Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan invited Turkish President Abdullah Gül to watch the Turkey-Armenia football match together on September 6th. This match at Razdan Stadium was hope inspiring for many. It could have been a great ground to build up on. Obviously those who thought so, don’t know Armenians. Gül accepted the invitation and went to the match. Many statements made in the international public opinion were optimistic. Turkey had taken another step in accepting Armenia’s offer. This positive approach could’ve added to a lot of important developments. However during the same days, the racist party and secret government “Tashnak” explained its opinion as this: Party spokesperson Kiro Manoyan said that more than enough attention was given to the match and that no precondition Abdullah Gül might set forth in Yerevan should be accepted. He went onto say that even if the normalisation of relations with Turkey would be better for Armenia, there should be no compromise. In conclusion “even if it is in our favour, let’s not take a step”… The risk of saddening Azerbaijan… Gül took a huge risk by going to Yerevan. For example 88% of Azerbaijani people were uncomfortable with Gül going to Armenia. The public opinion survey carried out by a prominent company called “Rey” showed that only 9% of the interviewed approved the President of Turkey going to Armenia. 3% didn’t even answer the question. Those who believe that Abdullah Gül’s Yerevan visit will make it difficult to solve the Question of Upper Karabagh rank at 90%. Azerbaijan is a very important country for Turkey. Turkey and Azerbaijan or “two countries-one nation”, have common views on many matters. Gül’s step foresaw that risks could be taken to normalise relations with Armenia. Washington is optimistic… US Deputy Secretary of State Dan Fried met with appreciation the visit of Abdullah Gül to Yerevan. Fried said, meaning Armenia’s borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey, that they want Armenia’s borders opened and would work to that end. Deputy in charge of Eurasian Affairs Dan Fried told the Foreign Relations Committee of the House of Representatives that the aim of Washington was to have Azerbaijan and Turkey open ground borders to Armenia. He went onto say that they would work to have Armenia’s borders opened in order for relations to develop between these countries. Messages of a Solution from Sarkisyan Armenian President Sarkisyan later said that he had agreed with President Gül in solving the problems between the two countries. The Armenian President said that “they were in agreement on not depositing the later generations with the problems of today” and that the time had come to solve the problems. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sarkisyan pointed out that the second period had come after Gül’s Armenia visit. Turkish, Azerbaijani and Armenian Foreign Ministers came together in New York in a tripartite meeting. Gül was hopeful… Answering questions of reporters after his meeting at the New York American-Turkish Society-ATS, President Abdullah Gül said they were trying to create a favourable climate between Turkey and Armenia and was hopeful to that end. In reply to a question on when the border between Armenia and Turkey could be opened and under what conditions, as well as whether there were any developments in Turkey-Azerbaijan and Armenia relations, Gül said the following: “My latest visit was through a football match. Sarksyan' invitation to watch the game in Yerevan was a brave act and I responded with the same bravery by accepting. My purpose is to create a positive climate between Turkey and Armenia in order to help solve problems and normalize relations. I am very optimistic about this” He went onto say the following: “"The situation in the Caucasus and the Georgian-Russian dispute show us that problems must be solved through dialogue. To leave problems frozen is very dangerous. They can explode at any time. What leaders should do is remove obstacles, not feed enmity." said Gül. But Russia… It was at this point that Russia came into play. Medvedev decided to make some recommendations to the Azerbaijani leadership on ways to solve the Question of Karabagh. The Russian President wanted a guarantee from Aliyev that he wouldn’t sign onto energy project that leave Russia out of the picture, in return for Russia’ support towards Azerbaijan against Armenia. The allegation was published by Russian Kommersant Newspaper which quoted sources from the Russian Foreign Ministry. It wrote that Dimitriy Medvedev had come up with suggestions on the Laçin region that created discomfort during the Karabagh negotiations. The Russian leader aims to receive the word of Azerbaijan that in return for persuading Yerevan, they would not start another Karabagh war. Moscow, tired with matters of Nabucco and Kosovo, and giving critical messages through Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, started an initiative on Upper Karabagh to stay intact in the Caucasus. Russian President proposed a tri-partite initiative with the attendance of Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders on Upper Karabagh. Of course positive replies came on the proposal. The opposite couldn’t be imaginable. So Russia was able to take precautions against Upper Karabagh, Azeri natural gas and a “possible Turkey-Armenia rapprochement.” Armenia’s U Turn … The expected development took place immediately afterwards. Armenian Security Council Secretary Artur Bagdasaryan reacted to Turkey’s efforts in negotiating on the Upper Karabagh matter and asked that negotiations continue through the OSCE Minsk Group. OSCE Minsk Group French co-chair Bernard Fassier and Artur Bagdasaryan met in Yerevan. They underlined the continuation of the current dialogue platform and said they were ready to accept all support towards peace but support didn’t mean being an intermediary. Touching up on Armenia-Turkey relations, Bagdasaryan said the following: “Turkey is our neighbour, not our enemy. We have to normalise relations step by step. Upper level talks are on matters of great importance for Armenia.” At the same time, Armenian Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandyan said diplomats were working very hard to normalise relations with Turkey and asked therefore that no artificial roadblocks be created. Mentioning the positive stance they have towards the proposed tri-partite meeting on Upper Karabagh between Nalbandyan’s Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan and Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov in attendance in New York, he said that Turkey could positively influence Baku to make her more flexible. Of course he made a quick manoeuvre at the end of these words. Underlining that he was in favour of the OSCE Minsk Group continuing to be a negotiator, the Minister said openly: “I hope that peace talks continue on the basis of the proposals put forth by OSCE Minsk Group members (France, Russia, and USA). No other platform can be accepted” Yerevan’s attitude became clearer when Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan analysed the meeting between Turkish, Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers in New York on September 27th. Sarkisyan said openly “I don’t expect anything special from the meeting between Turkish, Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers. It is early to expect a special result.” Serj Sarkisyan went onto say “Such talks were held before. They are in the middle of an ongoing process and results might be seen in the future.” Talks will be held in the future. After all, Sarkisyan will come for the away game to Turkey. Will it be of any use? Not so easy. Because Armenia isn’t governed in Armenia. Yerevan can’t do much other than football diplomacy.
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