Gul’s Visit Applauded by Majority in Turkey, Seen as Disastrous in Azerbaijan

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–A brief visit by President Abdullah Gul to Yerevan to attend a soccer match between the Turkish and Armenian national teams was welcomed by an overwhelming majority of Turkish society, as it was considered a landmark step to thaw relations between the two countries, a new opinion poll has found, Today’s Zaman reported.

Meanwhile, a majority of Azerbaijani society believes the Turkish President’s visit will have negative consequences for Azerbaijan, especially for its tenuous position in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, according to a new poll by the Ray Monitoring Center.

The Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic & Social Research Center conducted a survey on Gul’s visit to Yerevan to learn Turks’ views on the visit. According to the survey, 69.6 percent of those polled found Gul’s visit to Armenia’successful, a figure suggesting that Turks are hopeful the visit may be a turning point in the relations between Turkey and Armenia.

According to the Azeri survey, a majority of those polled reacted “extremely negatively” toward Gul’s visit to Armenia, a figure suggesting that most Azerbaijani’s are not favorable to a possible thaw in ties between Ankara and Yerevan. 88 percent of people polled assessed the visit negatively, while only 9 percent of respondents said it was a positive development. 3 percent said it was hard to answer, reported Azerbaijan’s Interfax agency.

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian invited Gul to watch a World Cup qualifying match between the Turkish and Armenian national teams in Yerevan. Gul’s acceptance of the invitation raised hopes for dialogue that could eventually restore relations between the two neighbors and help bury an almost century-old hostility.

The major question of the Turkish survey was whether Gul’s visit to Armenia was successful or not. An overwhelming 69.6 percent of respondents said the visit was successful, whereas 15 percent said it was unsuccessful and 15.4 percent said they had no idea.

“Turkey and Armenia took a step to normalize relations after long years of dispute. Though some political parties and politicians strongly opposed Gul traveling to Yerevan, both the government and the president did the best to thaw the ice between the two countries,” said Professor Ozer Sencar, one of the administrators of the poll. “Gul’s visit to Armenia was met with satisfaction by the Turkish nation. To me, this visit may be a turning point in Turkish-Armenian relations.”

Professor Eser Karakas, a columnist for the Star daily, said the visit was a huge step for the settlement of problems between the two neighbors.

“This is a significant step of goodwill. It would be great if both countries reinforced this step with similar ones in the future. It may not solve all problems between Turkey and Armenia but may at least help Turkey open its border with its neighbor,” he stated.

Another question directed to respondents in the poll was on the tough stance of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) toward Gul’s visit to Yerevan. When asked whether the CHP and the MHP were right to react negatively to Gul’s visit, 65.6 percent of those polled said the two opposition parties were wrong to harshly criticize the visit. Only 24.9 percent of respondents said the two parties were right to do so and 9.5 percent said they had no idea.

Another topic of the new poll was future relations with Armenia. In response to a question over what kind of policy Turkey should pursue in relations with its neighbor, 62.8 percent of those polled said Turkey should develop diplomatic and economic relations with Armenia, whereas 25.9 percent said it should maintain the existing policies. Another 11.3 percent said they had no idea.

The Azeri poll, however, suggested that most Azerbaijani’s are not favorable to the establishment of ties between Ankara and Yerevan. 88 percent of people polled assessed the visit negatively, while only 9 percent of respondents said it was a positive development. 3 percent said it was hard to answer, reported Azerbaijan’s Interfax agency. Meanwhile, 92 percent of respondents interpreted Gul’s visit as a change in Turkey’s position on Nagorno-Karabakh that would negatively affect Azerbaijan.

Most respondents in Azerbaijan described Gul’s visit as unfriendly toward Azerbaijan and a betrayal of Azeri and Turkish national interests.

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