Sept 4 2008

President Abdullah Gul will on Saturday become the first Turkish head
of state to visit Armenia, his office said, taking an important step
to restart diplomatic relations between two neighboring countries.

Gul will go to Yerevan to attend a football match between the two
countries, which do not have diplomatic relations

Armenia's President Serge Sarkisian invited Gul last month to attend
the qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup finals to mark "a new
symbolic start in the countries' relations". Turkish diplomats
and security officials have been in Yerevan this week making final

"A visit around this match can create a new climate of friendship
in the region," the Turkish presidency said in a statement posted on
its website. "It is with this in mind that the president has accepted
the invitation.

"This match could lift the obstacles blocking the coming together
of two peoples who share a common history and can create a new
foundation," it said.

The Turkish presidency said it hoped the visit means "an opportunity
for a better mutual understanding."

Gul will arrive in Yerevan two hours before the match and go directly
to the office of Sargsyan. The meeting of two presidents is expected
to last for one hour.

Gul is expected to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and Turkey's
proposal for establishing a Caucasus alliance with Sargsyan. If they
do, this would be the first time that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is
on the agenda of a bilateral meeting.

Turkish delegation will leave Yerevan as soon as the match ends.

Turkey is among the first countries that recognized Armenia when it
declared its independency. However there is no diplomatic relations
between two countries, as Armenia presses the international community
to admit the so-called "genocide" claims instead of accepting Turkey's
call to investigate the allegations, and its invasion of 20 percent
of Azerbaijani territory despite U.N. Security Council resolutions
on the issue.


Sarkisian earlier welcomed a Turkish proposal for a new forum in
the volatile Caucasus region after meeting a senior Turkish envoy to
prepare the visit.

"Armenia has always welcomed and welcomes all efforts directed at
the strengthening of confidence, stability and security, and at
deepening cooperation in the region," Sarkisian said in a statement
after meeting Gul's special envoy Unal Cevikoz.

He added that Guls special envoy Unal Cevikoz's visit "raises the
possibility of talks to settle mutual relations" between the two

A warming period had started between two neighboring countries when
the two presidents exchanged letters after Sargsyan's election
victory. Gul's visit raised hopes that the two major problems,
Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia's genocide claims, could be solved
through dialogue.

In 2005, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a tentative
first step towards resolving the thorny genocide issue by mooting
that a joint commission of historians launch an investigation and
publish their conclusions.

The proposal was rejected by Yerevan. Turkey hopes the establishment
of such a commission would enlight the 1915 incidents.

Armenia, with the backing of the Diaspora, claims up to 1.5 million
of their kin were slaughtered in orchestrated killings in 1915. Turkey
rejects the claims, saying that 300,000 Armenians along with at least
as many Turks died in civil strife that emerged when Armenians took
up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress