A prominent Armenian opposition politician urged President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday to visit Turkey for the second football match of the two countries’ national football teams, saying that failure to accept his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul’s invitation would be an “absolute stupidity.”
“In my opinion, going [to Turkey] would be the right thing because even with your enemy you have a normal enmity,” said Hrant Bagratian, a former prime minister and senior member of the main opposition Armenian National Congress (HAK).
“We have no right to feel vexed,” he told reporters. “On the line are the interests of the state.”
Sarkisian made clear late last month that he will not travel to Turkey and watch the October 14 match with Gul unless Ankara takes “real steps” to reopen the Turkish-Armenian border. He said the two governments agreed on border opening during their year-long dialogue that gained momentum with Gul’s historic September 2008 trip to Yerevan.
“It was a boyish statement,” said Bagratian. “Himself started the process. Why is he antagonizing [the Turks] now?”
The HAK’s top leader, Levon Ter-Petrosian, and his close associates have repeatedly denounced Sarkisian’s policy on Turkey as a gross failure. Ter-Petrosian has accused Sarkisian of willingly sacrificing U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide while failing to secure the lifting of the Turkish economic blockade of Armenia.
Levon Zurabian, the HAK’s central office coordinator, reaffirmed the criticism on Tuesday. “Turkey has achieved its goal at Armenia’s expense,” he said.
Bagratian appeared more sympathetic to the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, even if he described as a “serious blunder” Sarkisian’s apparent acceptance of a Turkish proposal to form a joint commission that would look into the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. “I think Turkey committed a mistake in April-May by violating agreements [reached with Armenia,]” he said.
Sarkisian said last week that those agreements envisaged the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations regardless of a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkish leaders, however, have repeatedly stated in recent months that their country will not establish diplomatic relations and reopen its border with Armenia before a Karabakh settlement.