Turkey, Armenia try to mend ties through soccer

Turkey and Armenia are hoping soccer diplomacy will help them overcome decades of antagonism rooted in Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians that many historians call a genocide.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul travels to Armenia on Saturday to attend a soccer match between the two historic foes - becoming the first Turkish leader to set foot in Armenia since the former Soviet republic declared independence in 1991.

Although Turkey was among the first countries to recognize Armenia's independence, the two neighbors have no diplomatic relations and their border has been closed since 1993.

Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by genocide scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey disputes it was genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.

More recently, ties have been frozen over Turkey's opposition to Armenia's support for ethnic Armenians who control the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, a close Turkish ally.

Little progress is expected on the genocide issue or on Nagorno-Karabakh when Gul meets with Armenian President Serge Sarkisian on the sidelines of the 2010 World Cup qualifier match - in which Turkey is heavily favored.

But the visit is heralded as sign of a thaw.

"This visit will contribute - even if slightly - to an improvement in the lack of confidence between the two countries," wrote Semih Idiz, a foreign affairs commentator for the newspaper Milliyet. "Taking up tougher issues will only be possible after this."

Gul's last-minute decision to accept Armenia's July invitation to the match may be linked to Turkey's desire to carve out a regional peacemaker role amid tensions sparked by Russia's invasion of neighboring Georgia.

Turkey, a NATO member, has cause for alarm about how Russia's recognition of the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia might inspire its own separatist Kurds, or provoke Armenia to boost support for the separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In the wake of the Georgia conflict, Turkey has proposed a regional grouping for stability in the Caucasus - and closer ties with Armenia is essential for its success. The grouping would include Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey has mended relations with all its neighbors except Armenia, gradually improving ties with traditional rivals such as Greece, Bulgaria and Syria.

Improved links with Armenia are likely to help lift strains on Turkey's relations with other countries that have or plan to formally recognize the massacres as genocide.

Turkey canceled military contracts with France last year after that country announced plans to make denying the genocide a crime. In October, a U.S. congressional measure to declare the Armenian deaths as genocide was stopped after the Bush administration warned it would damage relations with Turkey, an important ally in this region.

Turkey's two major opposition parties have objected to Gul's trip, claiming it does not serve national interests. Gul justified his decision by saying the visit would "contribute to the creation of a climate of friendship in the region."

No hordes of fans from this soccer-crazy country are expected to travel to Armenia for the game, and even politicians who usually watch Turkey play abroad will not make the trip.

Turks still harbor animosity toward Armenia over the killing of dozens of Turkish diplomats by an Armenian terrorist group, ASALA, in the 1970s and 1980s, vengeance for the World War I-era Armenian massacres.

While the match is hotly anticipated in Armenia, with TV stations urging fans to attend, a nationalist party planned demonstrations against Gul's visit.

Turkey coach Fatih Terim warned this week that the political tensions could distract the team.

"We are going to a football match, not to war," he said. "We cannot bear the weight of history on our shoulders, that would slow us down ... It will mess up our play."

Gul, foreign minister in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government before being elected president last year, has favored improved ties with Armenia. The current foreign minister, Ali Babacan, has confirmed there have been informal contacts between the two countries "from time to time."

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 during a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a Muslim ally of Ankara, in order to pressure the Armenians into ending the conflict.

The move has hurt the economy of landlocked Armenia, which has called on Turkey to reopen the border crossing.

Armenia's bitter relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey have resulted in the small country being excluded from energy pipelines that connect Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia. Armenia has also been kept out of a railway project that will link the three.

Armenians, supported by numerous scholars, claim an organized genocide was carried out in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire and are pushing for the killings to be recognized as among history's worst atrocities.

