eastern Europe and wherever possible. The Bush administration has given priority to the expansion of NATO to include these countries, abrogated the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and is intent on placing missile defenses in Russia's neighboring countries, to begin with the Czech Republic and Poland, supposedly to guard against an attack from Iran. These policies have led Russia to conclude that it is being encircled by the US. There is also little doubt that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has found encouragement in Georgia's ever-closer ties with the US to start the military operation to regain control over South Ossetia, which had declared its independence from Tbilisi in 1992, and has ever since been increasingly assimilated into Russia. US policies that have provoked Russia are partly to blame for triggering Moscow's disproportionate military response and continued occupation of Georgia and the dangerous regional crisis that has ensued.
The next US administration would be well advised to reconsider its stance towards Moscow and adopt a policy that aims at engaging rather than isolating Russia. Russia surely does not have a Western regime and is definitely looking for ways to broaden its sphere of influence, but is not in any respect the "evil empire" the Soviet Union was. The West (including Turkey) needs Russia as much as Russia needs the West. Peace and stability in the world require that the two use diplomacy to resolve their differences.
Turkey's policy of establishing good relations, promoting economic interdependence with neighbors and using diplomacy and negotiation as the main tool to resolve differences -- whether dealing with the Greeks, Syrians, Iranians or Russians -- serves Turkey's interests, and surely also those of its allies, whether the US, the EU or Israel. One glaring failure in Turkey's policy is, however, the lack of diplomatic ties and open borders with Armenia. Its well-intentioned Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact can succeed only if Ankara can normalize relations with Armenia, and thereby also help Azerbaijan and Armenia make peace. Yerevan seems to be more ready than ever for reconciliation with its neighbors. 01.09.2008
'This Is Football, Not War,' Says Turkey Coach Turkish Daily News, September 3, 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, eitehr.”
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 Alt?ntop, defender Emre Güngör and wingback Sabri Sar?og(lu are out of the squad. Also, it is doubtful whether centerback Servet Çetin, defensive midfielder Mehmet Aurelio, and midfielders Emre Belözog(lu, 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, Oral Çalislar, September 3, 2008
When President Gül visits Armenia, he will be verbally attacked by nationalist circles unavoidably. Attitudes of MHP and CHP are in this direction
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.
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 was translated into English by the TDN's staff
It's Saturday, This Must Be Armenia Fulya Özerkan – Turkish Daily News September 3, 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
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 Sultanog(lu 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.
Faz?l 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, September 3, 2008, Barçin Yinanç-Analysis, 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.
Will Gül Become Christopher Columbus? September 3, 2008, Cengiz Çandar
Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili has been pointed to as the reason for the West-Russia conflict in the Black Sea basin. He is labeled in at least a dozen different negative terms. For instance, Murat Belge said Saakashvili is a “pro-American nationalist.”
The Georgian president is, without doubt, “pro-American,” or America is “pro-Saakashvili.” He is a Georgian nationalist and a good Christian as well. After he was elected president, the first thing Saakashvili did was to fill the Georgian flag with symbols of the cross.
We could say that he resembles the first Georgian president, Ziviad Gamsakhurdia, of the post-Soviet era in the Caucasus and Azerbaijani leader Abulfaz Elçibey, among the political leaders in the region.
But despite all this, we also know that Saakashvili is a passionate supporter of the European Union and wants to see his country as part of it. Likewise, he wants Georgia to be a NATO member.
When I visited the Georgian capital Tbilisi last year, together with President Abdullah Gül I realized the most striking difference in the city compared to the pre-Saakashvili period: Every Georgian flash was accompanied by the EU flag. This is only seen in EU member countries.
It is also a fact that Saakashvili made a mistake, a mistake of military incursion in South Ossetia on Aug. 8, or, as the Russian officials exaggerated the incident the “Sept. 11 of Russia.” Saakashvili admits this too. Last week, in an interview with the French daily Liberation, the Georgian leader wholeheartedly said that he made a mistake to see South Ossetia as a “Russian bluff” and expected the Russian move from Abkhazia not from South Ossetia.
The case is not closed by his mistake though. It's been claimed that Americans encouraged him for such a mistake.
Russia-phobes in Washington:
Those Americans, in fact, two officials at the State Department in Washington, are “Russia-phobes,” i.e. have Russian phobia. One of them is Dan Fried, assistant secretary of state for European Affairs, and the other is Matt Bryza, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Fried was in charge of Poland during the most critical period of his professional career. He established the first contacts with the Solidarnosc (Lech Walesa's Solidarity Movement), conducted and steered these contacts. Bryza, on the other side, is the number one expert on Georgia and the Caspian oil. He also has close ties with Saakashvili.
