- Over 300 Turkish Citizens Visited Genocide Museum In Yerevan
- Turkey Should Apologize To Armenians
- An Insider’s Summary Of ‘Football Diplomacy’
- Football For Peace? By Vartan Oskanian, Khaleej Times,
- Poll: Yerevan Visit Applauded By Majority
- Turkish And Armenian U-21s Play Today
- Ngos Of Turkish Igdir Region Protests Against Opening Borders With Armenia
- Recent Developments From An Armenian Public Tv Anchor's Eyes
- Goran Lennmarker: "Turkey Should Overcome Its Past, Accepting The Fact Of "Genocide Of Armenians", And Join The European Union"Today.Az
- Ankara-Yerevan Diplomacy Accelerating
- Gül Knocked Down A Taboo
- TRT Signals Future Broadcasts In Armenian
- Gül In Yerevan: Half Of The Road
- “The Relations With Armenia Can Be Normalized By The People On Both Sides”, Bia News Center
- Armenia Lost The Soccer Match, But Gained International Prestige By Harut Sassounian
- Charles Aznavour Hopes For Improvement Of Armenian-Turkish Relations After President Gul's Visit To Yerevan
- Armenia Has To Choose Between Economic Blockade And Genocide Recognition" 09 September 2008 Today.Az
- AAA: Armenia Won’t Sacrifice Its Principles To Relations With Turkey
- Gul’s Visit To Armenia Opens A Crack In The Window Edik Baghdasaryan
- Peace And Stability In The Caucasus According To Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Anahit Shirinyan
- Press & Information Dep: Foreign Affairs Ministry: Republic Of Armenia
- Milliyet Criticizes President's Visit
- A Win-Win Match Ends In Yerevan V Ziflioglu
- Credibility & Priority In Foreign Policy
- Problems At Home, Peace In The World
- Prospects Of Thaw With Armenia Closer After Gül’s Visit
- Turkey Does The Talking On The Pitch
- Praising A Boring Soccer Match E Mahçupyan
- Match Without A Loser A Özinian
- If Only Hrant Were Here, Too
- Armenia: Football Diplomacy & Relations With Turkey, O Krikorian
- Protests In Yerevan Fail To Overshadow Historic Visit
- Soccer Is Never Only Soccer
- Soccer Sows Seeds Of New Era Between Turkey And Armenia
- Football Game Of The Century Recap D Beast
- Gül-Sargsian Meeting In Yerevan
- Soccer Diplomacy Brings Turkey's Gül To Armenia
- Turkish Former FM's Oppose President's Visit
- Turkish President: Visit To Armenia "Very Fruitful"
- Armenians Boo Turkish President At Football Match (AFP)
- Armenian Press Cautious On Turkish President's Visit, (AFP)
- Turkish, Armenian Ministers To Meet Later This Month (AFP)
- Success Of Football Diplomacy Has A Catch, T Seibert, UAE
- Turkey Get Better Of Armenia In Yerevan Dmitry Mamykin
- Soccer Diplomacy A Turkish Goal TVNZ, NZ
- Beautiful Game Plays Peacemaker EuroNews
- Gül’s Visit To Armenia Must Not Be A PR Show Or Photo Opportunity EAF
- Geostrategy Meets Human Touch: Snapshot From Yerevan,
- Soccer Diplomacy
- World's Most Remarkable Game At Yerevan V Ziflioglu
Over 300 Turkish Citizens Visited Genocide Museum In Yerevan
According to ArmenPress news agency, over 300 citizens of Turkey have visited the Genocide Museum in Yerevan over the recent few days. Director of the museum-institute Hayk Demoyan said that the Turkish visitors were mainly students, representatives of different organizations and sports fans, who had arrived to watch the football game.
Hayk Demoyan said that the Turkish visitors had very different feelings about what they saw in the museum: some were shocked and felt very painful and sorry about the genocide, and some were unwilling to accept the facts seriously. Some of the Turks did not watch the exhibition of the museum till the end, partly because of psychological stress, and partly for the reason of avoiding reporters.
The latest "Armenian Sports in the Ottoman Empire" exhibition, started last week in the museum, was of some special interest to the Turkish visitors. They were completely ignorant of the great Armenian contribution to the development of sports in Turkey. About 30 newspapers, TV channels and other media prepared different reports about the Armenian Genocide Museum, and interviewed its director.
It is remarkable that Hasan Jamal, grandson of one of the organizers of the Armenian Genocide, Jamal Pasha, also visited Yerevan and laid a wreath at the memorial to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Turkey Should Apologize To Armenians
Volkan Vural, who was the Turkish Ambassador to the USSR during the years of collapse of the latter announced during an interview by Turkish "Taraf" newspaper’s correspondent that Turkey should apologize to Armenians for the incidents of the past.
He mentioned that Turkish President’s visit to Yerevan at the invitation of the Armenian President contains big political risk to both the leaders of the two countries.
Vural said that ex-President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrosian fell a victim to the initiatives in improving relations with Turkey.
According to Volkan Vural, none of the historical commissions can solve the Armenian Question. It can only throw light on some incidents facilitating the process.
"Though Turkey is hardly to recognize the Armenian Genocide, anyway, it should apologize to Armenians and other ethnic minorities – Greeks, Assyrians and Kurds for eviction and massacres. It should let their descendants return to the residences of their ancestors and grant them citizenship of Turkey", he said.
To the question about the issue of return of the Armenian properties and riches, the Turkish diplomat answered, "Those are questions under discussion. Return of properties and material compensation is a difficult task. Anyway, there may be a symbolic compensation. At the same time, Turkey should apologize to Armenians and other ethnic minorities for causing them pain. It is a necessity for a country like Turkey".
An Insider’s Summary Of ‘Football Diplomacy’ Yavuz Baydar email@example.com
After four intensive days in Yerevan filled with talks, discussions, contacts and emotions, I am back in Istanbul. Obviously, a new page has been opened in relations between the two countries, and the potential for normalization is greater than ever.
Putting the pieces together, allow me to run through the future prospects and possibilities.
The build-up: Ever since the signals were sent by Serzh Sarksyan, president of Armenia, about the need for a "new spirit," followed by the invitation given to Abdullah Gül, president of Turkey, to the soccer match between the national teams of the two countries, both sides worked hard to launch a dialogue process. It was also supported, and contributed to, by some European countries and the US. Gül knew at an earlier stage that he would be in Yerevan, just as we now know that Sarksyan will respond with a similar visit. Ministers of the two countries will also meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this month. It is very clear that there is a will and determination at the highest level. The question of modus operandi, now, is not if, but how speedy the process of normalization be.
The perception: Some parts of the foreign (Western) press got it wrong. First of all, the focus on small-scale demonstrations was wrong and misleading. It was a peaceful encounter and a successful visit, and the lack of discourse on the "Armenian genocide" issue is only a reflection of pushing the debate to the future, not invalidating it. The new general understanding, particularly on the Armenian side, is that it will be much easier to bring it up at the table and in public debate, when the two countries have normal relations, with open borders, trade and social contacts. Secondly, many Western stories missed the focus on "human encounters" in Yerevan due to football, which marginalized the protesters.
The timetable and the opinion: It will be shaped soon, though Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian told me that "half of the distance has already been covered." But, for the Armenian side a "quick pace" and "continuity" is very important. The current leadership raised the expectations of the population, and it will be keen on seeing the achievement of concrete results. For the Turkish side, it may be slightly different: Although a very recent poll -- performed after Gül's visit -- showed that more than 67 percent of Turks found the visit "successful" and more than 65 percent think relations between two countries must be improved, the Erdogan government has the issue of local elections to consider. So, depending on the reasoning over domestic concerns, only minor steps may be expected before March 2009. On the other hand, considering the EU process of Turkey and the "heat" in the Caucasus, it may be a speedy process. This all depends on Ankara, rather than Yerevan. Both countries share the same concerns over the Caucasus and Armenia openly supports Turkey's full membership in the EU. The leverage is strong.
The steps: Both sides clearly expect two things: establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the border. Without dealing with them, in one way or another, it will be harder for the two governments to act convincingly. For Turkey it might be easier to argue for establishing diplomatic relations before opening the border because if the Caucasus Cooperation and Stability Platform initiative is to be pursued seriously, Turkey will have to have constant representation in Yerevan. Armenia, too, has a further need (Turkey can argue domestically) for opening a consulate in Istanbul because some 60-70,000 Armenian citizens live and work -- most of them illegally -- in that city. Once the embassies and consulates open, it will be much easier to open the border. It may or may not be a gradual opening. They may open it to railroad, then car traffic. The infrastructure is ready for a quick opening, too. The sooner these two steps are taken, the better. Momentum is needed.
Economy: It is certainly the most important argument for both sides. The indirect trade (mainly via Georgia) is currently around $100 million. Some sources say, with the unregistered portion of goods added, it may be up to $250 million. When the border opens, it is believed that the volume will quickly go up to $1 billion.
Negative actors: The normalization process is externally supported by the US, EU and even Russia. Russia may have a different reason for its support; for Russia it may be of interest to "decrease" the strategic importance of Georgia by opening the Turkish-Armenian border. Neither is Azerbaijan opposed to the move. This leaves two possible (I emphasize, possible) stumbling blocks: Greece and Cyprus, which have remained silent on the talks between Ankara and Yerevan. 10.09.2008
Football For Peace? By Vartan Oskanian, Khaleej Times, Sept 9 2008,UAE
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan's recent invitation to Turkish President Abdullah Gul to visit Yerevan to watch a football match together was historic. Given the two countries' long-strained relations, this visit would have been remarkable at any time.
But coming as it does only one month after the alarming Russian-Georgian confrontation, it may offer real hope that tensions in the volatile Caucasus region can be eased.
Of course, ancient and difficult issues divide Armenia and Turkey. But now is the moment for both countries to put the past aside in order to address their common security concerns. In the new context set by the war in Georgia, the urgency of Turkey becoming a real bridge between the nations of the Caucasus is not lost on anyone.
This expectation is an inevitable consequence of Turkey's geography and history.
Situated figuratively between modernity and tradition, secularism and Islam, and democracy and tyranny, Turkey also is an actual physical bridge between East and West. For the peoples of the Caucasus, Turkey marks our path to Europe. It is a Nato member, bordering the three Caucasus republics that have Nato Individual Partnership Action Programmes. It aspires to join the European Union, and would bring the EU to our three borders, even as we, too, aspire to join one day.
Indeed, Turkey has never missed an opportunity to present itself as a regional broker. Immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey proposed the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. This year, as the American-led effort to mediate a Middle East peace settlement began to falter, Turkey took up the job of mediator in both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the conflict between Syria and Israel. Now, in the immediate wake of the Russia-Georgia crisis, Turkey's leaders have stepped forward once again to take a leadership role in the Caucasus.
The world must fervently hope that the Turkish proposal for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform is more serious and sustained than previous similar efforts. But, in order to succeed, Turkey must firmly pursue a pledge from all the region's players to repudiate the use of force in settling their disputes. If this pledge is adopted and respected, conflicts in the region will be viewed in a wholly different, more tolerant context, marking a historic breakthrough to peace.
In fact, why not take the idea of such a pact one step further? We in this region can, and I believe should, call for a non-aligned Caucasus, free of security blocs and adversarial alliances. After all, security alliances and guarantees only create dividing lines, with their attendant security challenges.
Our countries and peoples have, throughout history, lived under a common umbrella for far longer than we have been divided.
Today, we share a common vision of European integration, and it is in this broader context that our conflicts should be resolved. French President Nicolas Sarkozy's and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visits to Georgia and Russia proved that there is no substitute for Europe insofar as the Caucasus is concerned. Only Europe can play the role of honest broker in the region's atmosphere of suspicion and intolerance.
But, at the end of the day, we ourselves must be willing to work towards a region of peace and cooperation. The Caucasus is too small a space for closed borders and explosive conflicts. Although some of those tensions appear purely bilateral, the Georgian-Russian conflict demonstrates that there is no such thing anymore in this globalised world, and certainly not in this interconnected region.
In fact, real peace in the Caucasus requires two key strategic transformations. One is a lesson from history: Russia's strategic interests here cannot be ignored. To believe and behave otherwise would lead to regional chaos. The other lesson is that Turkey and Armenia cannot remain adversaries forever. There must be normalisation in our relations in order for the Caucasus to coalesce into a functional region.
Ironically, both Russia and the United States recognise that this is in their interest. The Russians view normal relations between Turkey and Armenia as a way to minimise Georgia's strategic role in the region. The US views an opening to Turkey as a way to decrease Armenia's real and imagined reliance on Russia.
Beyond the emotional impact of President Gul's visit to Yerevan, real improvement in Turkish-Armenian relations requires opening the two countries' closed border - the last in Europe. Or, for a start, the existing railroad link between the two countries could be made operational. If this does not happen within the coming weeks and months, then Turkey will have demonstrated that all this was just a show.
President Gul's visit does mark a watershed - either as a failure to make history, or as the beginning of a new era.
Vartan Oskanian, Armenia's Foreign Minister from 1998 until April 2008, is the founder of the Yerevan-based Civilitas Foundation.
Poll: Yerevan Visit Applauded By Majority, Today's Zaman, Sept 9 2008
A brief visit by President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to attend a soccer match between the Turkish and Armenian national teams was welcomed by an overwhelming majority of Turkish society, as it was considered a landmark step to thaw relations between the two countries, a new opinion poll has found.
The Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic & Social Research Center conducted a survey on Gul's visit to Yerevan to learn Turks' views on the visit. According to the survey, 69.6 percent of those polled found Gul's visit to Armenia successful, a figure suggesting that Turks are hopeful the visit may be a turning point in the relations between Turkey and Armenia. Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan invited Gul to watch a World Cup qualifying match between the Turkish and Armenian national teams in Yerevan. Gul's acceptance of the invitation raised hopes for dialogue that could eventually restore relations between the two estranged neighbors and help bury an almost century-old hostility.
Gul was the first Turkish president to set foot in Armenia since it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Though Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence, it closed its border with the country and severed formal ties with Yerevan after Armenia occupied the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. But the origins of the dispute between Turkey and Armenia go further back in history.
Armenia claims the Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia during World War I as part of a systematic campaign of genocide.
The major question of the survey was whether Gul's visit to Armenia was successful or not. An overwhelming 69.6 percent of respondents said the visit was successful, whereas 15 percent said it was unsuccessful and 15.4 percent said they had no idea.
"Turkey and Armenia took a step to normalize relations after long years of dispute. Though some political parties and politicians strongly opposed Gul traveling to Yerevan, both the government and the president did the best to thaw the ice between the two countries. Gul's visit to Armenia was met with satisfaction by the Turkish nation. To me, this visit may be a turning point in Turkish-Armenian relations," said Professor Ozer Sencar, one of the administrators of the poll.
Professor Eser KarakaÅ~_, a columnist for the Star daily, said the visit was a huge step for the settlement of problems between the two neighbors.
"This is a significant step of goodwill. It would be great if both countries reinforced this step with similar ones in the future. It may not solve all problems between Turkey and Armenia but may at least help Turkey open its border with its neighbor," he stated.
Another question directed to respondents in the poll was on the tough stance of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) toward Gul's visit to Yerevan. When asked whether the CHP and the MHP were right to react negatively to Gul's visit, 65.6 percent of those polled said the two opposition parties were wrong to harshly criticize the visit. Only 24.9 percent of respondents said the two parties were right to do so and 9.5 percent said they had no idea.
Officials from the CHP and the MHP were extremely critical of the visit to Armenia by Gul. They said a visit to Yerevan would mean alienating Azerbaijan, which is of vital importance to Turkey in many respects.
Sencar emphasized that the Turkish nation was troubled by the CHP and MHP's harsh reaction against the visit. "Our people don't deem such reactions as democratic behavior. A considerable majority of society is aware that these two parties strive to create an atmosphere of chaos in the country. However, society doesn't want to experience any other crises," he stated.
Karaka agreed, adding that the dispute between Turkey and Armenia stems from political disaccord and that the two nations are not parties to this conflict.
"People of the two countries say at every opportunity that they don't have any problems with each other. It is the states which have problems," he noted.
Sencar also stated that the Turkish nation will give the best response to the rash behavior of the CHP and the MHP at the ballot box. "Both of the opposition parties displayed stances indicating that they want to maintain the crisis between Turkey and Armenia. However, people here want to have neighborly relations with Armenia. I think both the CHP and the MHP will suffer from their tough stance against the normalization of relations with Armenia," he remarked.
A previous survey by MetroPOLL had revealed that the opposition parties in Turkey continue to suffer from declining popularity with the public. It showed 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, while 6.6 percent said they would favor the MHP.
Another topic of the new poll was future relations with Armenia. In response to a question over what kind of policy Turkey should pursue in relations with its neighbor, 62.8 percent of those polled said Turkey should develop diplomatic and economic relations with Armenia, whereas 25.9 percent said it should maintain the existing policies. Another 11.3 percent said they had no idea.
"Our people are tired of disputes with Armenia, which are of no benefit to Turkey. We have had an ongoing debate with Armenia for 80 years. People don't want events dating back to the Ottoman times to affect their lives any longer. This is why they attach such great importance to Gul's visit to Yerevan," concluded Sencar.
The telephone poll was conducted Sept. 7 among a random national sampling of 1,019 adults residing in cities, towns and villages. The margin of error for the full poll is 2.5 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence level.
Turkish And Armenian U-21s Play Today, Today's Zaman, Sept 9 2008
Barely three days after the Turkish and Armenian senior national soccer teams played their first-ever match in a 2010 World Cup Group 5 qualifier in Yerevan, which the Turks comfortably won 2-0, the two countries will be in action again today -- this time in a 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 2 game.
The Turks lead the group and only need a draw to qualify for the playoffs. The Czech Republic trails Turkey by to points and even if it beats Ukraine today, that win will be meaningless as long as the Turks don't drop points against the Armenians.
On Saturday Turkey beat the Czechs 2-0 in Bursa with two second-half goals by AydÄ±n Karabulut to topple the visitors from the top of Group 2. Moreover the Turkish U-21s have old scores to settle with the Armenians, who surprisingly beat them 2-1 in Armenia last month with last-gasp goals from Karlen Mkrtchyan and Henrik Mkhitaryan. So the Turks today will go all out to avenge that defeat and crown it with a ticket for the playoffs.
Ngos Of Turkish Igdir Region Protests Against Opening Borders With Armenia, Sept 8 2008
Azerbaijan, Baku, 8 September / TrendNews, corr. I.Alizade / The NGOs which function in the Igdir region of Turkey protest against opening borders with Armenia.
"We are against opening borders with Armenia because Armenian policy was established on enmity with the Turks," the statement provided by 12 NGOs of Igdir says.
Armenia has occupied 20% of Azerbaijan's territory. Due to Armenia's so-called 'Armenian genocide', territorial claims against Turkey and occupation of Azerbaijan's territories, official Ankara has closed borders with Armenia.
The statement says that the Igdir NGOs protest against Turkish President Abdulla Gul's visit to Armenia.
"We are concerned by the issue that Armenia will justify its occupation of the Azerbaijani lands, Armenia's arguments will strengthen, strong opportunities will appear for the country to hold international propaganda, harms will be brought to the international interests of Turkey and Turkic world," Igdir NGOs said.
The authors of the statement emphasized that they are concerned that Gul's visit to Armenia will disappoint Azeri people and will give umbrage to Turkish people.
"Finally we are concerned that a requirement of opening borders will be made before Turkey," the statement says.
The document emphasizes that over the recent period, during these processes, the Gars municipality establishes close relations with Armenia. "All these are wrong and are processes brining harms to the international interests of Turkey and Turkish-Azerbaijani friendship," mentioned in the statement.
Recent Developments From An Armenian Public Tv Anchor's Eyes , By Emre Uslu & Onder Aytac, Today's Zaman,
Sept 9 2008
Today we would like to leave our column to Artak Aleksanyan to share his observations about Saturday's football game between Turkey and Armenia and its implications on Armenian society.
Aleksanyan is an Armenian journalist and the news anchor of Armenia's public TV station. Before the game we asked Aleksanyan to write down his observations about what the Armenian people feel about the game and developments that seem to be opening a new chapter between Turkey and Armenia. This is what Aleksanyan had to say: A week without ...
... a miracle
Sunday, 10 p.m.: I have been trying to reach any one of the Armenian experts on Turkey the whole day. It seems that no one is able to talk about Turkish President Abdullah Gul's visit to Armenia. Everyone --literally everyone -- is discussing the Armenia-Turkey game. Everyone is mad and angry at the Armenian team; we were expecting more. We knew that Turkey's team is one of the best in the world, but you cannot help but have hope or dream for a victory. It is said the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is that a pessimist is a well-informed optimist. I think last Saturday all Armenians who watched football were well-informed romantics.