Turkey has called for the establishment of an international committee of scholars to study the events in a bid to improve ties, but Armenia has declined to consider this until relations are forged.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Iran shares data on exports from Aras Free Trade Zone
Iran shares data on exports from Aras Free Trade Zone
Iran unveils details of agricultural export
Iran unveils details of agricultural export
Turkmen medical enterprise discloses production data
Turkmen medical enterprise discloses production data
Loading Bars
An extra meal and snacks twice a day was all it took to improve falling nutrition levels in this tribal district
Almost all Kazakhstan remains in COVID-19 ‘red zone’
Nadal beats Mannarino in battle of left-handers to reach last eight
Georgia reports 9,696 coronavirus cases, 5,408 recoveries, 28 deaths
Training session for reservists continues in Azerbaijan (VIDEO)
Iranian currency rates for January 23
Arab League delays annual summit as COVID-19 bites again
Turkey plans to hold next meeting within "3 + 3" format - Erdogan
New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern cancels her wedding amid new Omicron restrictions
S.Korea says Iran to regain UN vote after delinquent dues paid with frozen funds
Electricity generation of Iran’s Bandar Abbas TPP surges
Uz-Kor Gas Chemical opens tender for purchase spare parts for analyzers and gas detectors
SCO to consider draft program proposed by Uzbekistan
Iran-Russia annual trade to increase to $10 b from $4 b
Kazakhstan confirms 14,012 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hr
French EU lawmaker Collard joins far-right presidential candidate Zemmour
Pfizer, Moderna boosters up to 90% effective against Omicron: CDC
Turkey’s Turkovac to be tested as booster for Pfizer-BioNTech jab
Guinea junta establishes council to lead transition to elections
Visit aims to rebuild trust with Lebanon: Kuwait foreign minister
UK records 76,807 new COVID cases, 297 deaths
EU Commissioner for Energy to visit Azerbaijan
Pfizer CEO sees annual COVID vaccine rather than frequent boosters
US Dept of State plans to begin evacuation of US embassy staff from Kiev on Jan 24
Blast hits western Afghan city of Herat, killing at least six
Georgia’s coal imports from Kazakhstan triple
Presidential administration of Georgia submits candidates for election commission to parliament
Remittances to Uzbekistan in 2021 totaled USD 8 bln
Iran seeks long-term, all-out ties with Turkey - Raeisi
Massive California wildfire triggers evacuations, closes highway
Italy's Berlusconi decides against running for president
Azerbaijan, Iran talk military cooperation
Azerbaijani chess player continues to lead in Tata Steel Masters tournament
Serviceman of Azerbaijan Army dies in non-combat conditions
Number of Turkish jobseekers in Uzbekistan revealed for 2021
UAE stops all private drone activities, light sports aircrafts
Airbus cancels $6bn contract with Qatar Airways
German conservatives elect right-winger Merz as new party leader
Non-hydro renewables overtake hydro for first time in Turkey
Record-breaking indicators in non-oil sector - what is secret to success of Azerbaijan's economic strategy?
Iran shares data on exports from Aras Free Trade Zone
Kazakhstan names damage caused to business as result of large-scale rallies
Georgia publishes COVID-19 data for January 22
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price dips
India now allows 6 people to register on one number for Covid vaccination
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Azerbaijan confirms 1,614 more COVID-19 cases, 610 recoveries
Azerbaijan changes rules for quarantine control of Covid-19
India's Karnataka approves design & launch of nano-satellite by govt school students at Rs 1.9 Cr
‘One Modi cannot change a country, need more icons like him’: Himanta Biswa Sarma
Seizing of illegally stored weapons from citizens continues in Kazakhstan - interior minister
Azerbaijani border serviceman commits suicide in military hospital
Iran unveils details of agricultural export
Kazakh Armed Forces performing tasks to ensure public order in regions with “red” level of terrorist threat
Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time
Number of COVID-19 infections in Russia surpasses 11 mln since pandemic began
Kazakhstan developing measures to reform Samruk-Kazyna Fund's activities
PMO records surge in load/unload operations at Iranian ports
S&P predicts gas production growth in Azerbaijan through 2025
Turkmen medical enterprise discloses production data
Azerbaijan to hold auction for Ferrum Kapital CJSC's bonds
Kazakh president talks need to continue work to reveal all circumstances of recent riots
Kazakh oil and gas company to purchase helium via tender
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for January 22
Oil price spikes likely in 2022 amid inventory tightness midyear
7 killed, 16 injured in massive fire in central Mumbai high-rise
Oil demand to be robust in coming years despite net-zero strategies
India reports 3,37,704 new Covid cases, 488 deaths in 24 hours
Number of COVID-19 infections in Russia surpasses 11 mln since pandemic began
OPEC+ focus to switch away from propping up prices
Iran shares data on buy/sell operations at its Mercantile Exchange
Most people feel I-T exemption limit could be raised from Rs 2.5 lakh: India's KPMG
Turkmenistan’s Balkandokma complex doubles cotton yarn sales
Uzbekistan reveals data on agricultural, forestry and fisheries production
Tax benefits to increase disposable income likely in India's Union Budget
Uzbekistan approves procedure for rational use of land resources
S&P discloses inflation forecast for Azerbaijan through 2025
S&P Global Ratings announces forecast for Azerbaijan's budget surplus
Magnitude 6.2 earthquake strikes Unalaska, Alaska
NIOC agrees with Russian companies to develop Iran's oil, gas fields
SOCAR dismisses information about purchasing bitumen plant in Armenia
Kazakh company eyes to import leather products from Uzbekistan
S&P comments on possible swap line between Central Banks of Azerbaijan and Turkey
Oil production in Azerbaijan to moderately rebound - S&P
Georgia discloses its main cement sources of import
Turkmenistan lays out plans for hydrogen energy development
US lawmakers seek litigation at WTO against India on wheat subsidy
Iran, Azerbaijan continue construction of Khudafarin and Giz Galasi hydro junctions (PHOTO)
Climate policy of Uzbekistan: Implementation of measures to prevent climate change and adaptation in most vulnerable sectors of economy
S&P Global Ratings approves Azerbaijan's credit rating at 'BB+/B'
UK Foreign Secretary to meet with Lavrov in Moscow in February
Netaji’s statue at India Gate to be 25 feet high: NMAG director
India to allow arms manufacturers to enhance production
Kazakhstan names Samruk-Kazyna's entreprises planned to be put up for IPOs
Iranian currency rates for January 22
Statistical center of Iran reveals figures of growing inflation
Azerbaijan reduces quarantine period for COVID-19 patients
Kazakh Gas Processing Plant opens tender on manufacturing of parts for pumping equipment
Azerbaijan's Kalbajar - most suitable for winter tourism among liberated areas, agency says
EAM Jaishankar dials envoys in US, Canada after 4 Indians freeze to death along US-Canada border
All news