Today's Zaman, Turkey
Sept 1 2008

ErdoÄ?an says Gül will visit Yerevan, Gül cautious


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄ?an has indicated that
President Abdullah Gül will go to Yerevan next week to watch a
World Cup qualifying game between national teams of the two countries,
but Gül remains cautious on the matter, saying he is still
considering whether to accept the invitation from his Armenian
counterpart, Serzh Sarksyan.

ErdoÄ?an was speaking to reporters about the Caucasus Stability
and Cooperation Platform, a scheme that calls for new methods of
crisis management and conflict resolution, on Saturday evening at a
reception held by the General Staff command at Gazi Orduevi in Ankara
for Victory Day. Ankara aims at bringing Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia
and Turkey around the same table via this platform.

"Why did we call this [initiative] the 'Caucasus Stability and
Cooperation Platform'? Why is Armenia included in this, why is Georgia
included in this? Because we chose [them] for inclusion [in the
platform] on a geographic basis. We have to succeed in this so that
the region will become a region of welfare and ease," ErdoÄ?an
was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

Following these remarks, ErdoÄ?an was asked whether he wanted
Mr. President to go to Yerevan for the match, in an apparent reference
to Sarksyan's invitation to Gül to watch the World Cup
qualifying game between the national teams of the two countries on
Sept. 6.

"I hope it will be good," ErdoÄ?an said, adding, "The Armenia
dimension ¦ our foreign minister will accompany him [President
Gül] and a meeting will take place there," in remarks
interpreted as Gül having decided to go to Yerevan and that
Foreign Minister Ali Babacan would also accompany him in order to have
talks there concerning Armenia's participation in the Caucasus
Stability and Cooperation Platform.

At the same reception, however, when asked whether he would go to
Yerevan, Gül reiterated what he has been saying for the past
few weeks, stating that his evaluation of the issue is still ongoing.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia and severed formal ties after
Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. Normalization of ties depends on
Armenian withdrawal from the Azerbaijani territory, Yerevan shelving
support for Armenian diaspora efforts to win international recognition
for Armenian genocide claims and formal recognition by Armenia of the
current border with Turkey.

Azerbaijan, Turkey's regional and ethnic ally, is likely to be
offended by any rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia. But the
recent crisis in the Caucasus may force a rethinking of regional
balances. The Russian operation in Georgia raised questions about the
security of regional transportation and energy transfer lines. With
its Armenian border closed, Turkey relies on Georgia as an outlet to
the Caucasus.