... bad Turkey
It has been a week about Turkey: We used to talk about our neighbor only when we needed to talk about genocide. Last week was the first one in which news was about cooperation, regional security and the Caucasian stability platform that was recently suggested by the Turkish prime minister. We were trying to present the very diverse opinions on Gul's visit and the Armenia-Turkey relationship but somehow ended up summarizing only two sides: Everyone is actually a proponent of the normalization of the Armenian-Turkey relationship -- the only party that is still suspicious about that is Dashnakcutyun. Even radical opposition leader and first Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan supported current Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan in inviting Gul to watch the football match.
What can we expect from Turkey besides genocide? Are we ready to establish a normal relationship? Are ordinary Turks friendly? Do they hate Armenians? Will they kill Armenians? Will they invade Armenia if we open the border? Are our products economically ready to compete with the prices and quality of those made in Turkey?
I know that for Turks those questions may be very amusing, simplistic and sometimes very offensive. A Turkish friend of mine once said: "We are polite and civilized people. But how should I know about that when for the last 100 years not only the borders were closed but also the flow of information. Ordinary Armenians do not know anything about Turkey. They know that Turks killed 1.5 million Armenians 100 years ago, but they do not know modern Turks."
Yes, there are some Armenians who come to Turkey for work and trade, but they usually speak about money and the market, not about culture and society. So, if we are going to establish or re-establish normal relations, before that, there should be a campaign to raise awareness about the two countries: simple, human stories about people who live, work, fall in love, get married.
... an agenda
Do the presidents of both countries need to normalize relations? I think so. For Turkey, an open border with Armenia is a very good point for its EU membership ambitions. For Armenia, our government is stuck between the West and Russia. We can't move anymore. One step toward any of those will signal danger from another side. Russia is now a very jealous and angry "strategic partner." The West is too polite and slow during a crisis situation. So, the move toward Turkey will be the right one. It would move our foreign policy in a new direction and open new opportunities for business.
However, this has been the first week in which top-officials spoke about each other without antagonism. The Armenian president met with Armenian diplomats last week and said everything should be done to convince the international community and Turkey of how important a Gyumri-Kars railway is. For the first time, the Turkish president did not ignore the existence of Armenia when talking about regional cooperation in the Caucasus.
So, the only question is, how long will this Turkish-Armenian "game" last? Will it continue? And I don't mean the next football game.
I have started to learn Turkish in the US while working on my M.A. in communications. I feel that in the very near future I may need it.
*Dr. Emre Uslu is an analyst working with the Washington-based think tank Jamestown Foundation. Onder Aytac is an associate professor at Gazi University's department of communications and works with the Security Studies Institute in Ankara.
Goran Lennmarker: "Turkey Should Overcome Its Past, Accepting The Fact Of "Genocide Of Armenians", And Join The European Union"Today.Az, Sept 8 2008
Armenia has a historical chance to help Turkey become a modern European country, said Goran Lennmarker, special representative of the chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on Karabakh conflict and special rapporteur on the situation in Georgia and South Ossetia, while meeting with speaker of Armenian parliament Tigran Torosyan.
Lennmarker appreciated Armenia's policy in the region, noting that he expects progress in the Armenian-Turkish relations following the visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to watch the Armenia-Turkey football match.
"Armenia has a historical chance to help Turkey, where powerful forces want to turn it into a modern European country, but face problems in this issue", sources in the public policy department of the Armenian parliament reported with reference to Lennmarker.
He said Turkey, which is a Muslim country, often do not separate state and religion, while the working government, whose members are religious people, wants it, which is important in the sense of closing to the European policy.
"Turkey should overcome its past, accepting the fact of "genocide of Armenians", and become EU member, when the country will have the standards, generally approved in the EU members, including protected human rights, democracy, absence of corruption", said OSCE Parliamentary Assembly representative.
Goran Lennmarker stressed importance of establishing Armenian-Turkish relations. He said the first step for it should become the opening of the border between the two countries, blocked by Turkey unilaterally.
He noted that normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations may have a psychological influence of Turkey which will not allow nationalistic powers to occupy a dominating position and enable Turkey to become a really European country.
The Armenian speaker in turn noted that Armenia always stressed readiness to establish relations without preconditions, yet Turkey sets some provisions.
"Nevertheless, it is now necessary to eye the future with hope. There are serious clashes of interests of different countries in the region, yet the regional countries should display interest in cooperation for establishing peace, security and welfare", noted Torosyan.
Fatih Cekirge: A Signal For A New Nogorno-Karabakh Map During Armenia Visit, Hurriyet, Sept 8 2008
Following a history packed with murders, assassinations, attacks, hate, closed borders, invasions, and claims of genocide... This was the first time that a president of the Turkish Republic has paid a visit to Armenia. Since this was a historic visit, I allocate my entire column to this visit I paid together with President Abdullah Gul.
This was the atmosphere just after the match... The two presidents are having a conversation, and we are listening to them. Jokes are being made. The Armenians had prepared a very nice open buffet. There was no sign of victory or defeat on their faces. Gul turns to Sargsyan and says:
-I will visit Azerbaijan after my visit here. I hope positive developments will emerge...
- Of course... We are ready.
This is very important because Sargsyan clearly states, "We want the borders open with Turkey. We want a solution to problems."
What I understand from these remarks are:
1- A new period can start between Azerbaijan and Armenia after this visit. The foreign ministers have already met but this period will mostly be a solution period... Turkey will take on a mediator role. Gul's saying that he would visit the Armenian president shows that such an attempt is being undertaken by both presidents.
2- The technical issues were not debated during this visit, but a new map for Nagorno-Karabakh can be brought to the table in the future...Gul's visit to Baku is a sign of this.
3- I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with the Armenian president. I noticed that he was really sincere and desires a solution. He has a positive disposition.
4- We realized while in the country that Gul's visit to Yerevan was the best possible decision. With good risk management, new doors for the Caucasus can be opened as a result of this visit.
NO MENTION OF SO-CALLED GENOCIDE
The atmosphere of elation on the plane on the way to home after Turkey beat Armenia 2-0 was greater than the jubilance of victory in the match. That is because the approximately 12-hour long visit transformed tension into success. And this was clearly written all over Gul's face.
It was worth taking the risk...
Here are some of important remarks Gul made on the return journey from Yeravan to Ankara:
-They never mentioned the so-called genocide issue. Leaving that aside, they did not even imply it or mention it indirectly. They might have even hinted at it, but they did not.
- We saw that they were as unbiased as us...
-An atmosphere has been created which would allow all the issues to be addressed one by one
-They spoke very comprehensively of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
-The Azeri and Armenian presidents can come together in the future. I will pay a visit to Azerbaijan in the coming days.
-The visit was certainly risky. We could have announced it one week earlier, but certain preparations had to be made for security reasons.
- What would happen had we not paid this visit? There would be no result. The price we pay would continue to grow had no action been taken.
- In fact, the invitation to the match sent the ball into our field. This visit sent the ball back into their field.
Ankara-Yerevan Diplomacy Accelerating September 9, 2008, Turkish Daily News
Football diplomacy warms atmosphere and lays the groundwork for future direct and frequent contacts between Turkey and Armenia. Foreign Ministers Babacan and Nalbandian will meet in New York later this month on the sidelines of annual UN gathering
After the removal of a key psychological barrier between Turkey and Armenia through the weekend's football diplomacy, the two countries' foreign ministers have taken further steps toward the creation of a climate of peace.
Turkey's Ali Babacan and Armenia's Edward Nalbandian will meet in New York on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings from Sept. 23 to Oct. 1.
The announcement of the face-to-face meeting followed the first-ever visit by a Turkish president to Armenia.
While the foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia had already sometimes met on the sidelines of international events, the recent momentum created a more formal framework for the visit.
“We want this positive momentum to continue,” said a Turkish diplomat to the Turkish Daily News.
Unlike diplomat-level gatherings in third countries, the New York meeting is believed to lay the groundwork for direct and frequent contacts on the Ankara-Yerevan axis at the foreign ministerial level in the near future.
This development comes on the heels of the 2.5-hour so-called “midnight diplomacy” between Babacan and Nalbandian in Yerevan. Diplomatic sources said the meeting, also attended by Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, the deputy undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, and Armenian diplomats focused on regional issues.
The upcoming days could see heavy diplomatic traffic around the development of ties on a number of issues, including the re-opening of the closed border, which seriously hampers Armenia's opening to the world, and regarding Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenian troops.
Direct negotiations are already in place under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's, or OSCE, Minsk Group for a final settlement, but Turkey could play a role in facilitating dialogue between Yerevan and Baku.
President Abdullah Gül will fly to Azerbaijan on Wednesday for a one-day visit, said presidential sources.
On Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey favors a peaceful solution through dialogue but is cold to playing a “mediator” role because it is not considered a neutral party by Armenians given that the border with Armenia was closed in 1993 in protest of the occupation of Azerbaijani territory by Yerevan. The Turkish-Armenian rapprochement could only trigger a solution to the dispute after Turkey uses its influence over its regional ally Azerbaijan according to Turkish sources.
Baku has refused to approach compromise before Armenian withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh.
No contentious issues arise
In a rare move breaking taboos and opening a brand new chapter in bilateral ties, Gül watched the football match Saturday in Yerevan alongside his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian. The two pledged to overcome decades of enmity between their two nations.
Speaking to reporters on his return flight, Gül said neither the dispute over the alleged genocide of Armenians under Ottoman Turks nor the closed border figured into the meeting with Sarkisian, suggesting the two leaders had been careful to avoid contentious issues. Gül clearly said his Armenian host made no reference to “the so-called genocide claims.”
The president invited his Armenian counterpart to watch the return match of the Turk-Armenian national teams set for next year in Istanbul. The Armenian president has not yet given a response to Gül's offer.
“It is too early to make a decision,” said diplomatic sources given that it took a long time for the Turkish president to decide whether to go to Yerevan.
Turks deem Yerevan visit positive
In a quick analysis of the aftermath of Gül's Yerevan visit, a Metropoll survey revealed that the majority of the Turks – 69.6 percent – considered the visit “positive,” while only 15 percent of the respondents said it was not productive.
Some 62.8 percent said Turkey should improve diplomatic and economic ties with Armenia, according to the same survey. A total of 25.9 percent said the status quo in Turkish-Armenian relations should be maintained.
This suggests the public supports the government's policy of bettering troubled relations with Yerevan, in contrast to the line taken by the opposition parties. Both the Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, lashed out at the presidential visit. A total 65.6 percent of the respondents said they disagreed with the CHP-MHP policies, while only 24.9 percent expressed approval of the opposition's approach.
Gül Knocked Down A Taboo, September 9, 2008, Mehmet Ali Birand
Until the game was over, I had my heart in my mouth. I expected an incident during the football match played between the national football teams of Turkey and Armenia on Sat. in the Armenian capital Yerevan. Frankly, it was a horrible match. Neither Armenian nor Turkish players were good on the field. But in the end, we won it, 2-0. I cannot help myself but to mention here, if we had played that game against the Belgians we could've been nailed down by them. Let's know this.
The only minor incident was that a group of people whistled while the Turkish national anthem was played.
It wasn't a big deal at all.
We had so many of them; let's not forget about the Turkey-Greece matches by the way!
Until President Abdullah Gül and the National Football Team left Yerevan, nothing had happened. So we relaxed big time.
But what happened in the Armenian capital? Let me tell you what.
· First of all, a new period of dialogue has begun.
· The Turkish Foreign Ministry delegation remained in Yerevan to devise a road map and a time line.
· Bilateral talks that have continued in Switzerland for months will be taken to a higher level.
· Contacts among foreign ministers and leaders of both countries will begin.
· Armenian President Serge Sarkisian will visit Istanbul for a return game. (Frankly, my real fear is the possible protests at the match here. Armenians showed that they are not against rapprochement. We'll see what we will do. The Armenian administration and society showed sincerity and their preference for close relations. Now the ball is in our court. We'll see if we really want this to happen.) No matter what, Sarkisian's visit to Istanbul will accelerate talks.
Until the date, Armenians had always wanted to talk about opening the border without any conditions. Turkey, on the other hand, had insisted on talks on conditions and underlined that talks were possible only if all the issues between the two countries such as border issues, the genocide allegations and the Karabakh issue.
Both sides made compromises. The Armenians gave the impression that they would discuss all issues. Ankara took steps showing that they gave up on preconditions.
From now on, we should closely follow some developments.
· Statements issued by the Armenian and Turkish officials will be followed. We'll check to see if friendship remarks outweigh those of hatred who will say what about this new process.
· We'll see how the Armenian Diaspora will react to this. Will Yerevan support the Diaspora's fierce stance or will it put a distant between them?
· Will Armenians make any gesture in the Karbakah conflict with Azerbaijan, even if it is only symbolic? Or will they do nothing?
Unfortunately, the Turkish-Armenian relations are not only at Ankara and Yerevan's discretion. Foreign powers are involved in and effective so much, I am sure a new crisis will outbreak in the days to come.
If Sarkisian and Gül maintain their approaches of the day, they change the course of the history. If they give into fanatics, nothing positive will come result. Still, I extend my gratitude to both Gül and Sarkisian for knocking down this taboo.
Is Erdogan jealous of Gül?
We had begun the weekend with excitement.
What was to happen over the weekend? Was the risk Gül took to bring anything good or a disaster? What would be the score of the game? What kind of reactions were we shown if we had won it by 5-0 or had been defeated? Could there have been any protests? Or were the games of some circles who are after tension be ruined and we start a new period?
There, as we have begun to talk all these, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stole the show. All TVs and everyone was getting prepared to talk about Gül's visit to Yerevan, Erdogan, all of a sudden, targeted Aydin Dogan, the Dogan Holding's owner for two days.
Can you imagine prime minister of Turkey was excoriating the owner of the biggest group of the country? Who cares about Armenia? It turned out to be such an exciting event and so many rumors were involved that we all forget about Gül and Armenia. Attention was turned to this mouth-watering subject. The entire visit ran to waste.
If Erdogan wanted to scare away Dogan and make the independent media keep silent, couldn't he have waited for a couple of days?
Besides, I have been a journalist for 40 years. To date, I have seen many government leaders who argued with the media. But I assure you that I have not seen any government saving itself from such battle of words.
Erdog(an has done so many good jobs in this country. I supported him in my articles and will continue to do so. But in this subject, he is awfully wrong. He has risen to the bait of some. I do believe in Dog(an.
You may feel differently. I respect you. But this is my view.
TRT Signals Future Broadcasts In Armenian, September 9, 2008, Hürriyet
The Turkish Radio Television, or TRT, is moving towards cooperation with Armenia's public television station to promote dialogue between two neighbors.
After President Abdullah Gül's historic visit to Yerevan, the general manager of TRT, I.brahim S,ahin, announced TRT might start broadcasting in Armenian.
After making the first move by broadcasting the World Cup qualifier between the Turkish and Armenian football teams Saturday, TRT also signed a memorandum of understanding with Armenia 1 TV.
“Cooperation will be made in formats that improve dialogue, programs that focus on Armenia and Turkey, exchange of information and experience, and other issues,” the document read. The memorandum of understanding between the two state television stations will be transformed into a business agreement in the near future to enable joint production of programs and documentaries.
Sahin highlighted the three main pillars of the cooperation – cooperation in management, leading public opinion and education. He maintained that a bridge would be built between two countries with the help of state television.
Noting that the final decision for full-time broadcasting in languages, such as Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and English, which are mostly spoken in neighboring countries is in progress, S,ahin said an Armenian broadcast could be also possible in the second phase. He added that broadcasting in Georgian and Russian was also under consideration.
TRT's official Web site, which currently only operates in Turkish, will be transformed to serve in 12 languages, Sahin said. Although Armenian is not among the 12 proposed languages, a new page might ultimately be added.
Gül In Yerevan: Half Of The Road, September 9, 2008, Cengiz Çandar
This one-day trip to Armenia should produce some solid results so as to be termed as a 'historic' one. That means establishment of diplomatic ties and opening borders
Armenian Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbantian invited us to lunch. At his Foreign Ministry office in the capital Yerevan's Republic Square, we are having lunch and talking about the consequences of Turkish President Abdullah Gül's “historic visit” to the Armenian capital. Arsen Avakian, the translator, is helping us, Hasan Cemal, Ali Bayramog(lu, Mustafa Karaaliog(lu and I, at the table. Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tigran Balaian and Armenian representative of the KEI.B in Istanbul are also around the table.In order to stress the remarkable progress in bilateral relations and normalization, Nalbatian repeated a few times that both presidents were willing for this meeting; he and his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan will take the flag from here on.
“We had a very historic day yesterday,” he started to talk, and, “The first step is the half-way. Presidents have left the half behind. Then, they directed ministers to complete the rest,” he said somewhere in his speech. The next stop is to establish diplomatic ties between Armenia and Turkey and to open the border gate. These two are like twin brothers; without one the other does not exist.
Not a rematch:
We witnessed how both parties are serious in this. The Turkey-Armenia football match for the World Cup qualifiers ended with the victory of Turkey, 2-0. After the game, we went upstairs to attend a cocktail party for Gül and the Turkish delegation. Gül and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian suddenly appeared in front of us. Gül introduced us to Sarkisian. The Armenian leader said the score is not important for him. It was just a tool for a “close-up”. His mood was like spring atmosphere. Sarkisian said that he will pay a visit to Turkey on Oct. 14, without forgetting to add “I am not coming for a rematch.”Nalbatian said during the lunch that Sarkasian's visit would be of historic importance as well. Both foreign ministers have promptly set out for works to be done, steps to be taken and to walk out the rest by Oct. 14.At the end of the cocktail, Gül left the Hrazdan stadium for a return home. Sarkisian's chief adviser took us to our hotel in the city. In the car, he said that the presidents reached an agreement in principal and the ministers will start working for realization of the agreement and for providing logistics along the way. After arriving at the hotel we met at the café and talked about this historic day and the match. At 2:45 a.m., Babacan and his entourage left their hotel right across the street.Nalbatian told us about the rest of the evening. “After the game, I talked with Babacan about 2.5 hours. Two weeks from now, we will meet in New York again. From now on, there will not be any stop between us. To date, we have had so many stops and we waited for so long at every stop but will not be any stops from now on. In the days to come, we will talk something solid. This is Armenia's intention. And we have seen that the Turkish side also has that intention. There is not any country today having diplomatic relations yet not having any border gates open.”
The spring atmosphere:
It is possible to see something solid in Turkey-Armenia rapprochement with his following words, “We also talked about the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform that Turkey suggested. Armenia endorses it 100 percent and sees its significance.”Everyone wants to be prudent and do not want to make any solid commitment yet. But considering the atmosphere in Yerevan, if we hear that diplomatic ties are established between Armenia and Turkey and borders are opened by Oct. 14, this will not be any surprise to us. Still, we approach prudently and say, “We should first see the diplomatic ties established and borders opened.”We are able to take the pulse in Armenia because we arrived in the capital before Gül and left after him. So I think the silent protests during Gül's travel from the airport to the city, the Tashnak banners that were opened and shut immediately and a few swishes here and there were negligible. None can cast shadow over this spring atmosphere between Turkey and Armenia.
A Tashnak official trying to stress that they have nothing against Gül's visit said jokingly,” If we hadn't done that much, we should have closed the Tasnak party.”
As I said before, a “first” by Gül this one-day trip to Armenia should produce some solid results so as to be termed as a “historic” one. And that means establishment of diplomatic ties and opening border gates.
Nalbatian said, “We are half of the way.” Progress the rest of the way has begun with optimism.
“The Relations With Armenia Can Be Normalized By The People On Both Sides”, Bia News Center - Istanbul, 08-09-2008, Tolga Korkut - Tolgakorkut@Bianet.Org
Dr. Aktar sees many obstacles between the both states. It is a very long process, he says, but “the Armenian and Turkish peoples can do it. Those who are interested in this process need to create more occasions to meet.”
Dr. Cengiz Aktar describes President Abdullah Gül’s going to Armenian to watch the soccer match between the two countries with the Armenian President a very important and historical development. However, he also thinks that there are other obstacles needs to be overcome, so that this visit can bring positive results.
Nobody should expect from Armenia to quit using the word ‘genocide’
According to Aktar, Turkey is hoping that these kinds of steps will eventually end Armenia’s insistence in using the word ‘genocide,’ but it is futile, because Armenia does not even want to discuss this at the level of states.
Another obstacle is the factor of Azerbaijan: “Turkey is looking for alternatives other than Russia for energy, but Azerbaijan ties its hands because of the Mountainous Karabag conflict.”