From here let's move now to an interesting connection with Turkey …
Bryza is married to a Turk. She is Zeyno Baran, an expert on Georgia at the Hudson Institute, who came to the public's attention last year with scenarios on how the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, shouldn't be allowed to form the government. Baran is a familiar name.
Four days ago, she wrote an article titled “Will Turkey abandon NATO?” which was published in the Wall Street Journal yet missed by the Turkish media somehow.
In the last paragraph of her article, in which Baran fiercely criticized Turkey's position about the Caucasus crisis, she said:
“Turkey joined Russia at the height of its war on Georgia in suggesting a five-party ‘Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform.' In other words, they want to keep the U.S. and the EU at arm's length. Both Russia and Turkey consider Georgia's American-educated president, Mikhael Saakashvili, to be crazy enough to unleash the next world war. In that view, Turkey is not so far from the positions of France or Germany -- but even these two countries did not suggest that the Georgians sign up to a new regional arrangement co-chaired by Russia while the Kremlin's air force was bombing Georgian cities. Where is Turkey headed? Turkish officials say they are using their trust-based relations with various sides to act as a mediator between various parties in the region: the U.S. and Iran, Israel and Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, etc. It may be so. But as more American ships steam toward the Black Sea, a time for choosing has arrived.”
This is a noteworthy observation. When the “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” was suggested and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an headed to Moscow and Tbilisi for contacts, I had similar thoughts. Turkey cannot take the lead in regional arrangements in a way to exclude NATO and EU, while remaining as a member of NATO and at the negotiation table for accession to the EU.
Gül to Yerevan:
As a matter of fact, Georgia is cold towards Turkey's suggestion. And we don't know how warm Azerbaijan and Armenia are to this. The other day in Istanbul, Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili held a joint press briefing with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. The Georgian minister said that they will not engage in any co-operation until they are certain that Russians can be a reliable partner.”
I wonder what did Babacan market and how, with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Formation of the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform seems impossible for giving way to reservations about Turkey's Western identity.
Still there could a positive by-product though: Turkey and Armenia establish relations. Top-level direct contact with Armenia paradoxically fortifies Turkey's “Western identity.” This is how bilateral relations will be perceived.
As a result, Gül's visit to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, reminds one of Christopher Columbus who sailed away to discover India yet settled in America.
Gül Must Go To Yerevan September 3, 2008, Yusuf KANLI
The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, are fuming nowadays over the plans of President Abdullah Gül to pay a “social” one-day trip to Yerevan to watch together with his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian, the first-ever encounter between the national soccer teams of the two countries.
Why? Neither of the two opposition parties so far cited any credible reason why President Gül must avoid traveling to Yerevan for a social event other than stressing that the visit might give Armenia the wrong impression.
Irrespective of whether we like it or not, there is a geographic as well as historic reality: Armenia is our northeast neighbor and with the Armenian people we have a shared history and cultural interaction of centuries. Excluding a contentious period in the relationship between the two peoples, there has not been any problem between the two peoples. Even today when we come across an excellent piece of handcraft, particularly woodwork, even if that particular piece has no connection with the Armenians, we often say, “As good as if it is done by an Armenian craftsman.”
Since we cannot change either geography or accumulated culture of this land, it must be clear for everyone that antagonisms, angers, frustrations and whatever bad feelings we might feel cannot last forever and eventually we have to move towards normalization of our ancestral relations. This is in the common interest of the two peoples, and more so the living bonds between the two countries, the small community of Armenian Turks living in our country as loyal citizens contributing to the development of this land.
Of course, there are impediments for normalization. One is the continued occupation of the Azerbaijani territory by Armenia. Turkey and the Turkish population cannot turn a blind eye to the continued sufferings of the displaced Azerbaijanis and remain indifferent to their demand to return their lands.
Another impediment is the claims by Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora that in the closing years of World War I and immediately afterwards an Armenian genocide was lived in this country. There are contentious claims by the two countries over the issue. For a long time Turkey has been calling for the creation of a commission of historians to investigate that period, look into allegations and go through archives, and has stressed that whatever the decision of such a commission – which would work under the supervision of the United Nations – it would abide by it.
Turkey's approach is naturally a constructive one aimed at resolving this contentious issue, but so far Yerevan has been cool to the idea, with the obsession that agreeing to a history commission to look into the genocide claims would amount to Armenians having doubts that such a thing every took place.
Indeed, Turkey is not denying either that during those years an immense human suffering was lived in the eastern provinces bordering Russia because of war, poor hygiene conditions, attacks of gangs and the forced resettlement program, a product of the Armenian population collaborating with the enemy Russia. There are many Turkish historians defending that more Turks – and Kurds and Arabs – were killed by Armenian gangs during those years in events that could be described as a civil war.
