It was not just any party. Armenia and Turkey faced each other for the Eurocup in the midst of some rapprochement between the two countries. Relations between the two nations have been strained for nearly a century due to the Armenian genocide, which began in 1915 when Ottoman Turks arrested and beheaded hundreds of intellectuals and politicians. Scars accentuated by Turkey’s support for Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno Karabagh war.
A party with onerous burden, a history of cruelty and a present that oscillates between reconciliation and contempt. In this environment, Armenia and Turkey met on March 25 at the Vazgen Sargsyan stadium in Yerevan, in the knockout phase of Euro 2024.
the label of sold out on the virtual ticket sales platforms it was the harbinger of a packed stadium tinged with the local team’s tricolor. In the pre-match press conference, the coach of the Armenian national team, Oleksandr Petrakov, had emphasized the satisfactory preparation, his players and equal chances for the opposing teams.
Once on the pitch, the ball rolled smoothly under the expectant gaze of the Armenian fans, who were enthusiastic in the 10th minute, when their team scored the first goal. A different sensation to the one that remained at the end of the game with the final result two to one in favor of Turkey.
A few weeks ago, the Union of European Football Federations (UEFA) announced the decision to prevent access to Turkish fans to “avoid unnecessary tension”. For this very reason, Armenian fans will not be able to attend the match that will take place in Turkey in September.
The antipathy between these countries was reactivated after the explicit support of the Turkish Government for Azerbaijan during the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war —a conflict that lasted for more than 40 days in 2020 and that pitted both countries over said territory—. Their alliance has such a fraternal level that the presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev, the president Azeri, refer to their states as “two countries, one nation”.
Soccer, a bridge
In other circumstances, soccer had been selected as the sport that would strengthen ties between Yerevan and Ankara. The precedents are recorded in 2008 and 2009, with two games, one in the Armenian capital and another in the Turkish city of Bursa, within the framework of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
At that time, the Zurich Protocols, aimed at reestablishing relations between Armenia and Turkey, had been put on the table. Its roadmap proposed the reopening of the borders and the formation of a commission of experts in charge of studying the Armenian genocide. To seal the intentions of ironing out rough edges, the presidents, Serzh Sargsyan and Abdullah GülThey watched the games together from the box.
The era of “soccer diplomacy” was inaugurating and the neighboring countries were seeking to restore their ties, interrupted since 1993, when Turkey decided to unilaterally suspend its relations with Armenia in the context of the first war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Later, the period of bilateral courtesy came to a close when the president Sargsyan suspended the process of ratification of the protocols. Thus, the process of restoring relations fizzled out and, since then, the teams of Armenia and Turkey have not met on the pitch either.
After more than 10 years, countries close geographically and distant in their diplomacy crossed paths again in an athletic day. On this occasion, the President of Armenia, Vahagn Khachaturyan, through a post on his Twitter account expressed: “Thanks to the teams of Armenia and Turkey for an impressive match full of emotions. Sport should unite people, reconcile nations and serve as a cause of peace.” For his part, the Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, limited himself to sharing the formation of the Armenian team on his Facebook account, without referring to the process of normalizing ties between these countries.
earthquake and friendship
As of January 2022, Armenia and Turkey decided to give their diplomacy a second chance. The countries appointed representatives in charge of carrying out the process of normalizing their relations. Those assigned were Serdar Kilic, former Turkish ambassador to the United States, and vice president of the Armenian National Assembly.
This process includes several points, among which prevails the opening of the border for citizens of third countries and holders of Armenian and Turkish diplomatic passports. According to recent information published in the Armenian media, this border will start operating before the start of the 2023 tourist season.
This land access was recently opened after decades of blockade, when Armenia sent humanitarian aid to Turkey to assist the victims of the disastrous earthquake. In addition, it collaborated with 27 rescuers who carried out relief missions in the Turkish city of Adiyaman. These decisions were made by the prime minister, who did not hesitate to call the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to express his condolences.
With the exceptional opening of the Margara border bridge, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan traveled to Turkey and met with his counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. In a joint press conference, Mirzoyan stated that “no society should be left alone during natural disasters.” For his part, Çavuşoğlu stated that the assistance provided by Armenia to the victims of the earthquake could facilitate the normalization process.
Consequently, both parties affirmed that the ongoing dialogue has made progress and, among other points, it has been decided to lift the ban on air cargo.
In this context, Yerevan and Ankara consolidate their efforts to strengthen their formal diplomatic ties. Despite the fact that their disputes are mainly focused on Turkey’s refusal to recognize the Armenian genocide and its unconditional support towards Azerbaijan, in discursive matters, the leaders refer to a commitment to ensure a peaceful, cooperative and stable region.
#Football #diplomacy #resumes #Armenia #Turkey
Leave a Reply