“This problem will be solved by the two peoples”
On the other hand, Aktar thinks that this visit has given a great opportunity for many who have not been to Armenia to see what it is like.
“It will be a long process, but if this problem will be solved, it will be at the level of peoples.It will be solved by forming between the two societies.”
For this reason, says Aktar, it is helpful that those who are for the normalization of the relations between the societies can meet with each other. He thinks the cultural and artistic activities may be able to create the needed mediums for meetings.
At the end of the visit, the both presidents, Abdullah Gül and Serj Sarkisyan, had said that they would not left the solution of the problem between the two countries to the future generations.
“Lot of things will change, if the border is opened”
Aktar says that although it will be nothing short of a miracle if the border between the countries, closed since 1993, is opened, lot of things will change. However, the necessary step has to be taken by Turkey. It will be a major step, says Aktar, if the problem of the recognition of the border between the two countries is solved.
“The more 1915 is discussed, the better it is”
Aktar says that people have been discussing more what happened in 1915 after the European Union process and the murder of Hrant Dink. “The young people no longer believe in the “nothing happened” story.
“Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos, the newspaper of slained Dink, has played a major role in this. Those young people who can ask questions have started asking them. This may in time result in a movement of justice that may affect the both countries. The real issue is the matter of sharing the pain.” (TK/EÜ/TB)
Armenia Lost The Soccer Match, But Gained International Prestige By Harut Sassounian, California Courier, 9.9.2008
I witnessed history in the making last week when the Turkish President, at the invitation of the Armenian President, paid his first ever visit to Armenia to watch the soccer match between the national teams of their respective countries – a qualifying game for the 2010 World Cup finals.
Before the match, some Armenians had been predicting with great nationalistic fervor an outright victory for Armenia , while others were certain that the game would end in a draw, in keeping with the atmosphere of political reconciliation. Armenians frowned upon this writer when he suggested that the powerful Turkish team would most probably win and that the practice of state mandated outcomes for soccer games had ceased with the demise of the Soviet Union . As I had anticipated, the Armenian team lost 2-0 in a lackluster game against the more powerful, but overly cautious Turkish team.
When the Turkish President’s jet arrived at Yerevan ’s Zvartnots Airport last Saturday, he was greeted with proper state protocol and hundreds of protesters. Later on, as he arrived at the Presidential Palace for a meeting with the Armenian President, there were more protests, not against him or his visit, but the Turkish state’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. There were lengthy debates in both the Turkish and the Armenian press about the appropriateness of such protests.
I believe it would have been highly surprising if the head of the Turkish state that continues to deny the Armenian Genocide had visited Armenia without a single Armenian reminding him that there is an on-going injustice and unresolved issues between the two countries. In the absence of such protests, the Turkish President would have drawn the wrong conclusion that Armenians in Armenia had no problems with Turkey and that the Genocide issue is only raised by the Diaspora, particularly since it was reported that the Genocide was not discussed at all between the two presidents. To draw Pres. Gul’s attention to this important issue, ARF members unfurled a giant unsanctioned banner during the soccer match that called for: “Recognition and Reparations.”
Many Armenians were unhappy that the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) had just decided to remove the sketch of Mount Ararat from the FFA logo on the Armenian soccer players’ uniforms. They viewed this removal as an undesirable attempt to appease Turkey . Some members of the Armenian Parliament were so irate that they pledged to raise their objection in Parliament and possibly take legal action against the FFA.
Nevertheless, the soccer match provided a unique opportunity for Pres. Sargsyan and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to meet with their Turkish counterparts in Yerevan to discuss the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict, possible diplomatic relations between the two countries, the blockade of Armenia by Turkey , and the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform – a new Turkish initiative. The two foreign ministers, after huddling long past midnight, decided to continue their discussions later this month while attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York City . Meanwhile, Pres. Gul invited his Armenian counterpart to come to Istanbul on Oct. 14, 2009 to watch with him the return match between the two national soccer teams.
It is not known how much progress was registered in last Saturday’s discussions. Both sides made optimistic statements at the conclusion of their meetings. Several observations could be made, however, regarding recent developments in the region:
-- Both Armenia and Turkey have come under intense diplomatic pressure from the United States , Europe and Russia to resolve their long-standing problems which would enable these foreign powers to secure their energy supplies from the Caspian Sea region and engage in the transfer of goods by rail across now closed borders.
-- The Georgian-Ossetian-Russian conflict has raised Armenia ’s geopolitical significance in the region at the expense of Georgia and Azerbaijan .
-- Turkish officials no longer seem to be setting the resolution of the Artsakh conflict as a pre-condition to establishing relations with Armenia .
-- Since Pres. Gul was strongly urged by his domestic opponents, hardliners within his own administration as well as Azerbaijani officials not to go to Armenia, imagine how much more pressure he would have to endure should he decide to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan and open the closed border with Armenia in the near future!
Finally, one concrete attempt at historical reconciliation between a very special Turk and a very special Armenian already succeeded. Milliyet’s journalist Hasan Cemal, the grandson of one of the three masterminds of the Armenian Genocide, Jemal Pasha, had a very touching meeting earlier this week in Yerevan with the grandson of his grandfather’s Armenian assassin in Tbilisi in 1922. A few days ago, Hasan Cemal visited the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan and placed a wreath in memory of the Armenian victims!
Charles Aznavour Hopes For Improvement Of Armenian-Turkish Relations After President Gul's Visit To Yerevan
YEREVAN, September 8. /ARKA/. Turkish President Abdullah Gul's visit to Armenia will boost diplomatic relations between both countries, renowned French-Armenian chanson entertainer Charles Aznavour said in his letter to Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan.
He approved of Sargsyan's bold initiative to invite his Turkish counterpart to Armenia-Turkey World Cup 2010 qualifier.
Aznavour said he would like to be in Yerevan in order not to miss the Turkish President's landmark visit to Armenia, but he could not attend the soccer match due to health problems.
The chanson entertainer vowed he would be with the Armenian team in his thoughts.
Gul is the first Turkish leader to visit Armenia. Ankara and Yerevan had no diplomatic ties since 1993.
Official Ankara formerly said the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and rejection of the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide are the main requisites for the establishment of diplomatic relations between both countries.
In its turn, official Yerevan expresses readiness to re-establish diplomatic relations with Turkey without any preconditions.
Armenia Has To Choose Between Economic Blockade And Genocide Recognition" 09 September 2008 Today.Az
Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Armenia will promote reconciliation between the two countries, a Russian expert said.
"Armenia faced isolation owing to Saakashvili’s irresponsible behavior. Presently, it needs to re-build relations with Turkey and uninterrupted corridor for cargo transportation," Mikhail Alexandrov, Caucasus expert at the Institute of CIS Studies, told a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter.
"Russia welcomes the meeting between the Presidents of Armenia and Turkey. Russian Railways (RZD), which will operate the Armenian Railway for 30 years, is interested in restoration of Kars-Gyumri line and opening of the Armenian-Turkish border," he said. "Unfortunately, two major questions still remain unsettled. Turkey urges Armenia to give up its policy calling for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide and to withdraw its forces from 7 regions surrounding Nagorno Karabakh. I think a mutually acceptable variant is possible. Armenia doesn’t renounce the Genocide but stops the worldwide recognition campaign. For its part, Turkey doesn’t insist on withdrawal of Armenian troops."
Armenia has to choose between economic blockade and Genocide recognition, according to him.
"The West, which continues to supply Saakashvili with weapons and push Georgia towards NATO, is the major destabilizing factor in the Caucasus. If Turkey, as member state of the Alliance, blocks Georgia’s admission, then it will be possible to hold a serious talk on its Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform," Alexandrov resumed.
AAA: Armenia Won’t Sacrifice Its Principles To Relations With Turkey 09.09.2008
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Serzh Sargsyan’s invitation and Abdullah Gul’s arrival offered a possibility to open dialog between the two states, said AAA Regional Director for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
“Nevertheless, willingness to open a dialog doesn’t mean that Armenia renounces the essence of its national security – recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey should have the courage to face its history,” Arpi Vartanian told a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter. “Time is needed to get the things moving. We live in the 21st century, when a country can’t exist like an island in the region. We should live in peace with neighbors. But, I do repeat, it doesn’t mean that Armenia is ready to sacrifice its principles to establish relations with Turkey.”
As to possible influence of the U.S. presidential election on normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations, Ms. Vartanian said the American constituency is concentrated on internal problems. “Candidates Obama and McCain differ on the Armenian Genocide issue but their opinions of Caucasus policy coincide,” he said.
Gul’s Visit To Armenia Opens A Crack In The Window Edik Baghdasaryan September 08, 2008
I am not a football fan but as I watched the game on September 6th at the Hrazdan Stadium between the Armenia and Turkey I got the impression that the Armenian players were meeting each other for the first time on the pitch. Of course, football isn’t the topic of my discussion here. There are other prominent commentators in Armenia to do that.
Football did open the window a bit in terms of Armenian-Turkish relations. This window is quite narrow but given the wall of enmity that has existed between the two societies for almost one hundred years, it will turn into an important window.
Two weeks before President Gul’s visit to Armenia a number of Turkish news agencies contacted me with proposals for an interview. The questions were almost the same - how is Armenian society reacting to the visit of Gul and how do Armenians in general relate to Turks?
Answering these questions I noted that the two societies are more prepared to the creation of relations than their respective political or government leaders. I felt this to be the case during meetings I had in Istanbul in June of this year. It was my first visit to Turkey. During the past fifteen years hundreds of thousands of Armenians have traveled to Turkey. Despite the absence of diplomatic relations the two societies come into contact with one another. They basically engage in trade with Armenians bringing back a wide range of goods from Turkey. A segment of Armenians have also found work in Turkey. Thousands of Turkish-Armenians, who have Turkish citizenship, come to visit Armenia. A much smaller number of Turks also travel to Armenia, mostly drivers of freight trucks or tourist buses. Thus, even before the authorities were making timid statements about Armenian-Turkish relations, the two societies were already intermingling. It turns out that the people were more courageous than their leadership. After my trip to Turkey I have constantly been wondering about the plight of Armenians from the ROA residing in Turkey and the Turkish-Armenian community. In all likelihood, there isn’t another Armenian community in the world that is as isolated from Armenia than the Turkish-Armenian community. They live in a state of fear and absolutely do not feel the presence of Armenia.
Given all this, September 6th was an historic day for the two countries. For years on end each has portrayed the other in the guise of the enemy. Armenians cannot forget the most tragic page ion their history, the Genocide and the one and a half million martyrs. Turkey doesn’t wish to accept the fact of such an event. In Turkey it is prohibited to use the term “genocide”. People are jailed for doing so. Today, Turkey is not ready to bear the brunt of self-responsibility. Sooner or later, however, this too will happen.
Now, a situation has come about where the two nations have been given the opportunity for mutual contact. Not to take advantage of this opportunity would be dangerous for the two nations. The world is replete with tragedy and conflict and the creation of relations and the establishment of relations between the two can serve as a shining example as how to avert such a conflict. In Turkey they have also come to realize that the Karabakh issue can no longer be resolved through military means.
We are neighboring countries but we hardly have any contact as reporters on a journalistic level. When I was in Istanbul I didn’t know what reporters I could talk to there. The bottom line is that the existing official position regarding Armenia, which isn’t all that friendly and which contains dangerous manifestations, is reflected in the media outlets. The meeting of the presidents will also be a wake-up call for expanded contact between Armenian and Turkish journalists; in order to better represent the other in their respective countries. There is much to write about in Turkey, especially for Armenian reporters.
President Serzh Sargsyan took a bold step and the wheels have started to turn. Once spinning, they cannot be stopped.
It will be quite difficult for the societies in the two countries to demolish the stereotypes dominating for over a century. National chauvinism is dominant in Turkey and I state this based on my observations there. The same isn’t the case in Armenia. Of course, I have my reasons for saying this but it’s a topic for another discussion. Thus, we have to take into account the possibility that certain segments of the society will react unfavorably to all this and take countermeasures.
For we Armenians, there’s a sensitive aspect to the issue - the Diaspora. Giving an explanation to the Diaspora regarding all this will prove to be most difficult. How will the Diaspora react to President Gul’s visit and to normalizing Armenian-Turkish relations without any preconditions? It is a very touch matter. The Diaspora has yet to speak out on the matter and it’s even possible to assume that the Diaspora is proceeding cautiously as well. It’s my belief that these relations will serve to bolster the self-identity issue for many Armenians now living in Turkey, the community will breathe in fresh air and their freedoms will be expanded.
Istanbul has always been a multi-national metropolis. This crossroad of cultures has primarily attracted others for this very reason. Turkey, however, faces a big problem. The press avoids covering the thorny pages of history as they actually occurred. Today, for example, only a small number of Turks know about the incidents of September 5-6, 1955, when acts of violence were targeted against non-Muslim nationalities. There a mass exodus of Greeks from Turkey after these events and scores of Greeks were murdered/ Few Turks know that during those days stores and churches belonging to non-Muslims were burned and looted.
Few Turks today are aware of the fact that Armenians live in Turkey, that Armenian churches and schools openly operate within the country. For the moment, let’s not discuss the conditions these schools and churches are burdened with. Few Turks are aware that Armenian schools, where the language of instruction is Turkish, do not receive a penny of state financing like other schools.
Turkey implements a policy of discrimination regarding its national and religious minorities. Furthermore, the Turkish press doesn’t see fit to cover these issues and, to make matters worse, labels those who voice such concerns as enemies of the Turkish state. As a result many of these activists wind up in Turkish jails or are forced to leave their native country. But these too are other issues that have nothing to do with the game of football.
Peace And Stability In The Caucasus According To Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Anahit Shirinyan September 08, 2008
The war in South Ossetia forced the world to come to grips with new political developments in the south Caucasus. Allies and enemies of Russia alike had the possibility to cull lessons from that war. It appears that neighboring Turkey culled the greatest lesson.
The speed with which Turkey reacted to unfolding developments in the region showed just how vulnerable Ankara’s geo-political positions are in the Caucasus.
Cutting his vacation short, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan first traveled to Moscow and later to Tbilisi and Baku. In Russia, this unusual diplomatic activity on the part of the Turkish Prime Minister was viewed as a desperate attempt to correct the weakening Turkish position resulting from the Caucasian crisis and to find ways to defend its national interests in a new geo-political state of affairs.
It is known that the British Petroleum company decided to shut down the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipelines as well as the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline for as long as tensions continue in the region. The war laid bare the vulnerability of these military strategic projects directed to the West.
While in Moscow Erdogan came forth with an initiative to create a Caucasian Platform of Stability and Cooperation which would encompass Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. The essential aim of the Platform would be the establishment of peace and security in the region by means of cooperation. As Erdogan noted in Baku, this Platform must first and foremost be established on a geographical factor, that it should set as its objective regional peace and security and that it must include economic cooperation and energy security issues. In the words of the Turkish Prime Minister, the Platform must be established on the principles of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Turkey’s eastern policy is threatened
The unforeseen developments in the southern Caucasus, in actuality, dealt a serious blow to Turkey’s national interests. In recent years, Turkish foreign policy directed towards the East, in terms of establishing its influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia) where placed on the back-burner and all its energies were focused on the process of obtaining membership in the European Union. Turkey was much more active in terms of its eastern policy at the start of the 1990’s when Ankara set on a course to lead the newly independent Turkic-speaking states after the collapse of the Soviet Union, while at the same time representing the interests of Washington in the region. This foreign policy course by Turkey failed however due to a set of internal and external factors which prompted Washington to decide to actively involve itself in the regional processes.
Even after this, Turkey did not give up on its ambitions to become a regional superpower and intended to become even more active, especially if Europe didn’t accept Ankara into its family. As history shows, in all those cases when the doors of Europe were closed before Turkey, Ankara directed its sights on the East, seeking to compensate its failures on the European front with an expanded influence in the peoples and countries located in the East. Thus, as a result of the Georgian-South Ossetian war, when the competing interests of Moscow and Washington have reached a point of collision, the eastern (reserve) policy of Ankara faces serious challenges and threatens to leave Turkey without any spheres of influence. Given that Ankara fully understands that it must come to terms with the Russian factor in terms of the former Soviet territories, Turkey has decided to cooperate with its longtime competitor, Russia. In actuality, the speedy initiative of Turkey’s Prime Minister is nothing more than a proposal to divide influence in the Caucasus between Turkey and Russia and by excluding the other traditional regional players, Washington, Brussels and Tehran.
By taking such a step, Turkey resolves several problems all at once. This initiative affords Turkey the possibility to play a larger role in regional processes. Turkey also is handed the possibility to restore the role it played for the West as NATO’s eastern arm, something it had lost as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. A greater degree of Turkey’s involvement in a region adjacent to Europe, whose instability threatens the security of Europe, increases the importance of Turkey in the eyes of Brussels. In the end, cooperation with Russia to a certain degree safeguards the inviolability of the pipelines leading to the West. In this way, Ankara not only restores its position in the Caucasus, and in Central Asia in the future given its long-term plan, but assumes the role of mediator in relations between Russia and the West, something that incomparably heightens the latter’s dependency on Turkey.
Peace and stability in the Caucasus without Matthew Bryza
Matthew Bryza, the United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs confessed that he was taken by surprise by the Turkish initiative to create a so-called security alliance in the Caucasus. Bryza has said that, “They never warned me about this.” President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian, declared that developments in Georgia exposed the inability of the United States to determine global politics. Gul concluded that, “The time has come when the United States must share power in the world with other nations.” Underlining the fact that the United States can no longer oversee the entire world from a single center, the Turkish President suggested to work together. “We must create new world systems”, the President noted. Azeri political scientist Rasim Musabekov considers this notion of Erdogan’s, that the countries of the region, Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia can come to an understanding in the South Caucasus without the participation of the United States and Europe, to be unrealistic since it is essentially impossible not to take the interests of the West into account. The Turkish press, for its part, notes that it is also impossible not to factor Iran into the equation given that it too has regional interests and that in a certain sense it can also be considered a Caucasian state.
While recently in Baku, the Turkish head of government declared that, “For the past 16 years no results have been forthcoming from the activities of the Minsk Group, a fact that forces us to think. The Caucasian Peace and Stability Platform can contribute to the work leading to the establishment of peace and stability in the region.” The Turkish Prime Minister is convinced that his proposed platform will afford the possibility to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. However, Ankara’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains the same. Erdogan is of the belief that the creation of a Caucasian alliance will lead to a resolution of conflicts in the Caucasus based on the principles set forth in the 1921 Treaty of Kars signed between Russia and Turkey. It is well known that the Treaty of Kars delineated the present de jure borders, handing over Nakhijevan and Nagorno-Karabkh to Azerbaijan.
The idea of creating a variety of cooperative formats with the participation of Caucasian regional states surfaced as early as the beginning of the 1990’s. The leaders of the regional states, as well as interested powers outside the region, have frequently broached the concepts of a Caucasian House, Common House, a Caucasian Stability Pact and Peace in the Caucasus. This recent initiative of the Turkish Prime Minister is quite similar to that proposed by the former President of Turkey Suleiman Demirel. During an official visit to Georgia on January 15, 2000, the then Turkish President Demirel came out with an initiative regarding a Stability Pact for the Caucasus that would serve as a multi-party forum to be directed along OSCE principles. All these initiatives, however, whose main objective was to overcome the contradictions existing in the region through cooperative means, were impossible to implement due to those very contradictions. Between the years 1918-1920, during the short-lived independence of the three republics of the Trans-Caucasus, there was another attempt to establish a Tanscaucasian Confederation. Then too, this attempt at creating a Caucasian unified entity failed due to mutually conflicting interests. If both Georgia and Azerbaijan saw the threat to their independence as emanating from the north, i.e. Russia, for Armenia, the threat came from Turkey. The failed attempts for a union of the Caucasus prompt us to ask a most important question – This time around what will assist in the formation of a Caucasian union?
