Turkish Bodyguards ‘Preparing For’ Gul’s Trip to Armenia

ANKARA (RFE/RL)–A team of Turkish security officials will reportedly travel to Yerevan this weekend to discuss security measures that would be put in place in the event of President Abdullah Gul’s historic visit to Armenia.

Gul said in televised remarks late Wednesday that he is “still considering” the invitation. “What is important is whether such a visit will be useful or not,” he said.

The Turkish daily “Zaman” reported on Thursday that the Turkish president’s security detail is already preparing for his possible trip and planning to send a “forward unit” of 15 bodyguards to Yerevan. It said they would discuss with their Armenian colleagues security measures in and around the city’s Hrazdan stadium where the qualifying match for the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa will be played.

“According to current plans, a group from the [Turkish] counterattack team, armed with M5 and M16 rifles, will be responsible for Gul’s security during the visit,” “Zaman” said.

Another leading Turkish newspaper, “Hurriyet,” said the Foreign Ministry in Ankara is trying to arrange the security team’s visit and is going to contact the Armenian government for that purpose. The paper said the Turks will either approach the Armenian embassy in Georgia or Armenia’s permanent representative at the Istanbul headquarters of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization.

A diplomatic source in Yerevan told RFE/RL that the Armenian side has not been contacted by Ankara as of late Thursday afternoon. Another Armenian source, who asked not to be identified, essentially confirmed the Turkish newspaper reports.

The invitation extended to Gul in June underscored a thaw in relations between the two estranged neighbors that followed Sarkisian’s victory in Armenia’s February 19 presidential election. The new Armenian president responded positively to Ankara’s offers of a “dialogue” on problems hampering the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties. Senior diplomats from the two countries held confidential talks in Switzerland in early July.


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