Still, Turkey's proposal to allow a history commission to examine that period and related archives and come up with a decision that would be binding on Turkey should be sufficient proof of the existing goodwill in Ankara.
By taking a modest step towards normalization of relations and demonstrating the goodwill of Ankara, Gül indeed will be serving to the wider foreign policy interests of Turkey. How can Turkey be a “regional power” while it continues to remain in loggerheads with some countries of the region? How can a Turkey, trying to play a constructive role in the Middle East, in the Georgia-Russia crisis as well as in the ambiguous alliance of civilizations project of the United Nations, continue ignoring the need of normalizing its relations with its neighbors? How can a Turkey advise others “Make peace and normalize your relations” while it does not move towards that direction because of some domestic psychological factors or out of concern that such moves could be considered “harmful” by some brotherly countries?
Will the visit serve such an aim in the immediate future? Perhaps not, but it will as well demonstrate Turkey's goodwill and serve as a reminder to Yerevan that as “two needed for a tango” it must reciprocate Turkey's goodwill in kind.
(Yusuf Kanli can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sports Sociologist: Don’t Mix Sports And Politics In Armenia Match
The national football teams of Turkey and Armenia will compete on Saturday in Yerevan in a World Cup qualifying match that has drawn more interest from politicians and diplomats than the sports world, but a professor of sports sociology has warned that politicians should avoid mixing sports with politics.
Professor Özbay Güven, the head of sports sociology at the physical education and sports department at Gazi University, cautions that people shouldn't attach too much symbolism to this match and should not mix sports with diplomacy.
A member of the International Society for the History of Physical Education and Sport (ISHPES), Güven talked to Today's Zaman about the high expectations of Saturday's Armenia-Turkey match.
Noting that Turkish and Armenian sportsmen had competed many times in sports other than football in the past, Güven said it is normal for Turkish and Armenian nations to attach some symbolism to this match. "First of all, it was inevitable that one day Turkey would play against Armenia in such a match. Therefore, this event should be viewed with reason rather than sentimentality. Actually, Turkey should be happy as it will be playing against a weak team like Armenia. It is very unlikely that Armenia will be successful in this football match. They should regard this match against the Turkish national team as an opportunity for furthering their relations with Turkey and for the opening of borders," he says.
Güven advised that the Turkish national team should not underestimate Armenia and that the Armenian national team should not give different or historical meanings to the football match. "Although our rival, the Armenian national team, seems to be an easy target, we should not underestimate them. We saw what happened when the Maltese national team played Turkey in 2007 and the game was equated to the Ottoman siege of Malta. It is completely wrong to add symbolism to football or other sports matches," he noted.
Professor Güven also emphasized that both national teams, their players, their fans and their coaches should be ready to accept defeat or victory and behave with good sportsmanship.
However, he said, the biggest responsibility falls on the shoulders of Armenians in this respect. "Armenians should refrain from bringing their ongoing propaganda against Turkey to the match and from fueling tensions and prejudices. This football match may serve as a first step toward the softening of relations and establishing friendship between the two countries. The media organizations from both countries should emphasize a love for sports," he says.
Güven maintained that depending on the atmosphere of the first match in Yerevan, the second match in Turkey may be played in a tension-free environment. He said the Turkish national team has learned not to mix sports with diplomacy and foreign policy after obtaining considerable success at the world and European championships.
"It seems that from the Turkish side, the match will be like a friendship match. Turkey took this approach when it played against Greece. If Armenian fans do not behave in a sportsmanlike manner, the match's atmosphere may be tense. Serious measures should be taken against provocation. Armenia should prevent Armenian fans from waving banners or placards with provocative messages. However, if the players or fans of one country attempt to provoke those of the other country, FIFA has serious sanctions in this regard. FIFA can easily find out who is right and who is wrong," he cautions.
He explained that Armenia is a weak rival for Turkey and that its chances of defeating the Turkish national team are low. He suggested that neither side should view this match as a national cause.
"While we see it as a sports contest, Armenians may turn it into a national cause. Our image in the contest will be positive or negative in the eyes of the world. This match may also serve to improve relations by giving both sides an opportunity to get to know each other and contribute to peace. It may bring us closer. Even if some unwanted things happen during the match, we should not allow this to have a negative effect on the lives of our Armenian citizens. Of course, this will boost national sentiments, but we should not forget the historical incidents in which acting out of emotion caused great harm to both societies. This should never be forgotten," he says.
Güven added that while the Armenian national team is mediocre, it tends not to lose matches played at home, and therefore, the Turkish national team should be careful in the match.
03 September 2008, Ercan Yavuz Zaman