The Pipeline for Peace Theory
It is the conviction of Erdogan that stable peace and security in the Caucasus is possible through the deepening of economic cooperation amongst the regional states. As the best illustrations of economic undertakings that have supported regional peace and security he points to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars projects. In this manner Erdogan implies that the diversification of energy pipelines in the region is the backbone of his proposed platform. Based on the statements of Erdogan, Caucasian regional affairs expert Gyuner Ozcan, who works at The International Strategic Research Organization in Ankara, concludes that if Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Armenia take advantage of large-scale economic projects such as energy pipelines or railways, either now existing or in the planning stage, that ethno-regional wars, the most serious problems to regional security, can either be averted or resolved once and for all. The Turkish expert recounts that in 1995 John Maresca, a United States negotiator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement process, expressed the opinion that if the Baku-Ceyhan peace pipeline were to stretch across the territories of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia this would encourage Armenian political leaders to make capital investments in it and to get involved in sincere attempts to settle the conflict. As the Turkish expert notes, the proposed peace pipeline could have similarly resolved issues between Turkey and Armenia that exist till today and would have afforded the two countries the possibility to put their political and economic relations in order. If Erdogan’s pronouncements are sincere and Ankara actually desires to initiate regional economic cooperation, by opening its doors to Armenia as well, then this would be a complete reversal of Ankara’s 16 year-long policy regarding Yerevan. We are all aware that till today both Turkey and Azerbaijan have implemented a continuous policy of isolating Armenia; they view the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and backing-down on the recognition of the Genocide as preconditions. Now, in essence, Ankara is implying that it is ready to include Armenia in regional economic projects, as a precondition for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Even though after his visits to Tbilisi and Baku Erdogan declared that he had received a positive response to his proposal, analysts however are of the opinion that that Moscow and Tbilisi, Yerevan and Baku, will not negotiate with one another regarding this concept. In any case, those who can actually cull some advantage from this initiative, albeit an unrealistic one, are Yerevan and Moscow. As Erdogan pointed out, he plans to implement negotiations with Armenia as well. President Serzh Sargsyan, as early as his trip to Moscow, invited Turkish President Abdullah Gul to Armenia, to watch the September 6th Armenia-Turkey football match together. After the proposal made by the Turkish Prime Minister, the question voiced in the Armenian and Turkish press in the past as to whether Gul will really come to Armenia, assumes a more urgent and up to date tone. Vardan Oskanian, the former Foreign Minister of Armenia, in his article entitled “The Caucasus Moment” that appeared in the August 24th edition of the International Herald Tribune, considers the Turkish Prime Minister’s proposal to be of interest and adds that the concept needs to be formulated and implemented correctly.
At the same time the former Foreign Minister notes that the football match soon to take place between the national teams of the two countries is an opportune time for the two neighbors to discuss common security challenges and to pave the way for the establishment of peace in the region. Voices in the Turkish press have also called for dialogue. These voices argue that Ankara must accept the invitation, if not by the President himself then at least by an official on the Foreign Ministry level. Many will agree that the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations will bring a great measure of peace and stability to the Caucasus then all the efforts, sincere but unrealistic as they are, to resolve all outstanding issues at once. As reality shows, the moment for each state in the region is different, but that the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations can be situated alongside those issues whose resolution can actually herald the “Caucasus Moment”.
Press And Information Department Of The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs Of The Republic Of Armenia
Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Turkey expressed their determination on comprehensive normalisation of bilateral relations At midnight from September 6 to September 7 the meeting between Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Turkey Edward Nalbandian and Ali Babajan started off, which lasted two hours and a half.
Welcoming the guest, Minister Nalbandian mentioned that Armenia attaches great importance the visit of high-ranking delegation, headed by the President of Turkey, which creates good possibility for a dialogue between the leadership of two countries. As Minister Nalbandian defined, it's a good beginning, which will have positive continuation.
Armenian Foreign Minister reaffirmed the principal position of the Armenian side on to establish relations without preconditions. He also stressed, that Armenia considers President Gul's visit as a serious stimulus in that direction.
Armenian and Turkish Foreign Ministers expressed their determination on comprehensive normalization of bilateral relations. The two mentioned, that consistent steps in that direction will be taken.
Ministers Nalbandian and Babajan agreed to meet later this month on the sidelines UN General Assembly session in New-York.
Edward Nalbandian and Ali Babajan discussed in details Turkey's initiative to establish a Caucasus stability and cooperation platform. In this context Minister Nalbandian welcomed that idea, which is aimed at establishment of confidence, stability, security and cooperation in the region.
The two also touched upon recent developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
In the course of the meeting several international and regional issues were also discussed.
Milliyet, Turkey Sept 6 2008
Milliyet Criticizes President's Visit To Armenia
I had written of President Abdullah Gul's criticisms regarding Armenia 15 years ago and asked what has changed in the intervening time. Some readers objected, saying "of course a great many things have changed in 15 years." So now let us read together what Abdullah Gul, speaking as the president, said while addressing the Azerbaijani National Parliament in 2007:
"The entire world finally has to recognize that Armenia's on the one hand engaging in hostile behaviour towards Turkey, and on the other hand its keeping Azerbaijani territory under occupation, is the reason for the current situation. As long as Armenia continues to press for the events of 1915 to be commented upon in other countries' parliaments, no development should be expected in terms of a normalization of relations."
Let us ask once again: What has changed in the past year? Is there even the slightest change in the policies of Armenia? Apart from pressure from the United States and the EU, what else has changed from Gul's standpoint?
Milliyet, Turkey, Sept 6 2008
A Win-Win Match Ends In Yerevan, September 8, 2008, Vercihan Ziflioglu, YEREVAN- Turkish Daily News
President Abdullah Gül's historical visit to the Armenian capital raises hopes of normalization between the two neighbors. Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian says they have no intention to pass the problems to the next generation, as Gül speaks of demolishing psychological barriers
The first-ever visit of a Turkish leader to Yerevan on the sidelines of the first football match between Turkey-Armenia's national teams raised hopes for normalization of relations.
“I believe my visit has demolished a psychological barrier in the Caucasus," Gül was reported telling journalists on his plane while returning from his trip to Yervan late Saturday.
Gül raised hopes for a long-awaited rapprochment between the two neigbors saying if this climate continues everything will move forward and normalize. Sarkisian also expressed his optimism for resolving the problems and not leaving them in the hands of the next generation.
Before the historic match, President Abdullah Gül held talks with his counterpart Serzh Sarkisian at the presidential palace, where the support of Yerevan for Ankara's initiative on a Caucasus stability and cooperation platform was secured. Sarkisian, did not talk about genocide claims but raised the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenia. Even though Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Armenia when it gained independence in 1991, Ankara has refused to establish diplomatic ties on account of Yerevan's campaign to have the events of 1915-1917 recognized as genocide. In 1993, Turkey shut its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity with its close ally Azerbaijan.
Ankara emerging as signifiant actor for Nagorno-Karabakh
“He did not mention, or even imply the genocide claims but he broached the subject on Nagorno-Karabakh, which frankly I thought he would abstain from. He had a lengthy elaboration on the issue, even expressing his will for Turkey to mediate the tensions with Azerbaijan,” Gül was quoted saying by daily Yeni S,afak's columnist Ali Bayramoglu Sunday.
Gül identified the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as the most important issue of the Caucasus. Baku and Yerevan have been directly negotiating to resolve the long-lasting problem at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group. Terms for Armenia's withdrawal remains a key issue, while experts think Turkey may get the upperhand in those negotiations by displaying a positive approach for the opening of the sealed border with Armenia, the country's only gateway to European markets. Although the trip raised expectations for Ankara to take steps to easing the current border regime, Gül said it was not realistic to anticipate such results from the first meeting.
Gül's trip was welcomed as a “courageous and historic” by the French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, or EU.
President Gül said the decision to go to Yerevan was taken a long time ago, however was not expounded until two days before the match due to security preparations and praised Armenia's cooperation.
“We did not go to Yerevan with our eyes shut. I had my own car, we had all required logistics and technology and Turkish special forces accompanied me,” Gül said.
Gestures exchanged, challenges intercepted
Symbolic gestures from both sides during the half-day visit were worth noting, starting with Gül's decision to abstain from fasting for a day and attend a dinner organized by Sarkisian. During the dinner, famous Armenian singer Djivan Gasparian sang the song “Blonde bride,” which has both Turkish and Armenian lyrics. The Turkish Republic airplane carrying Gül and his delegation used the direct air corridor between Ankara and Yerevan for the first time for the outgoing and return flights which lasted nearly 1 hour and 20 minutes.
President Gül also invited his Armenian counterpart Sarkisian to attend a return football match between two national teams in Turkey on Oct. 14.
Beyond 90 Minutes, ‘History Is Written’ Yavuz Baydar firstname.lastname@example.org
The ball is rolling. It did not seem to matter much who won the game between Turkey and Armenia. The 90-minute match, brought Turks and Armenians closer, if not to resolve every issue that holds them apart, at least to face each other and talk on very friendly terms.
At the end of the rather dull game, a Turkish diplomat who was involved in talks aimed at repairing the bad relations between two countries told me: "Two goals mean nothing. Today the history is already written." And Armenia's foreign minister, Eduard Nalbandyan, would later tell me: "Both sides are the winners in this game."
Indeed. When I met the two countries' presidents, Abdullah Gül and Serzh Sarksyan, after the game in the VIP lobby, they were both glowing with enthusiasm. Both seemed confident about taking the momentum further and said they were even surprised at the "depth" of the discussions. The fact that the foreign ministers worked until early morning after the game is an indication that one may expect positive, concrete steps soon. "We are making a great beginning," Gül said, when I asked him about his feelings. "We are taking the opportunity in our grip and we will carry it much further," he added. And, as Nalbandyan pointed out, "The fact that two foreign ministers sat down, tete a tete, more than two hours after the match, may mean it will be serious business. You can take for granted that the Georgian crisis, paradoxically, helped a lot to raise the curtain. Turkey and Armenia are meeting on the same ground, sharing the same concerns about the future of the Caucasus.
"The border issue is the most urgent," says Giro Manoyan, a key figure in the nationalist Dashnak Party. I met him after my visit to the "no man's land." Until recently the rhetoric of the Dashnaks was tough, stating a set of conditions for even talking to the Turks, beginning with recognizing the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Armenians as "genocide." Not anymore. Giroyan admits gladly that the visit by Turkish President Abdullah Gül to Yerevan is a good thing in itself.
It is important to pay attention to what he says. Simply because, for a long time what Dashnaks said, as with their counterparts in Turkey, the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the neo-nationalist Republican People's Party (CHP) -- the latter sharing "comradeship," strange as it may sound, with the Dashnaks in Socialist International -- dominated the Cold War discourse between the two countries. But, as MHP and CHP sing the same tune of maintaining the freeze, Manoyan surprises me. "One hopes that the visit will not be just a visit" he says. "There are steps that can be taken rapidly. Gül can go back and declare the border open," he adds, hinting at the abnormality of keeping an embargo in the Caucasus, which is slowly drifting into a crisis that can spread south. What else? "Then the next step would be to lift the embargo and the next step would be to normalize diplomatic relations." This opportunity, he continues, should be used as an opportunity to start trade and open embassies.
"The genocide issue, though it will be there in the minds and hearts of the Armenian people, though it will have to be addressed definitively, should not be allowed to prevent these steps" he concludes.
Listening to him, one can easily come to the conclusion that, as two thirds of Turks approved of Gül's visit Armenia, the time is ripe for the Armenians to not show resistance to a rapprochement with Turkey.
The two sides say the same thing about the timetable: The first concrete signs of rapprochement may come even this week. But, as one high level diplomat from the Armenian side tells me, "the devil is in the details," and the real work is only beginning. As much as it is clear for the Armenians in general that it is impossible to "forget" the genocide issue, it is also very obvious that a key question is -- if we are to expect any meaningful consequences from the historic visit -- the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of the border. The good news is that the Armenian side wants Turkey to actively help them resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
Optimism is very high on both sides. Nalbandyan told me, "We can achieve results even before two teams meet each other again on the football field." That will be October 14, when Turkey plays against Armenia in I.stanbul.
History tells us that in critical moments leadership and determination must be united with speed. As one Turkish diplomat told me, "It would be terrible if we missed this moment. We may end up in a worse situation, because it is us and them who raised the expectations." Given the fact that Turks and Armenians lent support to each side with an overwhelming majority (over 70 percent), he is certainly right.08.09.2008
Credibility And Priority In Foreign Policy Ömer Taspinar email@example.com
Abdullah Gül's historic visit to Yerevan brings much-needed credibility to Turkish foreign policy in its attempts to mediate between parties in conflict in the region. Let me explain what I mean.
Over the last few years Ankara has been actively engaged in facilitating talks between Syria and Israel, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Iran and the United States, and more recently between Russia and Georgia. These are all admirable efforts, worthy of a country in search of a constructive role in the region.
Yet, seen from Washington, there is something missing in this picture: Turkey's own problems in the region. After all, any country that attempts to solve the world's most intractable conflicts should first try to handle its own major foreign policy problems. This is why each time Turkish officials come to Washington and brag about Turkey's growing influence in the region, their American counterparts listen carefully and then politely ask questions about Turkey's relations with northern Iraq, the Republic of Cyprus and Armenia. In their eyes, these are the "real" challenges facing Turkish foreign policy.
As far as Washington's Turkey agenda is concerned, these problems are more pressing and certainly more "relevant" than the Arab-Israeli peace process or relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. To be sure, Washington appreciates Turkey's quest for regional peace and "strategic depth" (except for depth with Hamas and Iran, of course). Yet, there also is a sense that Turkish foreign policy needs stronger focus and a better set of priorities. Perhaps the most important thing Ankara could do for Washington is to solve its own domestic and foreign policy problems.
After all, what would be the use of Turkish mediation between Tel Aviv and Damascus if Turkey cannot handle its relations with Baghdad because of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Or what's the point of Turkish mediation between conflicting parties if there is a military coup in Turkey itself? The most important contribution Turkey can make to the region is often to maintain its own domestic stability and democracy. Next comes Turkey's ability to solve its own foreign policy problems and pursue its own path to the European Union. In a world where the "clash of civilizations" has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, Turkey's ability to prove the compatibility of democracy, Islam, secularism and a pro-Western attitude is a crucial achievement in and of itself.
This is why Ankara would be well advised to adopt a realistic foreign and domestic policy with clear priorities. The top domestic issue for Turkey should be to avoid further domestic turmoil. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government barely survived its last battle with the secularist establishment. The lesson should be clear: Domestic stability comes first. In order to achieve domestic stability Turkey needs a stronger democracy. And for a stronger democracy Ankara needs EU membership. This is why everything Turkey does at home and in foreign policy should be geared towards better relations with the European Union.
Gül's visit to Armenia is an excellent step in that direction. It proves to the United States and the European Union that Turkey is not just interested in solving other countries' problems. Ankara should show a similar level of maturity and self-confidence in reaching out to Arbil, another crucial foreign policy challenge. Cyprus is another area that could use some additional focus in Turkish foreign policy.
The logic is behind such moves is simple: The more Turkey can prove it is able to solve its own problems, the more it will be listened to in Washington and Brussels. The AKP should remember that its most successful years were 2003 to 2005, when Gül and Erdog(an together prioritized EU membership and a solution the Cyprus conflict. In 2003 they declared that "Turkey will be always one step ahead of the Greek Cypriots." Their flexibility paid off. Turkey began accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, and Ankara gained the moral high ground in Cyprus.
The years 2005 to 2007 turned out to be more problematic for the AKP, mainly because it lost focus and enthusiasm for the European Union. With the slowdown of EU reforms, deeply rooted domestic problems re-emerged. This was not a coincidence: Turkey needs the EU not only for foreign policy but more importantly for domestic stability and democracy. This is why 2008 should be the beginning of a new era for Ankara. The EU should once again become the top priority and Ankara should spend more time solving its Armenian, Kurdish and Cyprus problems. Peace in the Middle East can wait a few more years.08.09.2008
Problems At Home, Peace In The World, Bülent Kenes, firstname.lastname@example.org
The outstanding results of the "zero problems with neighbors" policy that Turkey has been pursuing for the last five or six years are obvious. Until recently Turkey saw itself as a country "surrounded by enemies" and devised its foreign policy based on this perception, but today Turkey has created a "chain of peace" around itself.
There was only one missing link in this chain: Armenia. But now we can safely claim that a new era has begun with Armenia.
Indeed, the historic visit by Turkish President Abdullah Gül to Yerevan in response to an invitation by Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan to join him at a football match between national teams of the two countries is worth being heralded as the start of a new era between two countries. The civilized and diplomatic courage displayed by the presidents of Turkey and Armenia, whose border is still closed and which do not enjoy diplomatic ties, deserves much praise. We hope this lost link of the zero problems with neighbors policy will be put in place as soon as possible so that Turkey evolves into an oasis of peace surrounded by friendly countries.
In the great efforts exerted by Turkey for developing friendly relations with its neighbors, the resolve by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is the main driving force. Gül, who personally implemented this policy during his time in office as foreign minister, is lending support to this admirable policy also as president. Otherwise, he would not dare to proceed with such an initiative so harshly criticized by opposition parties and neo-nationalist circles.
Yet, despite its success in settling its problems with its neighbors, Turkey cannot formulate policies that would embrace all social groups within. Notwithstanding all well-intentioned attempts by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the state has not yet been able to welcome religious/conservative groups as well as a majority of the Alevi and Kurdish populations. The state still perceives some of its citizens as its enemies or as a potential threat to itself, and acts accordingly just because their lifestyles are different. But having successfully pursued a policy of zero problems with its neighbors, Turkey should achieve the goal of having zero problems with various social groups consisting of its citizens.
Actually, we know that the AK Party government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdog(an is eager to initiate policies to ensure greater rapprochement between the state and the social groups that are the subject of discrimination. This eagerness, though yet to become reality, can be witnessed in the government's so-called "new Kurdish initiative" and the "Alevi initiative" and in the legislative work on the elimination of the headscarf ban on university campuses -- one of the most important problems for conservative groups -- and in the attempt to draft a new civilian constitution that would bring greater freedoms and individual rights to all social groups, including religious minorities. However, while it was not thwarted by the criticism and obtrusive attacks from the opposition concerning the visit to Armenia, the government is still unable to solve the problems the state has with its citizens irrespective of religion, language, ethnicity, ideology or lifestyle. In other words, while Turkey is extremely ardent in realizing the "peace in the world" part of founding father of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's famous motto, "Peace at home, peace in the world," it still lacking in implementing the "peace at home" part.
As a person who knows well the willingness and determination of the government with respect to the "peace at home" part, I can assure you that it is the government that deserves the least criticism in this respect. Everyone is well aware of the fact that the steps the government took to secure domestic peace have so disturbed the establishment, top judiciary, high bureaucracy, pro status quo elites and the military that this uneasiness led to a closure case against the AK Party. Nevertheless, we can expect no one but the AK Party to try and launch formulas and initiatives devised to bring the state, Kurds, Alevis and conservatives closer together. At this point, we must note that newly appointed Chief of General Staff Gen. I.lker Bas,bug('s mingling with the people in one of the southeastern provinces will make a significant contribution to the desired rapprochement between the state and the nation.
However, these good-willed and constructive gestures are still ineffective in terms of solving the problem. A public opinion poll conducted by Ankethane between Aug. 1 and 10 and whose results have just been released has revealed the urgency of bringing the state closer to the nation without any discrimination. You can read the details of this poll in today's edition of Today's Zaman. Suffice it to say that the answers to the question "Will we see a Turkish-Kurdish conflict in the future?" imply that this possibility is still worrying all citizens.
Another striking finding from the poll's results is that Kurds have split into two distinct groups. Although due to the Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) terrorism, stretching back around 30 years, a Turkish-Kurdish cleavage could have been anticipated, this division has occurred in reality among Kurds. The division has created a group around the Democratic Society Party (DTP), radicalized due to armed conflict and adherence to the organization. Opposite this group are the Kurds who have not embraced radicalism or armed conflict. The existence of this "moderate" group of Kurds is a great opportunity for Turkey.
One cannot agree more with the words of Professor Dog(u Ergil, the poll's analyst, who said: "A reasonable public administration should embrace this moderate Kurdish population, try to make it bigger and reward their political wisdom. This reward can be given by integrating the Kurdish culture with the system within the framework of democratic pluralism and human rights, not by banning everything that is Kurdish. Perceiving nation not as an ethnic and cultural uniformity/assimilation, but as political and legal union, and defining this in the constitution can serve as the antidote of this problem. If this is not done, and if this moderate Kurdish population is alienated politically, the ethnic division and conflict will become inevitable. By failing to create a modern pluralistic and participatory democracy, Turkish public administration will do what the PKK has failed to do. In this case, violence, which is seen as a tactical tool today, may evolve into a strategic purpose that targets division."08.09.2008
Prospects Of Thaw With Armenia Closer After Gül’s Visit, Fatma Disli email@example.com
President Abdullah Gül paid a visit to Yerevan on Saturday to watch a World Cup qualifier match between the national teams of the two countries that Turkey won 2-0, the first president to visit Armenia in the history of Turkish Republic.
Turkey severed ties with Armenia and closed its border when Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory, in a show of solidarity to its regional and ethnic ally Azerbaijan. During this historic visit both Gül and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, expressed hope that their meeting would herald a new beginning for the settlement of problems between the two neighbors. And now reconciliation seems closer after this historic visit.
