YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Turkish President Abdullah Gul will face street protests if he accepts his Armenian counterpart’s invitation to visit Yerevan and watch the upcoming match between the national football teams of the two countries, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation reiterated on Thursday.
President Serzh Sarkisian extended the invitation to Gul earlier this summer to underscore his desire to improve Armenia’s historically strained relations with Turkey. Ankara offered to engage in a “dialogue” with Yerevan shortly after he took office in April.
The ARF, which is represented in Sarkisian’s coalition cabinet and has traditionally favored a harder line on Turkey, makes no secret of its disapproval of the invitation. Aghvan Vartanian, a leading member of the party, reaffirmed its plans to stage demonstrations against what would be the first-ever visit to Armenia by a Turkish head of state.
“If President Gul visits Armenia to watch the game, there will be meetings, protests and calls against Turkey,” Vartanian told a news conference. “But that will not be organized only by ARF.”
“We have problems with Turkey and solutions to those problems relate to the future, rather than the past,” he said.
Vartanian made clear that Sarkisian cannot force the ARF to reconsider its plans. “the ARF has always been an independent political force and has expressed its positions on various issues regardless of what others will think,” he said.
ARF leaders earlier expressed concern about Sarkisian’s stated readiness to accept, in principle, Turkey’s proposal to form an intergovernmental commission to comprehensively discuss all of the complex issues affecting Armenia and Turkey. They said Turkish recognition of the Genocide is a necessary condition for normalizing bilateral ties.