Sarkisian Stresses Historic Moment of Gul’s Trip to Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In an interview with the Turkish daily “Radikal” made public on Thursday, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian expressed hope that his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul will accept his invitation to arrive in the Armenian capital and watch with him the first-ever game between Armenia’s and Turkey’s national football teams scheduled for September 6.

Sarkisian stressed the importance of the visit, saying it would be the first-ever trip to Armenia by a Turkish president.

“If I did not believe in the visit’s importance, I would not invite Mr. Gul in the first place,” he said. “We are neighbors. We went through difficult times in our history. But Armenia is prepared for a development of our relations and expects the same from Turkey.”

Sarkisian also stated that he and his Turkish counterpart “have reached the decision-making phase.”

“Those will not be easy decisions,” he said. “Those decisions will not be approved by the entire publics in Armenia and Turkey. But I am sure the majority of the publics will support positive decisions.”

Sarkisian also indicated that Yerevan and Ankara can reconcile their conflicting proposals to set up commissions discussing issues of mutual concern. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested in 2005 that the two states form a commission of historians who would look into the veracity of the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide. The Armenian government turned down the offer and came up with a counter-proposal to have this and other problems hampering a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement tackled by an inter-governmental body after normal relations are established.

“The best solution is the establishment of diplomatic relations,” Sarkisian told “Radikal.” “That way we can form many subcommissions and groups within the framework of the commission to be set up by the governmen’s.”

Sarkisian was also asked whether the Yerevan government has territorial claims to Turkey voiced by some Armenian political groups. “I don’t remember a single Armenian official speaking about territorial claims,” he replied. “But I keep hearing about that from the opposite side.”

“If that was our official policy, then we would be called not the Republic of Armenia but the Republic of Eastern Armenia,” added the Armenian president.

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