"I could say that it went the way I had hoped. Turkey defeated Armenia; friendship won. In other words, soccer diplomacy worked," says Milliyet's Hasan Cemal, who was among the Turkish journalists in Yerevan with Gül. Referring to a question he asked Sarksyan as to what he expects as the next step in relations with Turkey, he quotes him as saying "the opening of the border gates" and "the establishment of diplomatic relations." "These two things are seen as opening the doors to normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia. In particular, opening the border is paid much heed by the public in Yerevan because it will have a positive influence on their daily lives," says Cemal. In his view, this historic step Gül has taken should be followed by other steps, and the governments of both countries should show the necessary determination and courage to this end. "If other positive steps are not taken, this could result in big expectations turning into big disappointments," warns Cemal.
Star's Mustafa Karaaliog(lu, who was also among Turkish journalists in Yerevan, gives some details about the meeting between Gül and Sarksyan. He says Armenian allegations of genocide, which suggest that ethnic Armenians were exposed to genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, did not come to the agenda during the meeting. "Sarksyan did not make mention of the issue. The leaders talked in particular about the stability of the region. Sarksyan suggested that Armenia could take part in the Caucasus alliance initiated by Turkey," says Karaaliog(lu.
Yeni Safak's Ali Bayramoglu discusses whether Gül's visit could help in the settlement of disputes between the two countries and expresses hope that it could. Referring to Gül, he says Gül's meeting with Sarksyan was very realistic, as he said that "the opening of the border with Armenia cannot be expected from Ankara at the end of my visit. The Armenians would not expect such a thing, either." According to Bayramog(lu, humane values were the winners of Gül's Yerevan visit since a pro-peace approach and courageous and reasonable politics were dominant. "I am sure Hrant [Dink] was very happy, too," says Bayramog(lu, referring to slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who made great efforts for the reconciliation of Turks and Armenians during his lifetime.08.09.2008
Turkey Does The Talking On The Pitch
Turkey, the better, stronger and faster team, won as the national team shut out Armenia 2-0 in their 2010 World Cup qualifying Group 5 game at Hrazdan Stadium in Yerevan on Saturday evening, with two second-half goals by Tuncay Sanli and Semih Sentürk.
Looking at the latest FIFA rankings shows that Turkey and Armenia belong to different galaxies in the universe of soccer. The Turks, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2008 semifinalists, are placed 10th while Armenia is a distant 98th. This means any soccer match between the two countries should be a foregone conclusion -- a clear victory for Turkey.
But Saturday's Armenia-Turkey encounter was much more than a soccer match. It was the first ever game between the senior national teams of the two neighboring countries with no diplomatic relations and a closed border. And even though Turkey coach Fatih Terim said in his post-match press conference in Yerevan that "we are here [in Armenia] to play soccer and we do no not want to take responsibility for the history between the two nations," everything was at stake in this match. Apart from precious points, as we mentioned in our preview to this match, nationalistic fervor, rivalry, precious points, pride, prestige, history and bragging rights were all at stake.
Nothing is more natural than the big fish eating the small fish. And as Armenia's Danish coach Jan Poulsen predicted when he said: "Turkey is considered the favorite. ... Everyone expects them to win," the Turks gave the Armenians a good soccer lesson and once again proved, beyond reasonable doubt, that they are among the best top 10 in world soccer -- and they will beat the Armenians a thousand times if both countries play a thousand times.
After a scoreless first half Tuncay gave the visiting Turks the lead in the 61st minute, scoring from close range. Semih made it 2-0 in the 79th, capitalizing on a defender's mistake in the box. Mehmet Aurelio had an early chance for Turkey but his powerful shot from 14 meters four minutes into the game was blocked by goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky.
Armenia had a half chance in the eighth when Volkan Demirel saved Gamlet Mkhitarian's drive from 25 meters. Though there were no goals in the first half, Turkey, undisputedly the superior side, looked more organized.
The Turks came close midway through the first half when captain Emre Belozog(lu shaved the crossbar from the edge of the box in the 27th minute. Three minutes later, Mevlut Erdinç broke down the left flank only to hit the outer side of the net.
The game was marked by the presence of President Abdullah Gül, making this the first visit by a Turkish president to Armenia. Gül was invited to attend the game by his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, who called for closer ties in a region rocked last month by Russia's war with Georgia.
So in the end it was a soccer match after all and the Turks proved soccer can be a meritocracy. They did not allow the "beautiful game" to fall prey to the politics of antagonism.
Also in Group 5 on Saturday, Belgium beat Estonia 3-2 at home and Spain edged visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0. On Wednesday, Turkey hosts Belgium while Armenia is to meet European champion Spain on its turf.
Turkish Under-21s topple Czech Republic in Bursa
A pair of second-half goals from Ayd?n Karabulut took Turkey past the Czech Republic and to the top of Group 2 with one match to play after victory at Bursa's Atatürk Stadium.
Ayd?n struck at the 63rd and 85th minute to seal a crucial victory for coach Hami Mand?ral?'s side, which will now confirm its place in the playoffs should it draw at home with Armenia on Tuesday. The Turks lead the group by a point over the Czechs, who must win at home against Ukraine in their final match and hope, maybe against hope, that the Turks slip against Armenia. I.stanbul Today's Zaman, 08 September 2008, Okan Udo Bassey Istanbul
Enthusiastic Armenians wave flags bearing the names of both Turkey and Armenia at the World Cup qualifier match at Hirazdan Stadium on Saturday. Turkey scored two goals against Armenia, which brought it victory.
Zaman: New era with Yerevan, read the daily's lead headline yesterday, in a story reporting that a visit paid by Turkish President Abdullah Gül to the Armenian capital on Saturday to watch a World Cup qualifier match between the national teams of the two countries marked the beginning of a new era in Turkey's relations with Armenia. President Gül and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, met for an almost three-hour meeting before the match, which Turkey won 2-0. At a joint press conference following the meeting Sarksyan said, "We hope we will be able to demonstrate goodwill to solve the problems between our countries and not leave them to future generations," the daily reported.
Radikal: Promising start, was the main headline of the daily yesterday, referring to a meeting between President Gül and his Armenian counterpart, Sarksyan, in Yerevan on Saturday. The joint message given by both leaders was a determination to resolve disputes between the two countries. Gül went to Yerevan to watch a World Cup qualifier game between the national teams of the two countries upon an invitation from Sarksyan, the daily noted. 08 September 2008,
Praising A Boring Soccer Match Etyen Mahçupyan e.mahcupyan@todayszaman
Soccer’s ability to mobilize feelings of nationalism and bring together large crowds around a single slogan is perhaps related to this sport’s ability to reflect societal character. For example, in basketball, the sole determining factor is the quality of the trainer and the players.
But in soccer it is as if there is an additional element not under anybody’s control at work. Certain states of mind and attitudes that we cannot fully name but know nonetheless, that belong to us, that can almost be named as the common culture of this land we live on, seem to make up the essential material of soccer.
Our soccer-loving dreamers perhaps hoped for a soccer feat ahead of the Turkey-Armenia game, remembering the soccer Turkey played in Germany and Armenia’s defeat of Poland. However, that social state of mind embedded in soccer says that the said games are special situations that can only occur at certain times. Just like the very rare shake-up moments of common sense these societies have had in their history.
Honestly, my expectation was to see both teams play in accordance with their own characters and for Turkey to win by two or three points thanks to purely accidental goals. Armenia’s chances of scoring were very low, so the best they could do was end a game without any goals. Of course, this was the first game of the group and we had to consider that both teams had not yet been fully settled.
However, I never thought that the political and historical burden would be an element affecting the game. In order for someone to understand this, a trip to Anatolia and Armenia should be enough. Both societies have long moved beyond a certain psychological threshold and have been in search of normalization and ordinariness. Every person from Turkey traveling to Armenia was like a carrier of Armenians’ good memories of the past from Turkey. These were meetings that enabled both those who went to Armenia and those who greeted them to remember each other in the same common past.
In that sense, it was obvious that this game would not be experienced in the way people have been expecting. We watched a game in which a normalizing step toward friendship was taken, but one that was very boring. The first period was spent with a couple of opportunities Turkey caught by chance and Armenia running around with its utmost effort. The second period, which appeared to be even more boring, came with a goal. After that first goal all was left to Turkey’s opportunism, and the game was so mediocre that the second goal was only scored due to a defense error on the part of Armenia.
Almost none of my friends watching the game with me were interested in it any longer after the first minutes of the final quarter. “This is too much normalizing,” I thought, but really there was nothing to be surprised about. There were two societies on the field that didn’t talk to each other, that did not see each other but knew each other very well intuitively.
Turkey was as it usually is: A team with big abilities but underdeveloped utilization of those abilities. Armenia was as it usually is, too: A team of good faith and hard work, but with energy that has yet to bear complete fruit. They are both like Turkish and Armenian societies.
When the game was over, I was not happy with the match as an avid soccer follower. But later on I started thinking maybe this boring game was played the way it was supposed to be. A game with no surprises, no deceiving, reflecting the truth as it is, usual and simple. What more could we want? Wasn’t it exactly the one we needed? 08.09.2008
A Match Without A Loser By Aline Özinian*
When we set off for Yerevan on a scheduled midnight Armavia flight this Thursday, we saw something we had not seen since long ago on a flight between I.stanbul and Yerevan. Instead of men and women carrying several bags, probably goods to be sold in Armenia, as is customary on these biweekly scheduled fights, there were a number of journalists from the Turkish press.
The next largest group comprised Armenians from Turkey and the diaspora heading for Yerevan to support Armenia in the Armenia-Turkey soccer match of the 2010 World Cup qualifier. At 6 a.m. we witnessed another unusual sight. While diaspora Armenians coming from such countries as the US and France had to wait in long lines for their visas to be processed, Turkish citizens passed through passport control very easily -- no doubt making some diaspora Armenians jealous.
On Friday morning, the air in Yerevan had changed somewhat compared to the usual atmosphere. Almost all of those who were at the terrace cafe of Marriotte Hotel, located in the Republic Square, were well-known journalists, businessmen or football fans from the diaspora. They discussed where this rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia would head. Contrary to the tense atmosphere of past conferences, meetings and officials visits in which Turkish-Armenian issues were discussed, everyone was smiling this time around, perhaps due to heightened hopes.
The streets were considerably at ease and one could hear Turkish murmurs from every corner. Seeing many familiar faces, I forgot, for a while, where I was. It seemed that Yerevan was glad to host so many Turkish tourists. Some Turkish journalists were unable to find a seat on Armavia’s flights and had to first fly to Vienna and then on to Yerevan.
Tight security measures
When the Turkish team’s plane arrived in, considerably tight security measures were in place at the airport. Turkish journalists in Yerevan jumped in taxis they could find and pursued the bus carrying the Turkish national team. As one of the passengers of about 10 such taxis, I must admit that this chase was very entertaining. We convinced the taxi drivers to engage in a chase seen only in action films right on the streets of Yerevan. Quickly understanding their responsibility, the taxi drivers joined the police escort surrounding the bus.
As we made perhaps our 20th traffic violation on Abovyan Street, one of the most important streets in the city center, a group of five tourists, conspicuously Western (i.e., diaspora Armenians) considering their cries in the face of our violations, shouted, “What you are doing is against the law.” Since we had not time to tell these “modern and learned” diaspora Armenians, who always attempt to teach Armenia something, that we were on duty, we did not take them seriously. Yet, it was quite symbolic and meaningful that the diaspora was protesting -- though unconsciously -- traffic violations made collectively by Turks and Armenians.
Those who came to Armenian from Turkey for the first time were really surprised and did not refrain from voicing it. Everyone I spoke with told me that they imagined a different Yerevan and that they would have come earlier had they known that the people here were so hospitable and the environment so comfortable. Turks who had been to several Armenian cities, on the other hand, boasted about their experience and teased their colleagues, saying, “You finally realized it, but it is still a work in progress.”
Following from Yerevan as much as I could, several Turkish TV stations asked Armenians in I.stanbul which team they would support. This question as well as any answer to it is problematic. Which team will an Armenian who is a Turkish citizen support in the Armenia-Turkey match? The answer is quite simple: Whichever team he wishes to support. However, this question seems to be designed to question whether the loyal community (milleti-i sad?ka) is still loyal or whether they will betray Turkey as they have in the past.
“Of course we support Turkey,” these Armenians said, as if to prove that they are good Turkish citizens. And some went further to claim, “Of course, we will score at least five goals at least” -- apparently to further weld their loyalty. It is hard to tell whether this test of loyal citizenship measured in terms of supporting a team is sincere or hypocritical for both the interviewer and the interviewee.
Two Turkish businessmen who were invited by the Armenian government and who were to watch the match from the VIP section noted that they initially had worries because this was their first visit to Armenia and that when they told their intention to their families, everyone reacted with fear. They added that upon seeing Armenia, they were completely relaxed and now plan to build a big shopping center in Armenia with their Armenian partners in the future.
“One needs to see this with his own eyes. We are two neighboring countries but we have wrong perceptions of each other. We will tell everyone this when we go back,” they said. When I spoke with Turkish authorities, my first question was whether they were satisfied with the security measures. They expressed their satisfaction saying, “Even matters we did not think of were taken care of.” I spoke with Giro Manoyan, the secretary-general of the Dashnak Party, about protests to Turkish President Abdullah Gül’s visit. He said their protests would be considerably peaceful, that they would not allow flag burnings or hysteria, but that they just wanted to stress their party’s views on Turkey’s policy toward Armenians.
He added that if they had wanted to protest Gül’s arrival, they would have first protested against Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan, who invited him. He further asserted that the match was a dream come true and that every Armenian should feel proud for Armenia’s becoming an independent country and its having a national team that can compete with the Turkish national team.
Gül’s visit to Armenia will also implicitly affect diaspora Armenians, particularly those in Turkey. I think that if this rapprochement continues, the lobbying activities of Armenians in the US for the presidential elections will lose impetus. Things are much more complicated for Turkey’s Armenians. The fact that 20 years after Armenia’s declaration of independence, the Turkish president attached importance to the match with Armenia and accepted the invitation to watch the match came as a surprise for them. Gül’s taking Armenia seriously has led to Turkey’s Armenians’ taking Armenia seriously as well. In this respect, Gül unknowingly built a bridge between Turkey’s Armenians and Armenia.
Opposition critical of leaders
The leaders of opposition parties in both countries did nothing but criticize the respective governments for the last two days. Some people from the Armenian opposition harshly criticized the Armenian Football Federation’s removing the image of Mount Ararat in order to not hurt Turks while Turkish opposition manufactured false and far-reaching fantasies, claiming that a former member of the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) would sit in the VIP section.
I believe that this historic match in Yerevan was not only a sports contest; the ball passed by Sarksyan was received by Gül. This step is not related only to Turkey’s Armenian policy, but also to the Caucasus policy and Turkish-Armenian rapprochement -- perhaps their cooperation is considerably reasonable in the chaotic Caucasus. There may be those who are uneasy about such rapprochement, but this city is very happy today. After so many year, players played their match and the presidents watched them, sitting side by side. Fans freely waved their flags. The winners are the presidents, both courageous enough to meet, and the Turkish and Armenian peoples, who can establish better relations in the future.
There is no need to mention the losers. Those who attempt to exploit the nationalist sentiments of both sides with their pessimistic and hostile behavior and prevent the two nations from coming closer, you watched the match in vain and you lost.
*Aline Özinian is the press coordinator of the Turkish-Armenian Business Promotion Council.08 September 2008,
If Only Hrant Were Here, Too
Hrant Dink would be very happy about the whole thing. If he was still alive, he would hug me with a big smile in the middle of the square. I can hear his deep voice: "Yavuz, we managed, didn't we? Look at these people talking to each other, beginning to make peace with history. We defeated the borders of hate."
How one wishes, at such a moment, in Yerevan, to joke and laugh with him.
Without the slightest doubt, in the sweltering, dry heat of Yerevan, the "football encounters" between Turks and Armenians were significant. The temporary lifting of visa restrictions also meant a psychological release for two peoples, facing each other on the street, being friendly. On that end, "the match" was a great success. Native Armenians demonstrated peacefully and returned to their homes after the defeat singing. Turks and Kurds defied the border and traveled long hours to Yerevan via Georgia. Families from Turkey's Armenian minority went by airplane (mostly supporting the Armenian team) and even people from the diaspora in the US were visible, all to celebrate the occasion.
After the match, at around midnight, I was greeted by seven or eight Armenians, all speaking perfect, Istanbul Turkish. They flew in from New York City, they say. One of them notes, "You notice we are all men." "So?" I ask. "Because we came via Istanbul and left our wives there -- for shopping." I ask about their background. Two of them were from Moda, one of Istanbul's more posh districts. Three are from Kayseri, another is from the Kumkapi neighborhood in Istanbul and the last one was from Bitlis. What did they think about the new dialogue? "It is a new dawn," one said.
Standing not far from me, my colleague Cengiz Çandar is in an excited conversation with some fans. When I come closer I realize they are Kurds from the Turkish province of Ardahan. He tells us that they had to travel 12 hours to get to the match. "Look," he says, pointing to himself and his friends, "We Kurds came all the way to support our [Turkish] team, and those nationalists [referring to right-wing Turks] who grunt about this or that at home didn't dare show up here!" As we listen in amazement, he goes on: "Let them open this border. Enough! I tell you, if they don't, we will have to go and join the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] in the mountains or emigrate to Istanbul and take your work!" He is referring, naturally, to the unemployment and poverty in the eastern provinces of Turkey.
Another colleague tells about his conversation with a member of the Armenian nationalist Dashnaksutiun party. At the beginning of the match, the Dashnaks opened a huge banner, with "recognition, reparation, restitution" written on it. When they chatted after the match, my colleague asked him whether it was necessary to bring history to the stadium. "If we Dashnaks do not do it," he responded, "We would have to shut down the party." They laughed together and agreed that dialogue will resolve many issues and help everyone to talk -- even about history. Around noon, at a distance, you are greeted by what a colleague of mine calls "the great natural monument in Armenia" -- Mount Ararat. Inside Turkey's borders with its sister, Little Ararat, it overwhelms you, symbolizing the long-held historical sentiments of the Armenians about the territory and their very existence, filled with tragedy.
After a brief journey, I come much closer to the giant. On a visit to a historic monastery, it rises before you, separating and uniting the common history of two Anatolian peoples. Below the small hill where the monastery is located, extends the plain, with the river Arax in the middle, you can see Armenian peasants and even Turks beyond it, working in the fields.
Under normal circumstances, it would take you only half an hour to pass a border and enter Turkey on that plain. The closed border mystifies both countries before each other. It adds to the myths, mostly in a bad sense.
Just above the "sunken" stadium, in the heart of Yerevan, lies the "Monument of the Armenian Genocide," facing Ararat. It is a serene site, with heart-wrenching music and quiet visitors. I go there, as I always do, to pay my respects to those who perished due to inhuman folly and sheer madness during late Ottoman rule. Once upon a time, our ancestors were the citizens of the same land, though many of them had their share of tragedy, when visiting the "Genocide Museum," it is clear who paid the highest price. As Hrant Dink used to tell me, "Understanding, only understanding, will help us overcome denial."
Toward evening, we notice how little we talk of football. For us, in our group of colleagues, it is part of daily life, with jokes, stories and teasing. It does not come as a surprise when we tell each other how overwhelmed one can be to pass the border and plunge into history and memory, to listen to the problems of today waiting to be solved.
In the evening, tired, we go to one of my favorite spots in Yerevan, Artush Babayan's restaurant, The Real Armenian Kitchen. His origins from "Smyrna" (Izmir) help him speak some rough Anatolian Turkish when he enthusiastically welcomes us. As he serves one delicious meal after another, we raise our glass of apricot vodka in memory of Hrant, many of us in tears. One of our colleagues reminds us at the table, "After all, it is his memory that brought us here." Soccer has been a pretext. But we know how happy we all would have been to watch this match together with Hrant. 08 September 2008, Yavuz Baydar Today’s Zaman
Armenia: Football Diplomacy & Relations With Turkey, September 8th, 2008 by Onnik Krikorian
Armenia-Turkey World Cup Qualifier, Yerevan, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2008
A number of World Cup qualifying matches were played worldwide on Saturday, but even if Georgia was drawn against Ireland and had to move the venue for the football match to Germany following the war with Russia, many were instead interested in what might prove to be a historic political rather than sporting event. Without diplomatic relations or an open border, Armenia played against estranged neighbor Turkey in its capital, Yerevan.
