The Melungeons blog

Monday, September 08, 2008

Can Soccer Heal Turkey-Armenia Rift?


Friday, Sep. 05, 2008

<<"Among the fans taking their seats for the game in the Armenian capital will be Turkey's President Abdullah Gul and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian. Gul's visit is the first ever by a Turkish head of state to Armenia, and it is being heralded as a potential breakthrough in efforts to normalize relations between the traditional adversaries. Their common border was sealed in 1993 as the two countries found themselves supporting opposite sides in the conflict between Azerbaijan and its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, and they have never enjoyed diplomatic relations. "

France, which holds the presidency of the European Union, is welcoming the visit as "historic and highly symbolic," and as a "strong and encouraging sign" for relations between the two countries. Gul's office said in a statement that the visit "will be an opportunity to overcome obstacles and prepare a new ground to bring the two people together." Armenia's President Sarkisian told his country's diplomats this week that "without forgetting the past, we must look to the future." He added, "If there is a dialogue, we can discuss any, even the most difficult questions. We must shape a mutually beneficial agenda and begin contacts without preconditions."

But political analysts say that while the visit may be historic, it is at best only a first step. Both countries have been seeking ways to re establish normal relations at least since Sarkisian was elected earlier this year, but obstacles include the ongoing dispute over Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, claimed by Azerbaijan with Turkey's backing. And then there's the long-standing tension over Turkey's refusal to call the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks during the First World War a genocide. ">>