Turkey, Armenia 'not writing history but making it', Gul says / PHOTO

The presidents of Turkey and Armenia sat side-by-side to watch a World Cup soccer match, in a show of unity.

Turkey, Armenia 'not writing history but making it', Gul says / PHOTO
World Bulletin / News Desk

The presidents of Turkey and Armenia sat side-by-side to watch a World Cup soccer match on Wednesday, in a show of unity meant to help defuse opposition to an agreement to reopen their border and restore relations.

At a meeting of the delegations of Turkey and Armenia in Bursa, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said making history can not take place in a single day.

"This is a process. We have witnessed together that we can solve the difficult problems within this process," Gul said during the meeting of Turkish and Armenian delegations.

The participants at the meeting of the delegations affirmed that Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan displayed the same courage shown by President Abdullah Gul in September 2008 by coming to Turkey to watch a World Cup qualifying match between the teams of Turkey and Armenia on Wednesday.

"Making history"

Gul said Wednesday "we are not writing history, we are making history".
The delegations expressed during the meeting that the two sides showed an example of great leadership and that the people of both countries got closer to each other.

President Gul referred to the process with Armenia as "extremely important development".

Gul used the expression "we are not writing history but making it".

Sources said that Gul told the delegations "great steps were taken. A legal platform was prepared. There are documents that were signed. The next process will be to make progress on this platform".

The calendar as set forth in the documents will go into effect once the documents have been approved, Gul said.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said the protocols will be submitted to parliament next week, but many observers are sceptical there will be approval before progress on disputed territories, including Nagorno-Karabakh, to satisfy Azerbaijan.

Optimism alongside protests

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan, in his part, said during the meeting of the delegations that the steps taken by Turkey and Armenia were crucial.

I have experienced difficulty while trying to inform certain circles since August 31. I have completed the process by facing difficulties, Sarksyan told at the meeting of the two delegations.

I have not tried to inform people in order to receive permission from the Armenian diaspora. I wanted to convey a decision of the Armenian Government to the diaspora and held meetings in order to update them, Sarksyan said.

There could be individuals with different thoughts in both countries, Turkey and Armenia. What is important is to see that the number of people thinking positively about our steps are in the majority, Sarksyan told in the meeting of the delegations.

The number of people thinking positively will increase in time. We are doing the right thing. We are taking steps which we believe are right, Sarksyan also said.

Meanwhile, a group of several dozen Turkish nationalists held a demonstration in Bursa against the peace accord, with a banner which read: "the protocol of betrayal is unacceptable".
Waving Turkish and Azerbaijan flags, the protesters chanted: "we did not commit genocide, we defended the homeland" and "the people of Azerbaijan are not alone".

The game in Bursa, a former Ottoman capital, gave the presidents a chance to discuss thorny unresolved issues, including lands disputed by Azerbaijan and Armenia and popular opinion polarised by 1915 events.

Sarksyan is under intense pressure from nationalists at home and influential diaspora Armenians not to deal with Ankara until it acknowledges genocide.

Endorsement of the agreement could ease Armenia's economic plight and strengthen Turkey's European Union membership bid.

Turkey cut ties and shut its border with Armenia in 1993 over an uprising in Karabakh by ethnic Armenians who also captured a swathe of Azeri land around the territory.

Armenian attacks ended in Karabakh with a ceasefire in 1994 after 30,000 were killed. Talks are under way over a final settlement.

Gul told the delegations of the two countries that the process was not merely watched by the peoples of Turkey and Armenia but also the whole globe.

This shows how great a step we have taken together, Gul said.

"Soccer diplomacy"

Local fans waved thousands of red-and-white Turkish flags across the stadium, chanting "Turkey, Turkey", while a small group of Armenians waved their country's flag in one corner.

Gul became the first Turkish leader to visit Yerevan last year for the first leg of what has been called "soccer diplomacy" and the two countries signed a landmark peace accord on Saturday.

The agreement, still facing challenges, could help stabilise the south Caucasus with its vulnerable energy corridor and ease poverty-stricken Armenia's geographical isolation.

But it is deeply resisted by nationalists in both countries as well as by Turkey's close ally and oil and gas producer Azerbaijan. Turkish and Armenian parliaments must approve it.

Security in stadium

Neither team in the qualifier has a chance of making it to the World Cup finals but unprecedented security for the match underlined how much was at stake. Neither side wants to give ammunition to opponents of Armenian-Turkish normalisation.

The match at the 18,600-capacity stadium was by invitation only, with many of the guests police academy students. Some 1,500 police were on duty.

Special forces marksmen monitored the crowd from the roof of the stadium, scanning the stands with binoculars.

There were scuffles outside the stadium between police and a group of Turkish supporters without tickets, prompting the police to spray them with pepper gas.

Last Mod: 14 Ekim 2009, 23:37
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