Moreover, despite historical grievances over the 1915 massacre and deportation of ethnic Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Turkish President Abdullah Gul arrived in Yerevan to watch the match alongside his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sargsyan. Many were quick to describe Gul's arrival an exercise in “football diplomacy.” Unzipped, for example, realized the significance of the match as long ago as November when the draw was first made.
Fantastic draw! That will be THE matches! I will do whatever possible or impossible to be present there. Hope that Armenian and Turkish fans will behave, and we won't witness any ugly scenes, but rather will celebrate the occasion to get to know each other better and use sporting spirit for reconciliation (not destruction!), and a pint of beer? It's funny that football draws frequently bring us with 'sensitive' outcomes. It's more than a fate…
Later, in July when the invitation for Gul to attend the match, Unzipped applauded the move. Despite previous criticism of Armenia's new president who took power after a flawed election in February and a 20-day State of Emergency after at least 10 people died in post-election clashes with police, the blog hoped that the football match could represent a new start in relations between the two countries.
This is the most straightforward gesture to date from a head of state in Armenia to propose Turkey to open up a new page in relationships. Overall, I welcome this proposal. It is courageous and right thing to do from Serj Sargsyan side.
As the date of the match — 6 September — drew closer, other bloggers started to speculate on what led up the possibility of the Turkish President stepping foot on Armenian soil. One of those was West of Igdir which also started to comment on what would undoubtedly prove to be an unprecedented and historic occasion if Gul arrived in Yerevan.
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. […]
No matter what, it seems this historic and extremely improbable visit will be going through after all. With confirmations from just about everyone but 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.
Not everyone was happy with the thought of Turkey's president arriving in Armenia, however. Last Tuesday, for example, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation — Dashnaktsutyun (ARF-D) staged a rally in Yerevan to mark the 17th Anniversary of Independence being declared in the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh. Although poorly attended, the nationalist political party threatened to stage street protests if Gul arrived.
A few days before the match when Turkey finally announced that he would, the ARF-D were adamant that such protests would occur. However, on the day of the football game itself, Unzipped found that not many Armenians appeared eager to participate.
Particularly, Dashnaks (via Yerkir newspaper) call all supporters to gather today at Zvartnots airport and surrounding areas at 5pm local time to ‘greet’ Turkey’s president upon arrival.
Dashnaks also drive around central Yerevan streets today urging people via loudspeakers to join their protest actions. Few seem enthusiastic to do so.
And as it happened, the protests were indeed small, with most Armenians viewing the event merely as a sporting one. Even so, the political ramifications of the match were obvious. Turkey won 2-0 amid high security and although the performance of the Armenian team disappointed many, the precedent had been set for building upon what some consider a brave and historic move by both presidents.
Everything related to this much - in the build up to this game - was more about politics than actual football. Perhaps, this was the most politically colored football match ever. The funny thing is that as soon as the game started, politics became something very secondary to me, I did not even feel the presence of Turkish and Armenian presidents side by side watching the match. It was all about sport for me, again, at last.
The good thing is that despite worries of possible nationalist outburst or ugly scenes, nothing of that sort happened. Security was pretty tight, at least in terms of numbers one could spot. Even plastic bottles were not allowed inside the stadium. Things went well, overall, except perhaps booing when the national anthem of Turkey played on. […]
Back to the football diplomacy. The day passed. At least on surface things seem went well. Follow-up practical actions, if any, will determine whether football diplomacy worked. I sincerely hope so.
Talk Turkey also welcomed the move.
[…] Although there have been opposition in Turkey about this historic visit, and no doubt the same on the Armenian side, this visit couldn’t have come at a better time.
With the ongoing Russian restructuring and its hopes of revitalizing the Soviet empire, closer relations between affected neighboring countries are very critical in any normal setting. Then there’s the issue of reconciling differences regarding the ‘Genocide’ matter. And the hope for a closer dialogue without the presence of any third parties whose justification for their own existence is the continuation of the very same discord they supposedly are for ending.
A good start . . .
Writing a day after the match, West of Igdir says that despite opposition to the football match from nationalists on both sides, there can be no other way forwards. The blog makes specific reference to the Armenian Diaspora which is more vocal and heated in its condemnation of Turkey.
[…] I think the best thing for the diaspora to do is watch how this goes between the governments and assess the results. No reason to stand in its way, the diaspora must and will remain strong but at the same time should adopt this spirit of friendship. There's nothing I hate more than stories of Armenians in the diaspora meeting Turks and saying something mean or irrational at them as soon as they hear they are a Turk. That's small minded and applying the same sort of racist idealogy on them as the Young Turks did to our ancestors.
Ironcially, however, citing additional security concerns, only a handful of Turkish fans were given the opportunity to travel to Armenia for the game as Armenia: Higher Education & Sciences explains. The specialist blog also says it believes education is key to resolving some of the many outstanding issues which are still obstacles to normalizing relations.
[…] today’s match will unfortunately fail to deliver as Turkey’s authorities have refused to let their football fans cross the border into Armenia. The Armenian president will meet his Turkish counterpart but Armenian football fans and Yerevan residents in general won’t have the opportunity to meet Turkish supporters.
But, with an invitation from Gul extended to his Armenian counterpart to attend the rematch next year, Talk Turkey makes special reference to Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist and writer who was gunned down in Istanbul last year. It is time, the blog says, for citizens on both sides of the border to reach out to each other.
[…] Abdullah Gul invited the Armenian President to watch the rematch in Turkey. Wouldn’t it be great if the Turkish people, including its Armenian citizens, all show up in support of Armenia, wearing ‘We Are All Armenians’ shirts, as they did immediately following Hrant Dink’s murder.
Time to rise to the occasion. What do you think?
The sports diplomacy, as was the earthquake diplomacy between Greece and Turkey recently, is a great excuse for the parties to start the dialogue and improve relations, and put an end to the stalemate of ridiculousness once and for all.
Yet, while many Armenians and Turks hope that Saturday's match could mark the way forwards, others such as Petites et Grandes Aventures were unimpressed by the match from a sporting perspective. True, the blog says, the match was historic, but there were many problems highlighted that still need to be resolved. Moreover, the fact that they weren't made the match somewhat boring.
Earlier in the day I had met a few dedicated Turkish fans who had driven all the way - 12 hours via Georgia. But in the end, they were only a handful. And the few planes that were chartered from Istanbul, I was told, were full with Armenians living in Istanbul - not Turks.
But back to the game. No, I'm not biased.
It's actually a rather boring game, neither Armenia nor Turkey plays particularly well. Turkey scores twice, much to the disappointment of Armenian fans. The less than 100 Turkish fans parked in one corner of the stadium have no chance to make their voices heard and both times the Turks score the stadium is silent. So much so, I both times have to ask my neighbour, a Japanese political correspondent based in Cairo looking rather bored, if this was actually a goal. […]
West of Igdir: 1
Thank you for your references to my blog and your intelligent round-up as always on blogging about this issue. I do agree the game itself was rather boring but the political undertones (or more like over) a far more exciting component for me and I think most. Wow do our guys need to get in shape if they hope to win some.
I wish more Turks such as the officials who had wanted to go were able but I understand why they were urged to keep away. I also have heard rumor (which I believe) that many tickets were purposely not sold since Armenian security crowd control is notoriously awful at these games. It’s hard to know what will come next but I believe developments should be relatively quick.
September 8th, 2008 Blogian: 2
when did genocide become “massacre and deportation,” Onnik?, http://globalvoicesonline.org
Protests In Yerevan Fail To Overshadow Historic Visit
Armenians hold placards and flags in a protest against Abdullah Gül’s visit to Yerevan on Saturday.
Thousands of Armenians lined the streets of Armenia's capital of Yerevan on Saturday to protest the first-ever visit by a Turkish president to watch a game between the national teams of the two countries, but the protests failed to sour the atmosphere of the historic trip.
Demonstrators also urged Turkey to acknowledge the World War I killings of Armenians in eastern Anatolia as genocide, a charge Ankara vehemently denies. Gül's motorcade from the Yerevan airport traveled along streets lined with thousands of people holding placards reading in English and Armenian "We want justice," "Turkey admit your guilt" and "1915 never again."
Others held up the names of places in eastern Turkey from where they said their ancestors had been forced to leave under an Ottoman policy of uprooting Armenian communities. "I am from Van," said one placard, printed in white letters on black like a funeral notice, referring to a province in eastern Turkey.
Armenians claim 1.5 million Armenians were killed in eastern Anatolia during a systematic genocide campaign but Ankara denies the charges, saying both that the death toll has been inflated and that Armenians and Muslim Turks were victims of civil war and unrest.
Security for President Abdullah Gül's trip was tight. Attack helicopters escorted his jet on arrival and Turkish security personnel were also sent to Yerevan ahead of the visit to assist security measures. Gül and Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan watched the World Cup qualifying game behind bulletproof glass at the stadium, which is only 500 meters from a memorial dedicated to the Armenians killed in World War I.
Armenian fans whistled when the Turkish national anthem was played at the start of the game. Com-menting on the protests, Gül said, "Those who were opposed to my visit made their position clear without getting carried away."
08 September 2008, Today's Zaman
Soccer Is Never Only Soccer
The famous saying “Soccer is never only soccer” has once again been been proven true by a visit paid by President Abdullah Gül to Yerevan, where he watched a game between the Turkish and Armenian national soccer teams.
A leading Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figure who notes that they would like to make Turkey one of the rare countries that have good ties with neighboring countries underlines that this time soccer has been used to achieve this goal. Stressing that Gül’s visit was a first in Turkish history, he also said: “These are two countries that have no formal diplomatic relations we are talking about; the border gates are closed. They have long-standing issues that have remained unresolved for 85 years. Soccer has played a unique and influential role by bringing these countries together.”
The final score (2-0 for Turkey) at the game was overshadowed by the diplomatic influence of soccer. Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan gravely and courageously responded to the courtesy of Gül, who paid this visit despite the great risks involved. Noting that they agree that direct relations should be relied upon to resolve bilateral issues, Sarksyan said: “We will resolve these issues; we will not postpone them for future generations,” implying that they hold a positive view of the Caucasian Stability and Cooperation Platform.
Turkey, which aims to contribute a great deal to international peace through the platform, also wants to make sure the project will make all countries in the region win. Of course, wins require small compromises. According to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the National Movement Party (MHP), Turkey made a compromise from its official stance by making this recent gesture, which was totally unnecessary. But it should be recalled that improvement in the standard of living of the people in the region is a colossal gain. Such an improvement requires regional stability and peace. Many of the politicians to whom I spoke about this matter are pretty excited.
To this end, Gül’s visit to Yerevan holds great importance. True, Turkey has started with a compromise. Armenia will secure substantial advantages through improved relations with Turkey. If they act responsibly and wisely, these advantages may help Armenia end the isolation they have been suffering. For this reason, it will have the opportunity to change its image as an invading country, if it responds positively to Turkey’s proposals on Nagorno-Karabakh. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan will have a chance to resolve one of its major problems because of reliance on diplomatic means and tools.
Fruitful results from the initial steps will make the platform more concrete and viable. This will also make positive contributions to the resolution of issues between Russia and Georgia because the project will serve the national interests of both countries. Above all Russia will be pleased if the crisis does not grow further. Likewise, Georgia needs the crisis to remain in abeyance to maintain its territorial integrity.
Peace and stability that will be achieved by making small compromises in return for the prevention of serious crises will make the region more stable. All countries in the region will benefit significantly from implementation of the project.
President Gül has left a very fruitful year behind. He started his second year in office with as important a diplomatic move as a visit to Yerevan. Hopefully, other countries in the region will act reasonably and responsibly.
08 September 2008, Ali Aslan Kiliç
Soccer Sows Seeds Of New Era Between Turkey And Armenia
President Abdullah Gül's brief yet still landmark visit to Armenia raised hopes for dialogue that could eventually restore relations between the two estranged neighbors and help bury an almost a century old hostility over history.
"My visit broke psychological barriers in the Caucasus," Gül told reporters on his way back to Turkey on Saturday night after watching a World Cup qualifying match between the national teams of the two countries in Hrazdan Stadium. During his brief stay in Yerevan, Gül also had a one-and-a-half-hour meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, who had invited him to watch the game.
The visit has huge symbolic importance: It is the first time ever a Turkish president has set foot in Armenia since it declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It is also a landmark step because Turkey and Armenia have had no formal ties since 1993, when Turkey severed relations and closed its border with Armenia in protest of Armenian occupation of a chunk of Azerbaijani territory over a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. But the origins of dispute go much deeper in history. Armenia claims the Ottoman Turks killed 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Anatolia during the World War I years as part of a systematic campaign of genocide.
Both Gül and Sarksyan were hopeful that the visit could break the ice and open the way for dialogue to resolve differences. "We hope we will be able to demonstrate goodwill to solve the problems between our countries and not leave them to future generations," Sarksyan told a news conference after meeting with Gül on Saturday. Gül, alongside Sarksyan, said he was "leaving optimistic."
"If we create a good atmosphere and climate for this process, this will be a great achievement, and will also benefit stability and cooperation in the Caucasus," he told reporters after the game, which Turkey won 2-0.
Sarksyan said he would attend the return match in Turkey in October 2009, and that the invitation to do so suggested Gül "also has some expectations that there will be some movement between these two meetings."
Gül left Foreign Minister Ali Babacan in Yerevan for several more hours for "technical discussions" with his Armenian counterpart, Eduard Nalbandiyan, on how to normalize ties. There was no statement on their talks, which lasted into the early hours of Sunday morning, but diplomatic sources said both sides had agreed at the meeting that "full normalization" in relations must be achieved. Officials of the two countries will meet again at UN General Assembly, scheduled for the end of September, sources said, without specifying whether the meeting will be at the presidential level.
A report in daily Hürriyet said yesterday that the regular consulting mechanism between Turkey and Armenia will be improved and that negotiations between the two countries will be raised to the foreign ministerial level.
The report also said the efforts to establish a joint commission of historians for resolving the dispute over Armenian claims of genocide would speed up and that a separate commission would be formed to address the economic field. In 2005, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a first step towards resolving the issue by proposing that a joint commission of historians launch an investigation and publish their conclusions, but the proposal was rejected by Yerevan.
Sarksyan raises Nagorno-Karabakh, no mention of ‘genocide’
Gül, speaking aboard the plane en route to Turkey, said there was not even a veiled reference to the "genocide" issue during his talks with Sarksyan. In contrast, the Armenian president raised the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, Gül said. "I wasn't expecting we would discuss the issue at such length," he added.
The Azerbaijani government has refrained from publicly criticizing the visit, but politicians and newspapers lamented what they see as a "betrayal" of the alliance with Turkey. But others say Turkish dialogue with Armenia could help a solution in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, a row that has remained unresolved for 15 years.
Turkish officials have said they were in contact with Azerbaijani officials and that they have raised no objection to Gül's visit to Armenia.
Gül also said on Saturday night that the issue of opening the border was not on the agenda of the talks. "If this atmosphere is maintained, everything will be back on track, will normalize. But there is no such thing at this moment," he said. In an interview earlier, Babacan also indicated that reopening the border with Armenia, a major barrier to the landlocked state's economic development, may take longer, noting that the closure was linked to the Armenian military presence in Azerbaijan.
Gül flew to Armenia and the official vehicles Gül and the Turkish delegation used during their stay in Yerevan traveled to Armenia through Georgia, instead of by way of the closed border.
The government's initiative to have contacts with Armenia, which received serious criticism from the opposition parties at home, has gained new impetus since Russia's war with Georgia last month, which raised fears for the security of energy supplies from the Caspian Sea to Western Europe.
The establishment of normal relations could have huge significance for Turkey's role as a regional power, for energy flows from the Caspian Sea and for Western influence in the South Caucasus. Landlocked Armenia, a Soviet republic until 1991, could also derive enormous benefit from the opening of the border with its large neighbor and the restoration of a key rail link. 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.
"Now is the time to talk about the problems openly, boldly and to try to find solutions," Babacan said in an interview with Reuters ahead of Gül's meeting with Sarksyan. "We don't have diplomatic relations right now with Armenia. What are we going to do about that? That's another issue for discussion."
Asked whether a restoration of ties could be an outcome of the visit, he said: "I don't want to raise expectations that much. We are ready for more dialogue. This all has to be discussed." Istanbul/Yerevan Today's Zaman
08 September 2008,
Ekrem Dumanli / Süleyman Kurt Yerevan,
Football Game Of The Century Recap September 7, 2008
The long awaited game has come and gone and when I see pictures like the one above I still have to wonder if it really happened. For those who don't know, the remarkable picture above taken by a friend Gor Zakaryan shows the top of the stadium decked out with a Turkish and Armenian flag directly below the tall spire of the Genocide Memorial. To imagine this scene just a couple years ago would be absolutely unthinkable and it is still rather hard to believe. How does it make us feel? As a diasporan I know there are many conflicting feelings about it, though overall I haven't seen a whole lot of diasporan discussion on it either way. While many knew about the game I wouldn't be surprised if it passed unnoticed by a good deal of some of our more Turkophobic members who will one day see these pictures of Gul and Sargsyan shaking hands in the Yerevan presidential palace and... well I don't know how they'd react but dumbfounded is the first word which springs to mind. Regarding the picture above, as a diasporan it does make me feel a bit sad that certain things came at the expense of pushing others into the background, as is literally depicted here, but I know this had to come first. Those like the ANC who unsurprisingly advocated that Gul should visit the genocide memorial, a move also proposed in a mocking manner by Deniz Baykal of the Ataturkist opposition party CHP. I feel a little bit cynical that it was economics which made this all happen, not those lofty ideals of truth or justice or what have you. Once again though, as Baykal makes clear this was not an easy nor popular move for Gul and we as Armenians couldn't make it any harder for him than it already was. I remain hopeful that as the thaw continues and such initiatives as that highly controversial historical commission apparently move forward, entering it with somewhat thawed relations instead of the extremely contentous animosity which has been the hallmark of 90 years means that perhaps we can begin to bring them around. A couple things are for sure:
1. Turks have a stubborn pride characteristic of this region where things like justice are seen as a weakness. Giving even a little on an issue is easily seen as leading to an emasculating domino effect which is unacceptable for them. Not to be stereotypical or cliche, and Turks certainly aren't the only ones like this, but Turkish policy up until now certainly would cut off their nose to spite their face. That's why in the face of genocide resolution after resolution they only became more irrational and no matter how bad it made them look they kept banging their heads into the same old wall of denial getting absolutely nowhere. The AKP party came to power and instituted some new creative ideas to a very old game. I don't know what they see the endgame of this joint commission as, a cleaner method to get the inevitable accepted at home or some sort of last ditch effort to throw mud on the diaspora's momentum and a way to hopefully get at least a few of their opposing ideas canonized- but it is clear that the conclusion of this commission if worth anything cannot be anything but that it was genocide. So does that mean it will be worthless?
2. The diaspora will not give up. One could certainly argue that this is the Turkish government attempting to step around the intractible diaspora by going directly to the extremely vulnerable Armenian government and cutting out the diaspora. They hope the Armenian government 'good cop' will help this genocide unpleasantness go away by giving them a few token gifts (like opening a border which always should have been open). What they don't realize is the diaspora has a mind of its own and even if the Armenian government dropped all claims, the diaspora isn't going anywhere. In fact, it was the diaspora that was created by the genocide and are the ones who they really should be answering to, Serzh Sargsyan didn't have ancestors killed or deported from their villages in 1915. Of course dealing with the diaspora isn't palatable for the Turkish government- and seeing the angry public opinion at home I do concede 'how could they anyway?' I think the best thing for the diaspora to do is watch how this goes between the governments and assess the results. No reason to stand in its way, the diaspora must and will remain strong but at the same time should adopt this spirit of friendship. There's nothing I hate more than stories of Armenians in the diaspora meeting Turks and saying something mean or irrational at them as soon as they hear they are a Turk. That's small minded and applying the same sort of racist idealogy on them as the Young Turks did to our ancestors.
Sorting out history is not a fun and sometimes very dreary thing, I'm glad we could have some fun playing football while we're at it. The much-anticipated game wasn't all that great in my opinion. While the Armenians held off a score during the first half, they were being very defensive. When they came back on the field after the half the Armenians appeared to have lost all their energy and were pretty easily finished off 0-2. Another surprise was the apparent emptiness of the stadium for such an anticipated game. Stories I've heard from past qualifiers were of full (and extremely rowdy bordering on anarchic) crowds. Certain areas were full and the crowd was certainly invigorated, but very conspicuous areas were empty besides the guarded Turkish section. According to one news report the once expensive tickets were allegedly being given away for free at game time, however perhaps the emptiness was by design to avoid pandemonium. Sure enough I just talked to a friend who was at the game and she said the government purposely didn't sell many of the tickets because they didn't have the security for it.
