Gul Upbeat About Armenia Visit; to Discuss Karabakh in Baku

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul returned from Armenia with hopes of normalizing ties pledged to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict during his visit to Baku, scheduled for Tuesday.

Gul, who announced that the Genocide issue was not discussed during his talks with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian, said that a comprehensive presentation was made by the Armenian side regarding the Karabakh conflict.

Turkish political analyst, Fatih Cekirge, traveling with Gul wrote Monday that the Turkish president’s pledge to address the Karabakh conflict in Baku signaled a “new era” for Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Cekirge added that Gul’s willingness to discuss the Karabakh issue in Baku also can signal that “a new map for Nagorno-Karabakh can be brought to the table in the future,”

Speaking to reporters on his return flight, Gul sounded upbeat about a possible breakthrough if the two neighbors managed to build up on his trip.

“I believe my visit has broken down psychological barriers in the Caucasus,” Gul was quoted by the Anatolia news agency as saying. “If this climate continues, everything will move forward and normalize.”

Gul said that he had found support to Turkey?s initiative of Stability in Caucasus and Platform of Cooperation.

"We were pleased with Armenia’s announcement that it supports Turkey’s proposal of a ‘Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform’," Gul said adding that there was a ball in their court and this ball should not have remained in their court.

Gul said he invited Sarkisian to Turkey to watch the next World Cup qualifying match scheduled for 2009 in Istanbul.

Gul met with Sarkisian Saturday upon arriving in Yerevan, where he was greeted by Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian at Zvartnots Airport.

“President of Turkey Abdullah Gul invited me to watch the response football game in Istanbul. I consider it a good beginning,” Sarkisian said Saturday at a briefing after his meeting with Gul, reported the Armenpress news agency.

“We expressed hope that we are able to display good will and solve the issues existing between our countries and not pass them to next generations. I saw readiness, I saw the desire to establish stability and peace in the region for which I am very happy,” said Sarkisian praising Gul’s decision to accept his invitation.

“Assessing the opportunity of the meeting of the national soccer teams, we met in Yerevan and exchanged ideas first of all over making the region a territory of stability and cooperation,” said Gul at the joint press conference.

“We displayed a political will to create an atmosphere for the solution of issues between Armenia and Turkey. I hope that my visit will create an opportunity for the regulation of bilateral relations,” added Gul.

He expressed gratitude for the invitation and for the proper assessment of the opportunity to utilize the soccer match as a meeting platform.

“I also express gratitude to the respected president for the support of our suggestion over creation a platform of stability and cooperation in Caucasus,” concluded Gul.

Speaking at the joint press conference after those talks, Gul said, "I hope that this visit will create the possibility to improve bilateral relations."

Sarkisian declared that there is now the "political will to decide the questions between our countries, so that these problems are not passed on to the next generation."

Speaking ahead of his eagerly anticipated arrival in Yerevan, Gul had said he hoped the match would help lift the barriers dividing two people "who share a common history and will contribute to regional friendship and peace."

Gul told journalists on the plane that he hoped his visit would "lay the groundwork for solving the problems between Turkey and Armenia," as well as promote the Turkish government’s plan to create a regional group for the Caucasus.

Reuters quoted Gul aboard the plane en route to Armenia as praising Sarkisian for his "brave" decision to invite him to the game.

"My president’s visit to Yerevan…is going to be an important step to open doors for dialogue with Armenia," Ali Babacan told Reuters.

"The current circumstances, we believe, are conducive for such a bold step [as the bilateral visit]," Babacan said in an interview late on September 5 in Avignon, France, where he was attending a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Gul is the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia’since it became independent from the Soviet Union in 1991. The two states do not have diplomatic relations.

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