Gul Visit Contingent on Developments, Says Babacan

Turkish Diplomatic Corps

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s attendance at a soccer match in Armenia will depend on developmen’s between the two countries, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan told NTV broadcaster on Wednesday.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has invited Gul to visit Yerevan for a soccer match in September, marking a shift in relations between two states which have no diplomatic ties.

"Such a participation would depend on the developmen’s ahead of the match," Babacan told NTV, without giving further details.

Ankara continues to condition the normalization of relations with Yerevan on Armenia’s acceptance of a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. Turkey also conditions the establishment of ties on Armenia’s abandoning of a campaign for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Earlier this week, Hurriyet reported that the US administration is keen on seeing Turkey’s president accept the invitation by his Armenian counterpart. Officials from George Bush’s administration have said it would be a "great opening" if President Abdullah Gul accepts the invitation and visits Yerevan to watch the soccer game between the Turkish and Armenian national teams.

According to the Turkish newspaper, President George Bush’s top security adviser, Stephen Hadley, will pay a surprise visit to Turkey on Thursday.

Hadley, who is the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, will meet President Gul and Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan on his one-day visit, sources added, with Turkye’s Foreign Minister confirming the visit. Hadley is expected to deliver Washington’s call "to take further steps" on Sarkisian’s soccer match invitation.

A Turkish official said the details of the visit would not be disclosed. However some suggested one of the most important issues on Hadley’s agenda will likely be the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program heightened recently as Tehran tested mid-rang missiles that could strike Israel.


Hadley’s visit will also come a week after gunmen attacked the US Consulate in Istanbul, leaving six people dead. Washington condemned the consulate attack immediately after the shooting and vowed to continue joint efforts with Turkey in the struggle against terrorism.

Meanwhile, Gul’s spokesperson, Mustafa Isen, stated Wednesday that it is too early to make any decision regarding the Armenian President’s invitation to watch the Armenia-Turkey football match in Yerevan. He added that the decision of the Turkish side shall depend on the development of the dialogue process with Armenia.

According to Hurriyet newspaper, Isen told reporters that President Gul will make the decision depending on the political atmosphere shortly before the day of the game.

Drawing the reporters’ attention to the positive aspects of the meeting of the two presidents in Kazakhstan, Isen also said that even small events can develop into ones of great importance. Such development may have very important and positive consequences for the two countries.

Isen denied rumors spread in the Turkish press that President Gul has established a council in order to make decision on the invitation of the Armenian side.

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

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