While the Armenian team was the game's loser, I didn't feel a great sense of loss because I think both sides hopefully will come out on top in an era of renewed relations. The biggest loser of the day was Dashnaktsoutyoon who- in a most schizophrenic manner- managed to remain a part of the ruling government and yet protested the government's invitation to Gul. I don't know how to feel, in part I think why spoil a nice day of peace with a protest but then again I think it would show weakness to allow him to waltz right into Yerevan without a reminder of why he hasn't been there already. The protest was apparently poorly organized and not well attended (perhaps thanks to the delay tactics I previously wrote I believe Gul exhibited even though he probably knew he was going long ago). Dashnaks showed they really don't know what their doing as a party in Armenia anymore, if you are going to protest the government as a party then get out of the ruling coalition! The protests seemed to make the headline of all the international news coverage however, leading me to believe they either made an impression or more likely those international outlets went there to find that story.
The long-awaited party in Yerevan is at an end- but what is next? Not much information has been released about the meeting or the future but Foreign Minister Babajan stayed behind to work out future steps. According to Hurriyet these steps could include: "raising the level of regular consulting mechanism to foreign ministers, speeding up efforts to form a joint commission and opening the border for humanitarian aid." If anything, seeing some of the signs held by Turkish fans calling for brotherhood, open borders, and seeing the names Armenia and Turkey next to each other were a nice reminder of how things could be in an 'East of Igdir' age (and I do feel quite sad they had to sit their while their national anthem was booed, though it is a sports rivalry and I'm not convinced the majority of spectators in Turkey wouldn't have done the same to us. Let's hope that was a catharsis and won't be repeated if Turks come again.) This should not be at the expense of our past but getting reaquainted on a person-to-person and even nation-to-nation level. We will never work it out as long as emnity remains. By interaction with Turks we will be able to remember they are humans again and that we once lived together. We cannot protest and scream at the into realizing that. I feel true justice, if it comes, will only be because of yesterday's steps, not in spite of them, and regardless of what comes of Gul's whole Armenian excursion that is a encouraging thought.
by Daniel Beast
Gül-Sargsian Meeting In Yerevan
Turkish President Abdullah Gül met with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsian in Yerevan on Saturday.
Gül visited Yerevan to watch the World Cup qualifying match between the national soccer teams of Turkey and Armenia.
Following the meeting, Gül told reporters that he was pleased to visit Yerevan, adding that they evaluated the national match opportunity in a good way.
Gül said that they discussed the general situation in Caucasus, and exchanged views to restore tranquility, peace and stability in the region.
Gül said that they also showed a will to set up an atmosphere to eliminate the problems between Turkey and Armenia. Gül expressed hope that his visit would be a beginning to solve problems between the two countries.
Gül said that Sargsian extended support to Turkey's Caucasus Stability & Cooperation Platform proposal. He thanked Sargsian for his support.
Armenian President Sargsian also thanked Gül as he responded his invitation to Yerevan.
Sargsian said that Gül invited him to Turkey-Armenia match which would be played in Istanbul. He assessed this invitation as a good beginning.
Sargsian said that they showed joint will to solve the problems between Turkey and Armenia, adding that they would solve those problems and not leave them to next generations.
Sargsian said that he was pleased to see stability and cooperation will of Gül.
07 September 2008, Today's Zaman
Soccer Diplomacy Brings Turkey's Gül To Armenia
President Abdullah Gül, making the first visit to Armenia by a Turkish leader, joined Armenia's president on Saturday at a soccer match which both men said could help end almost a century of hostility.
The neighbours have no diplomatic ties but a relationship haunted by whether ethnic Armenians killed during World War One were victims of systematic genocide or not.
Security for Gül's trip was tight. Attack helicopters escorted his jet on arrival and hundreds of demonstrators lined the streets of the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
But the two presidents expressed hope their meeting at the World Cup qualifier, the first match between the two national sides, would herald a new beginning.
The initiative has gained new impetus since Russia's war with Georgia last month, which raised fears for the security of energy supplies from the Caspian Sea to western Europe.
"We hope we will be able to demonstrate goodwill to solve the problems between our countries and not transfer them to future generations," Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan told a news conference after receiving Gül.
Gül, alongside Sarksyan, said he was "leaving optimistic."
"If we create a good atmosphere and climate for this process, this will be a great achievement, and will also benefit stability and cooperation in the Caucasus," Presidet Gül told reporters after the game, which Turkey won 2-0.
Sarksyan said he would attend the return match in October 2009, and that the invitation to do so suggested Gül also has some expectations that there will be some movement between these two meetings .
Turkey has never opened an embassy in Armenia and in 1993 Ankara closed its land border in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, a Turkic-speaking ally which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Alternative energy route
But even as the two presidents took their seats together behind bullet-proof glass in a VIP box in the Hrazdan stadium, the challenges were obvious.
Armenian fans booed the Turkish national anthem, and dozens of demonstrators held torches and flowers in silent vigil at an imposing monument to the World War One killings on a hillside behind the stadium.
Protesters in the streets held banners that read: "1915 - Never Again," and "We Demand Justice." But not all Armenians were hostile.
"It's good Gül is here because we have to improve relations with Turkey," said student Garik Tumanyan, 20.
Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks, and Yerevan insists Ankara should recognise the killings as genocide. Turkey rejects the claims, saying that 300,000 Armenians along with at least as many Turks died in civil strife that emerged when the Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia.
But 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.
Establishment of normal relations could have huge significance for Turkey's role as a regional power, for energy flows from the Caspian Sea and for Western influence in the South Caucasus.
Landlocked Armenia, a Soviet republic until 1991, could also derive enormous benefits from the opening of the frontier with its large neighbour and the restoration of a key rail link.
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.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan remained in Yerevan for further talks with his Armenian counterpart, Gül said.
07 September 2008, Today's Zaman
Turkish Former Foreign Ministers Oppose President's Visit To Armenia
President Abdullah Gul's decision to go to Armenia has been criticized by former Foreign Ministers.
Ilter Turkmen: "In my view, Gul should not have gone to Armenia. I am quite worried about the ramifications of the trip.
"It is clear that Turkey could not accept the slightest untoward situation during the visit. During the Yerevan visit of Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Unal Cevikoz, in addition to security, discussions were held on establishing a Joint Historical Commission.
"For whatever reason, this was given priority, whereas in my view, the real thing that needs to be resolved is the border issue. I do not expect any agreement to come out of the meeting between Gul and [Armenian President Serzh] Sargsyan."
Mumtaz Soysal: "Gul's approach of combining politics with the match is very wrong. A policy of getting out one step in front is being pursued here.
"Gul's listening to [US President George W.] Bush prior to making his decision strikes me as wrong.
"I think that Gul will encounter incidents there that will be at the level of rowdiness. I am certain that even a 1-0 victory by Armenia will be published in the Western media with a headline of 'Revenge for 1915.' Essentially, the real match took place between Gul and [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.
"While Erdogan said 'he definitely has to go,' Gul was cautious. Gul has tried to look good to the United States, and Erdogan to the EU."
Sukru Sina Gurel: "This decision by Abdullah Gul is very wrong. While the genocide and a territorial claim are in the Armenian constitution, I ask 'why this visit?' Perhaps it is a gamble...
"Diplomacy, however, is not a matter of playing at the gambling table. It is certain that this visit by Gul will be used inappropriately by Armenia.
"Even if this meeting should be seen as football diplomacy, it could be called fancy footwork diplomacy, and this means a discrediting of diplomacy." Hurriyet, Turkey, Sept 6 2008
Turkish Premier Interviewed On Relations With Eu, Armenia, Russia
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan replied to journalists' questions on his way back from his one-day visit to Damascus. He strongly criticized CHP [Republican People's Party] leader Deniz Baykal for opposing President Gul's visit to Yerevan, which he described as an initiative to obstruct a plot. He said: "The uneasiness the left-wing faction feels because of the absence of a leader has reached a peak level." Prime Minister Erdogan replied to the questions that were put to him by 10 journalists as follows:
Relations with EU: The Routine will not be disrupted
[Question] You found an opportunity to hold private talks with President Nicholas Sarkozy. Can you comment on what you discussed?
[Erdogan] Yes, we discussed Turkey's negotiations with the EU. The talks are continuing in a satisfactory way. It seems that the routine in the process will be maintained. We said that a problem must not arise in the EU process. He responded by saying "we will take the necessary steps." He viewed President Abdullah Gul's visit to Armenia as a very positive development.
[Question] Would it not have been better if the prime minister visited Yerevan?
[Erdogan] That would be a wrong assessment. First of all, President Gul's visit is not linked with political relations. The president of Armenia invited the president of Turkey to watch a football match. President Gul's response to the invitation would affect Turkey's reputation in the world. Had he not decided to go to Armenia, he would have been accused of not even attending a sports activity. However, his decision obstructed such a plot. Why is the matter not assessed in that way? The Caucasus Cooperation Pact should also be considered. We have firmly established four of its legs. Armenia is the next country. My foreign minister will discuss the matter with his Armenian counterpart during the football match or when the game ends. President Gul will also discuss it with President Sarkisyan.
[Question] Can you comment on CHP leader Deniz Baykal's statement that President Gul "should also place a wreath at the [Armenian] genocide monument?
[Erdogan] President Gul does not need advice from Deniz Baykal on where he should place a wreath. I do not welcome such a statement against the president of my country.
[Question] According to the outcome of a public opinion poll by the Metropolis Research Company, only 4 per cent of the people trust Deniz Baykal.
[Erdogan] The popularity of the leaders and the popularity of the political parties differ in Turkey at the present time. The questions on the confidence the people have in the leaders brought up one digit figures. The votes of the leaders and those of the political parties differ in Turkey. The left-wing faction has its own votes. The results of the opinion polls in that faction and the outcome of our surveys show that the absence of a leader in the left wing has reached a peak level.
[Question] Are your votes higher than the votes of your party?
[Erdogan] According to a recent survey, my party's votes are higher.
Football match in Armenia: Ambitious game
[Question] What is the result you expect from the national football match in Armenia?
[Erdogan] Ambition will affect the technical capabilities of the players. I expect the Turkish team to win under normal conditions. The charisma we had in the European championship must not be harmed.
[Question] The under-21 years old national team lost its game. There was disgusting cheering...
[Erdogan] Coach Fatih Terim called me. Preparations were made [in Armenia] to welcome the team. We have established that serious preparations have been made to welcome President Gul.
[Question] Turkey was unsuccessful in the Olympic Games. Do you have a plan on the matter?
[Erdogan] I have discussed the problem with the ministers and the head of the General Directorate of Youth and Sports. I will also discuss it with the minister of national education and the head of the High Education Council. Training must start from primary or secondary schools. In fact, we have to establish universities for that purpose. Some of the universities must move ahead in various fields. The Istanbul Technical University was very successful in basketball for some time in the past. The new rector of the university informed me a few days ago that they decided to have their team move up to the first league again. We might transfer foreign coaches for the teams. We will study the matter.
Relations with Russia: Strategic neighbour
[Question] Can you comment on the crisis between Turkey and Russia and the problem in the Caucasus?
[Erdogan] The Caucasus Cooperation Pact is important. The United States is our ally. But, Russia is our strategic neighbour. We buy two-thirds of the energy we need from Russia. That country is Turkey's partner number one in trade. It is the number one country in tourism. No one must expect us to ignore all that. Our allies must adopt an understanding approach. We have not deviated even by a single millimetre from the Montreux Agreement. Neither the United States nor NATO has created a problem. The ships, tonnages, and dates are completely in accordance with the agreements. Various countries have called for changes in the Montreux Agreement. However, we are not in favour of that. The commander of our naval forces held talks with his Russian counterpart on one of our ships. Similar meetings might contribute to peace in the Black Sea region. The EU officially supported the Caucasus Cooperation Platform today. Turkey is a regional country. It solves its own problems. Our problems must not make others uneasy.
[Question] The diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East are yielding positive results. Can you comment on the EU reaction?
[Erdogan] We have taken resolute steps for many years. Trust is very important. The sides concerned trust us very much. Many initiatives were made in Israel in connection with the kidnapped soldiers. However, a result has not been achieved yet. They expect us to help them. Of course, we have not assumed a role on the matter. Egypt will feel uneasy if we consider the situation and assume a role. We can take action if Israel officially asks us to help. The Gulf Cooperation Council refrained from concluding an agreement with a foreign country until now. It has concluded an agreement with us for the first time. That is very important. Positive developments area taking place in the political, military, and economic fields. In fact, the leader of one of the Gulf States has said, "We are satisfied with all your contractors, except one." These are positive developments. Turkey's businessmen will have larger shares in the future.
We will maintain our political work under the existing conditions
[Question] Reports say that the reasoned decision of the Constitutional Court on the closure case against the AKP [Justice and Development Party] will limit the sphere of politics. Can you comment?
[Erdogan] We will respect the decision of the Constitutional Court. That is the only alternative we have. We will maintain our political work under the existing conditions. However, I disagree with the assessments that are made by the opposition parties. Neither I nor my colleagues agree with the effort that is made to describe the AKP as the focal point of anti-secular activities. The AKP is the strongest political party in Turkey. Our people will respond to us in a most favourable way in the elections that will be held in 2009. Legality in democracies depends on the people. The decisions are made by the people. It is not up to the CHP to make decisions on legality. The CHP was not even able to secure the support of the 20 per cent of the electorate for its legality during the elections on 22 July 2007. In fact, it should thank the Democratic Left Party for the support it received. The legality of the AKP was supported by the 47 per cent of electorate. The outcome of the elections in 2009 will be the most appropriate reaction to the controversy.
[Question] Do you expect votes from the political parties that are not as fortunate as you are in Diyarbakir? Do you expect votes from their supporters?
[Erdogan] There is no reason to prevent them from voting for us. My party's situation in southeastern Turkey is very favourable. We will disclose our candidates in areas which do not support the AKP earlier. Anatolia News Agency, Turkey, Sept 7 2008
Turkish President Says Visit To Armenia "Very Fruitful"
Ankara, 7 September: Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that Turkey and Armenia shared common thoughts on the need for dialogue to eradicate obstacles blocking the development of bilateral relations.
Speaking to reporters, President Gul stressed that his visit to Yerevan on Saturday [6 September] was very fruitful.
"My visit to Yerevan is promising for the future. This visit displayed, once again, Turkey's importance in the region," Gul said.
"I have completed my visit to Yerevan with very positive feelings and thoughts. I congratulate the Turkish national soccer team for high performance and the successful result attained," Gul noted.
"Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and I discussed bilateral relations, the developments in Georgia and regional matters," Gul said.
"We were pleased with Armenia's announcement that it supports Turkey's proposal of a 'Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform'," Gul said.
In reference to his visit to Yerevan, Gul stressed that "there was a ball in our side. This ball should not have remained in our side."
"The most important issue in the Caucasus is the Karabakh issue. My visit to Yerevan may contribute to the solution of this problem," Gul said.
"Armenian officials did not make any comments on the 'so-called' genocide while I was in Yerevan," Gul added.
President Gul invited Sargsyan to Turkey-Armenia soccer match to be played in Turkey.Agence France Presse
September 6, 2008
Armenians Boo Turkish President At Football Match YEREVAN, Sept 6 2008
Armenian fans greeted Turkish President Abdullah Gul's arrival for a football match in the capital Yerevan on Saturday with boos and hisses.
Gul, on the first visit of a Turkish president to Armenia, was seated in a special bullet-proof area to watch the World Cup qualifying match with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian.
His arrival followed talks with Sarkisian after which the two leaders pledged to try and resolve decades of animosity between the neighbouring countries, stemming from the Ottoman-era massacre of Armenians in 1915-1917.
Agence France Presse
Armenian Press Cautious On Turkish President's Visit, YEREVAN, Sept 6 2008
The Armenian press took a cautious view of Turkish President Abdullah Gul's historic visit to Yerevan Saturday, saying no breakthrough in healing strained ties was expected.
Under the headline "Major changes not expected," the independent Ayots Ashkar daily quoted the director of Armenia's genocide museum, Gaik Demoian, as saying: "I don't expect any major shift in Armenian-Turkish relations. But I don't exclude this small step will open the road to more favourable attitudes."
Gul was expected to land in the Armenian capital at 1200 GMT and would meet Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian before attending a World Cup qualifier between Armenia and Turkey scheduled to begin at 1600 GMT.
The Russian-language Voice of Armenia said opinion on Gul's visit was divided and quoted political scientist Armen Aivazian expressing scepticism over a possible change in Turkish attitudes.
"I am convinced that Turkey has not repented for its crimes in 1915-1923 and also continues a policy of oppressing Armenia," he said.
But the newspaper also quoted Armenian lawmaker Avet Adonts as saying the meeting marked "the moment when Armenia and Turkey can begin negotiating without intermediaries."
Still others wondered what all the fuss was about.
"It seems to me that the passion around this visit is exaggerated," wrote Aram Abramian, the editor of opposition newspaper Aravot.
"It's only a game after all. If we win, we can all celebrate and if we lose it won't be the end of the world."
The two countries have no diplomatic relations and have waged a bitter international diplomatic battle over Armenia's attempts to have massacres of their people under the Ottoman Empire classified as genocide.
Agence France Presse Sept 7 2008
Turkish, Armenian Ministers To Meet Later This Month: Yerevan
YEREVAN (AFP) ' The foreign ministers of estranged neighbours Armenia and Turkey will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at the end of September, Armenia said Sunday.
The announcement of the meeting later this month between Armenia's Eduard Nalbandian and Turkey's Ali Babacan came the day after a landmark first ever visit by a Turkish leader to Yerevan.
"The ministers have agreed to a meeting at the end of September in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly," a statement from the foreign ministry said.
"The Armenian and Turkish ministers have expressed their willingness to normalise bilateral relations. They have underlined that all necessary measures should be taken towards that end," the statement added.
The move follows a meeting in Yerevan on Saturday between Turkey's President Abdullah Gul his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian, who pledged to overcome decades of enmity between their two nations.
Turkey and Armenia have no diplomatic ties and their border has been closed for more than a decade. Their relationship has been strained by deep differences over the World War I massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, the predecessor of Turkey.
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their people were systematically killed by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1917 as their empire fell apart -- a claim supported by several other countries.
Turkey rejects the genocide label and argues that 300,000-500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with invading Russian troops.
Success Of Football Diplomacy Has A Catch, Thomas Seibert, Foreign Correspondent, The National, United Arab Emirates Sept 8 2008, UAE /
The historic visit by Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, to Armenia has opened the door for a process of reconciliation between the two neighbours, a move that could dramatically improve Turkey's image in the European Union, but Mr Gul has failed to convince critics at home who argue that Ankara has made too many concessions to Yerevan.
`A psychological wall has been demolished,' Mr Gul said of his short trip to Yerevan, the first by a Turkish president. `I hope that this visit will be a new start for a solution of the problems between the two countries.' Mr Gul met his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan, for talks, and the two presidents watched a World Cup qualifying match between the football teams of their countries, which the Turkey won 2-0.
`We will solve these problems and not leave them to the next generation,' Mr Sarksyan said. There was a `political will to decide the questions between our countries'.
Given that Turkish-Armenian relations are overshadowed by the death of hundreds of thousands Anatolian-Armenians during the final years of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, which Armenia says constituted a genocide, Mr Gul's trip was hailed as a step of historic proportions in Turkey and abroad.
`Our children will talk about this gesture,' wrote commentator Ferai Tinc in Hurriyet, a daily newspaper. `Football diplomacy has been successful,' the Milliyet newspaper said. In a poll made public shortly before Mr Gul went to Yerevan on Saturday, two out of three Turks said they supported the initiative.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, which is home to a strong Armenian minority and holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, also praised Mr Gul. `While the region is in the midst of a serious crisis, [the visit] is a courageous and historic gesture for Turkish-Armenian relations,' Mr Sarkozy said in a statement.
Although reconciliation with Armenia is not part of the EU conditions for Turkey's membership, French politicians in particular have called on Ankara several times to mend its ties with Armenia.
The Turkish president was greeted by sporadic demonstrations in Yerevan during his six-hour visit, with some protesters carrying signs that read `Recognise the genocide'. Several thousand policemen were on duty, and Mr Gul and Mr Sarkisian watched the match from behind a pane of bulletproof glass. Yerevan says the Ottoman government decided to wipe out the Armenian minority in 1915; Turkey does not deny that many innocent people died, but insists that the deaths were the result of unrest and harsh wartime conditions.
