Sarkisian, Gul Meet in Astana

Gul (center) talks with Sarkisian (right) with Aliyev (left)

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (Combined Sources)–Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian met his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul Saturday on the sidelines of an international celebration marking the 10th anniversary of the Kazakh capital of Astana. The meeting, being termed a “courtesy meeting,” came two days after Sarkisian extended an official invitation to Gul to Armenia for the September soccer match between the two national teams.

Gul spoke briefly with Sarkisian and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev at the Akorda Presidential Palace. Gul walked with the two leaders for a while. During the walk, Sarkisian reportedly started the conversation by saying, "I know Turkish," in Turkish. However Aliyev assisted their conversation, acting as a translator.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Gul called his conversation with Sarkisian and Aliyev a "courtesy meeting." During the conversation he congratulated Sarkisian for his election to the presidency and told him that he had received a formal invitation to visit Yerevan for a football match in September, Gul said.

"The president has invited Turkish President Abdullah Gul to visit Armenia on September 6 to watch the World Cup qualifying match between Armenia and Turkey," Sarkisian’s spokesman, Samvel Farmanian, told AFP.

"We are assessing the invitation," Gul briefly told reporters, when asked whether he would accept the invitation.

Armenia and Turkey will play against each other in Yerevan on Sept. 6 in a qualifying match for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, scheduled to be held in South Africa.

Weekend festivities in Astana also offered an opportunity for the first bilateral meeting between Gul and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

On Saturday Gul and Medvedev held bilateral talks closed to the press on the sidelines of the Astana gathering. "Turkey and Russia are two countries whose relations with each other have been proceeding in regards to neighborhood, friendship and in every way. I believe that all of us will work in cooperation to carry our relations to a further level. As both you and we have this political will, I believe we can carry this out," Gul said, as the two leaders posed for the cameras ahead of their meeting.

Medvedev expressed pleasure over his meeting with Gul and pledged efforts for improving bilateral relations with Turkey. Later in the day, his presidential aide, Sergei Prikhodko, said Medvedev and Gul had agreed to exchange visits and discussed prospects for interaction between the two countries in the fields of investment and tourism.

Prikhodko said Medvedev had invited the Turkish president to make an official visit to Russia, while Gul said he would be glad to see his Russian colleague in his country.
During the meeting, the leaders of the two countries considered possibilities for increasing trade and expanding cooperation to carry out key infrastructure projects.

"Abdullah Gul noted Turkish construction companies’ great interest in realizing key infrastructure projects in Russia. Turkey showed interest in attracting construction companies to carry out tasks on the [Winter] Olympic Games in Sochi," Prikhodko said.

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