The row over the Armenian massacres is not the only issue that has kept Turkey and Armenia apart. Some politicians in Ankara accuse Armenia of claiming Turkish territory, saying Yerevan has not officially recognised the border between the two countries. Turkey closed the border in 1993 in support for Azerbaijan during the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian region in Azerbaijan. The two countries have no diplomatic relations.
The `football diplomacy' has created a new opening for direct talks. `I stressed in my contacts [in Yerevan] that there are no problems that cannot be solved by dialogue,' Mr Gul said after he returned to Ankara late Saturday. He invited Mr Sarksyan for the return match between the two football teams in Turkey, which will take place in October next year. The two presidents will also meet on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York this month, Turkish media reported. Mr Gul and Mr Sarksyan agreed that the two countries' foreign ministers should put into place a mechanism of consultation, according to the reports. High-level contacts like that would have been thought impossible only a short time ago.
According to Mr Gul, Armenia signalled its support for the Turkish idea for a `Caucasus Platform', a regional grouping planned as a forum for conflict prevention and resolution. The Turkish government tabled the initiative after the fighting between Georgia and Russia in South Ossetia in early August.
In Yerevan, the two presidents avoided any discussion about the thorny issue of the massacres. `They neither mentioned nor referred to the so-called genocide,' Mr Gul said. Hurriyet reported that the two countries agreed to speed up the establishment of a joint committee of historians that would deal with the events of 1915. A joint committee dealing with economic questions was also planned, the newspaper reported. Almost a decade ago, Turkey began a similar process of rapprochement with Greece, another traditional neighbourhood foe. Since then, co-operation has increased in a number of fields, although difficult questions like the exact delineation of their maritime border in the Aegean remain unresolved.
But while many commentators had only good things to say about Mr Gul's trip, some remained unconvinced. In scathing remarks aimed at the president, the opposition leader, Deniz Baykal, suggested that Mr Gul may as well lay a wreath at a memorial commemorating the Armenian genocide in Yerevan. He also reminded Mr Gul that he himself had been very critical of Armenia as a parliamentary deputy in 1993.
`What has changed since then?' Mr Baykal asked, referring to Armenia's positions concerning the border, the genocide issue or Nagorno-Karabakh. `Nothing has changed.'
The presidential trip `will earn Turkey important points on its road to the EU', wrote Yildiz Devici Bozkus, an analyst at the Centre for Eurasian Strategic Studies, a think tank in Ankara. But Turkey would be giving Armenia the chance to be at the table of the Caucasus Platform without Yerevan having to give up any of its own positions in the various disputes with Turkey, she added. www.thenational.ae
Turkey Get Better Of Armenia In Yerevan, 6 September 2008, Match report by Dmitry Mamykin
Strikes from Tuncay Şanlı and Semih Şentürk ensured UEFA EURO 2008=99 semi-finalists Turkey started their FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a win against Armenia in Yerevan.
The visitors were frustrated for an hour at the Hrazdan Stadium until Middlesbrough FC forward Tuncay broke the deadlock and Semih, scorer of crucial late goals for Fenerbahçe SK last season and for his country in the summer, made the points safe with 13 minutes remaining.
Both sides preferred an attacking approach early on, producing an entertaining opening to the Group 5 contest. Semih could have put Fatih Terim's team in front just two minutes in but home goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky was equal to the effort, before Hamlet Mkhitaryan responded by forcing Turkey's Volkan Demirel into a smart save.
Mevlüt Erdinç was the most profligate of the Turkey players in the first half, firing a presentable opportunity wide on the half-hour before spurning another chance before the interval by failing to beat Berezovsky from close range. After the break, Terim introduced another forward in Kazım Kazım and his spark proved decisive.
The 22-year-old supplied the assist on 61 minutes as Tuncay dispatched his finish into the roof of the net from three metres. Turkey looked more comfortable thereafter and it was no surprise when they doubled their advantage. Emre Belözoğlu found Mehmet Aurélio in the box from a free-kick in the 77th minute and the Brazilian-born midfielder teed up Semih to confirm the victory.
Soccer Diplomacy A Turkish Goal TVNZ, New Zealand, Sept 7 2008,
President Abdullah Gul, making the first visit to Armenia by a Turkish leader, joined Armenia's president on Saturday at a soccer match which both men said could help end almost a century of hostility.
The neighbours have no diplomatic ties but a relationship haunted by whether ethnic Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks during World War One were victims of systematic genocide.
Security for Gul's trip was tight. Attack helicopters escorted his jet on arrival and hundreds of demonstrators lined the streets of the Armenian capital, Yerevan.
But the two presidents expressed hope their meeting at the World Cup qualifier, the first match between the two national sides, would herald a new beginning.
The initiative has gained new impetus since Russia's war with Georgia last month, which raised fears for the security of energy supplies from the Caspian Sea to western Europe.
"We hope we will be able to demonstrate goodwill to solve the problems between our countries and not transfer them to future generations," Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan told a news conference after receiving Gul.
Gul, alongside Sarksyan, said he was "leaving optimistic".
"If we create a good atmosphere and climate for this process, this will be a great achievement, and will also benefit stability and cooperation in the Caucasus," he told reporters after the game, which Turkey won 2-0.
Sarksyan said he would attend the return match in October 2009, and that the invitation to do so suggested Gul "also has some expectations that there will be some movement between these two meetings".
Turkey has never opened an embassy in Armenia and in 1993 Ankara closed its land border in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, a Turkic-speaking ally which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Alternative energy route
But even as the two presidents took their seats together behind bullet-proof glass in a VIP box in the Hrazdan stadium, the challenges were obvious.
Armenian fans booed the Turkish national anthem, and dozens of demonstrators held torches and flowers in silent vigil at an imposing monument to the World War One killings on a hillside behind the stadium.
Protesters in the streets held banners that read: "1915 - Never Again", and "We Demand Justice". But not all Armenians were hostile.
"It's good Gul is here because we have to improve relations with Turkey," said student Garik Tumanyan, 20. "It's good for our country, but Turkey must recognise that genocide happened."
Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks, and Yerevan insists Ankara should recognise the killings as genocide.
Turkey says Turks and Armenians alike were killed in partisan warfare.
But 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.
Establishment of normal relations could have huge significance for Turkey's role as a regional power, for energy flows from the Caspian Sea and for Western influence in the South Caucasus.
Landlocked Armenia, a Soviet republic until 1991, could also derive enormous benefits from the opening of the frontier with its large neighbour and the restoration of a key rail link.
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.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan remained in Yerevan for further talks with his Armenian counterpart, Gul said.
The Beautiful Game Plays Peacemaker Euronews, France, Sept 7 2008
Football, it is hoped, will prove to be the key to ending almost a century of hostility between Turkey and Armenia. Turkish President Abdullah Gul joined Armenia's President Serzh Sarksyan at a world cup qualifying match, the first meeting between the two national sides which Turkey won 2-0.
The neighbouring countries have no diplomatic ties. Their relationship remains strained by claims of the `ethnic cleansing' of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during the First World War. The two presidents expressed hope the match would herald a new beginning.
Russia's decision last month to send its forces into Georgia, which borders both Armenia and Turkey, has convinced many it is time for the two nations to end their differences and establish normal relationships. But even as the two leaders took their seats together behind bullet-proof glass in the Hrazdan stadium in the Armenian capital Yerevan, fans booed the Turkish national anthem.
Outside demonstrators waved flags and banners and one group held a silent vigil at a monument to the war dead near the stadium. President Sarksyan has promised to attend the return match in October 2009. www.euronews.net
Gül’s Visit To Armenia Must Not Be A Pr Show Or Photo Opportunity
European Armenian Federation For Justice And Democracy Press Release, 6 September 2008
European Armenians will be cautiously following the upcoming visit of Turkey's President Abdullah Gul's to Armenia. The European Armenian Federation – which represents the voice of the European Armenian communities – believes that relations between Turkey and Armenia must be fundamentally improved. The Federation is however watchful of Turkey’s actual agenda in this visit, given the country’s record of counter-productive policies in this realm.
“We would have hoped that Gül’s visit to Armenia reflect an actual willingness on the part of the Turkish authorities to put an end to Turkey’s anti-Armenian policies” stated Hilda Tchoboian, chairperson of the European Armenian Federation.
The European Armenian Federation calls upon Abdullah Gül to seize the opportunity of this visit to Armenia to leave its mark on history by bowing before the Armenian Genocide Memorial of Dzidzernagapert a tradition long honoured by foreign dignitaries visiting Yerevan.
“It would be extremely concerning if this visit were only a photo opportunity without true measures to restore Turkey’s image; Similarly, it would be dangerous if this initiative were motivated only by the desire to reinforce Turkey’s position in the Caucasus,” added Tchoboian.
European Armenians, as all Armenians worldwide, expect from Turkey:
- The formal recognition of and reparation for the Armenian Genocide and the end of the official Turkish policy of denial of this genocide,
- The unconditional lifting of the blockade of Armenia and the establishment of normal neighbourly relations with Armenia in compliance with the Charter of the United Nations,
- The end to the policy of bypassing and excluding Armenia from all regional cooperation programs – chiefly energy and transport – in compliance with Ankara’s commitment in its application to EU membership,
- The end of its support of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and of its military support of this country through the massive supply of weapon and military expertise,
- Recognition and respect of the cultural and socio-political rights of the Armenians in Turkey, including those who have been forcibly turkified and islamized; restitution of assets confiscated by the Turkish government during the Genocide to their rightful heirs, especially churches, monasteries and sacred grounds of the Armenian Church.
“All Armenians worldwide are still waiting for the Turkish Willy Brandt. Gül’s visit will be credible and worthy of attention only if the Turkish president is strong enough to engage in this historical path of repentance and reparation of the Armenian Genocide,” concluded Tchoboian.
The European Armenian Federation calls upon the European Commission and Council and upon the European Parliament to watch carefully the developments that could follow this visit, in order to have, beyond its surface, an accurate and objective understanding of its real significance in Turkey’s anti-Armenian policies.
European Armenian Federation for Justice & Democracy, Brussels
Geostrategy Meets Human Touch: A Snapshot From Yerevan, September 8, 2008
One of the major successes of this historic football game was the intense interaction among visiting Turks and local Armenians. As for the other dividing lines, including the border, there are still barriers to overcome
YEREVAN – This city is always at its most bustling in September. The weather is mellowed compared to August and diaspora visits are at a year-round high. But this time around there is different electricity in the air. Turkish journalists who poured in for the much-debated World Cup qualifier match between Armenia and Turkey, have been congregating at the grand and colorful Republican square; it is hard to tell them apart from the Armenians unless they have a camera. The talk in town is extremely multi-dimensional -- it is about strategic reshuffling in the region, about history, about the economy -- concern and hope intermingle.
Change in a short stretch:
There has been a lot of change in a short stretch of time for the people of Yerevan to catch up with and try to make sense of. There was suspense until recently about whether President Gül would accept President Sarkissian's invitation to watch the World Cup qualifier game together. It was important for the national pride of many that the extended invitation was not turned down. In August, the regions' dynamics were shaken by the conflict between Georgia and Russia. Russian pressure for Armenia to recognize South Ossettia and Abkhazia's independence is joined by hardline Armenians' enthusiasm in light of implications for Nagorno Karabagh. The state has emphasized that without recognition of Nagorno Karabagh, it cannot recognize Georgia's two autonomous republics. Implications for Cyprus could trigger some hawkish Turkish strategists to argue that this trend be exploited.
Is Turkey nearer then ever to opening the border with Armenia? If so, is Armenia prepared to? How does Russia feel about this -- behind the scenes? Some are concerned that the opening of the border would make Georgia more vulnerable to being strangled from the north and lessen the chances of solution of Nagorno-Karabagh by draining Azerbaijan's leverage. Others see the normalization of relations as the only way to curb Russia's influence in the region, which it might use to stir up further unrest. Whose interests lie where has suddenly become more unclear.
I was probably one of the very few Turks in Yerevan not watching the game from the stadium. I watched from Urartu restaurant, overlooking the stadium from the adjacent hill. The waiter, a man probably in his 50s spoke surprisingly fluent Turkish. In between servicing the customers, he stopped by my table at every opportunity; it was his first practice of Turkish since his grandmother died 20 years ago. They had been from around Diyarbak?r. He said he would like to go see the area his family was from before he dies. ‘Why don't you fly?” I ask, in retrospect insensitively, “to Istanbul and onwards to Diyarbak?r.” He shyly points out that for it to be meaningful he would go with his family and he could not afford the tickets. Tickets to and from Yerevan are indeed unusually expensive. He would need to drive with his car, family aboard, stay a night at most, and return.
At a nearby table is a family reunion of an Armenian man who married a Russian woman and lives in Moscow. The waiter points out that the young generation marry non-Armenians much more nowadays, “more like the rest of the world” he adds. In time, though we will not forget history, more and more of us will move on” he concludes.
To make peace with the past, traveling to Anatolia is important for many, as is meeting ordinary Turks. One of the major successes of this historic football game was certainly the intense interaction among visiting Turks and local Armenians. As for the other dividing lines, including the border, there are still many barriers to overcome. Keeping the momentum alive yet remaining realistic is an important challenge ahead for both sides.
Soccer Diplomacy September 8, 2008, Yusuf KANLI
What was achieved? Too early to say... However, what was “not achieved” is rather clear… For a change nationalist obsessions imperiling capabilities and crippling the abilities of people who would otherwise undertake steps – daring they might be, but “required by national interests” – without any hesitation.
The domestic as well as the international conjecture was suitable for a “social” visit yet still not for an official visit to Yerevan by the Turkish president. Indeed, even that social opportunity was a product of the European cup draw. Rightly, Abdullah Gül pondered for some time whether or not to travel to Armenia but eventually he refused to remain captive to some domestic obsessive concerns and took that courageous step which, whatever it achieved in diplomacy, would be a welcome development as since it was just a “social trip” any failure would not be a setback.
Would President Kenan Evren visit Yerevan for any occasion? Present-day Evren would, but 1980s strong coup-leader-turned President Evren would not undertake such an adventure at a time when Turkey was fighting the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, or ASALA, terrorist gang. How would he? Besides Armenia was still part of the Soviet Empire, the entire nation was still mourning for the barbaric murders of Turkey’s very valuable 32 diplomats by ASALA.
Would President Turgut Özal undertake such a trip? Why would he not, if Armenia did not engage in aggression and occupy some 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory immediately after the former Soviet republics – including Armenia and Azerbaijan – became independent with the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. If Turkey did not want to have “normal relations” with Armenia, why did Turkey recognize Armenia together with the Central Asian and Caucasian republics? Had Armenia not continued its occupation of Armenian territory or had it responded in goodwill to Özal’s intense efforts to bring an end to the Azeri-Armenian conflict over Nogorno-Karabagh, not only would Özal have been delighted in visiting Yerevan, but most probably he would have created a miraculous advance in the ties as well.
Would President Süleyman Demirel visit Yerevan? He probarbly would if he was convinced that such a social trip would have produced some diplomatic results conducive to a solution to the bilateral issues, as well as to the Nogorno-Karabagh problem. But Armenian President Levon Ter Petrosian was having such immense problems that he would not make such an invitation anyhow.
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer would not even consider for a minute of making such a trip. He had back problems.
Gül finally has an accomplishment:
President Abdullah Gül has just completed his first year in office… What did he do over the past year apart from rubber-stamping into law the legislations dispatched by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, dominated Parliament, approving decrees sent by the government and making some top appointments? Now, with the “soccer diplomacy mission” to Armenia he finally has an accomplishment as president. As he said on the way back to Turkey to reporters accompanying him, with the trip and talks in Yerevan "I believe my visit has demolished a psychological barrier in the Caucasus."
As expected Gül was received in Yerevan Saturday with some protests from Armenian nationalists while some obsessive nationalists continued booing him at home as well. The two presidents had an hour-long meeting participated in by the foreign ministers of the two countries, watched the European Cup qualifier between the two national teams and after four hours he and the accompanying group flew back home.
An opportunity utilized well:
The two presidents were not expected to solve any of the outstanding issues between the two countries, put a full stop to Armenian genocide allegations or reach a deal on Armenian withdrawal from the occupied Nogorno-Karabagh. But, the two presidents exchanged opinions on a variety of issues -- reportedly did not touch on the thorny genocide allegations issue -- as well as the worsening climate in the Caucasus and Turkey’s proposal for the creation of a Caucasus Platform which could serve as a permanent consultation arena for the countries of the region.
Even if nothing was achieved with the Yerevan trip of Gül, at least rather than insisting on the “isolationist” policies that have all been proven wrong wherever they were applied, Turkey has opted to “engage” with Armenia. Rather than talking with Armenia through intermediaries, Turkey has opted to directly engage with Armenia. If we have problems -- which we have -- what might be better than discussing resolution of those problems with our “adversary”?
Now, the second round of “soccer diplomacy” is set for Oct. 14. when Gül has reportedly invited his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian to attend a return football fixture in Turkey.
(Yusuf Kanli can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
World's Most Remarkable Football Game Takes Place At Yerevan's Hrazdan Stadium,September 8, 2008, Vercihan Ziflioglu, Yerevan
Turkey-Armenia football match ended with a score of 2-0. Turkey won. Yerevan set the stage for writing of yet another history
The Hrazdan Stadium of Yerevan set the stage for yet another historic football game, as the national flags of Turkey and Armenia were waved side by side in the tiered seats.
The Turkish national team won the game 2-0 over the Armenian team. The real winner however was friendship. Except a rather silent and minor protest by a group of Tashnaks, known for their radical stance, as the Turkish airplane carrying Turkish President Abdullah Gül landed on Yerevan's airport, no confrontations took place.
Residents of Yerevan were quite uneasy thinking that Tashnaks might have engaged in tough protests during the game. When the game ended in peace, they took a relaxed breath. Some residents interviewed on the streets after the game made the following remark: “It is not a big deal after all. Just a football game… We wish Armenia had won. But it's OK We hope Turkey-Armenia relations get warmer from now on. This is more important that the score.”
Armenian President Serge Sarkisian and Gül came to the stadium a few minutes before the start of the game. They sat next to each other in seats of honor and watched the game together. A Turkish Daily News reporter sitting very close to the seat of honor had the chance to observe the friendly dialogue between Gül and Sarkisian.
However, almost all of the seats at the Hrazdan Stadium were full of Armenian fans. Only a few Turkish fans were there. A 10-member group of young activists from a Turkish nongovernmental organization called the Young Civilians kept waving their white banner bearing friendship and peace messages until the last moment of the game.
Fatih Terim leaves press conference
As hours remained before the game, almost no one was on Yerevan's streets. Security precautions were strict. At the entrance of the Hrazdan stadium, fans underwent a detailed body search. At the end of the game, the coaches of both teams held a press conference. Unfortunately, the peaceful atmosphere in the tiered seats was not reflected in the press conference. Fatih Terim, the Turkish team's coach, left the conference hall within minutes of the conference starting when the mobile phone of an Armenian reporter rang.
Football match in Armenian newspapers
Armenian newspapers focused on Gül's visit to Yerevan rather than the football match between the national teams of the two countries. But the papers did not have any news or comments that might lead to speculation. No negative comments appeared in papers published the day after the game. The result of the game was objectively reported to the readers.
The Turkish Daily News reporter asked the opinions of prominent figures in Turkish media and politics. Fatih Çekirge of the daily Hürriyet said, “My observation is that both Gül and Sarkisian took a great risk since fanaticism is at the top level in both countries.”
Çekirge, who traveled to Yerevan on the same plane as Gül, referred to a conversation between Gül and himself during the flight and said, “Turkey-Armenia relations can develop. It is already possible to see the preliminary signals of that.” Except a few minor protests at the airport, Turkish teams and journalists met with no protests, said Çekirge, describing the game as an historic event.
Murat Yetkin of the daily Radikal, on the other hand, said the game was the first and only “political football match” in the world. That Gül and Sarkisian came together overshadowed the game itself, he said. “It is too early now to make a comment on the future of the bilateral relations. But the very moment one sets the sail is the start of a long journey.”
Problem not social but between states
Ufuk Uras, leader of the Freedom and Solidarity Party, or ÖDP, and an independent deputy, said the football match played a crucial role in Turkey-Armenia rapprochement. Some groups foment the traditional enmity between the Turks and the Armenians, said Uras.
“The problem between Turkey and Armenia is actually a problem between the two states not between the two peoples. And we hope a solution to this situation can be found as soon as possible,” he said.
Mete Çubukçu, news director of Turkish television channel NTV, agreed with Uras. The football match was a good step in terms of the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia, said Çubukçu. “If we want peace in the region, Turkey and Armenia should reconcile. Hrant's dream is coming true. I am hopeful about the future,” he said.