President Serzh Sarkisian should visit Turkey next month to keep up momentum in the ongoing efforts to normalize Turkish-Armenian relations, a junior partner in his coalition government said on Thursday.
Sarkisian has been invited to attend with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, the return match between the two countries’ national teams to be played in the Turkish city of Bursa on October 14. Gul extended the invitation after watching their first game during a historic visit to Armenia in September 2008.
Sarkisian made clear throughout the summer that he will go to Turkey only if Ankara takes “real steps” to establish diplomatic relations with Yerevan and reopen the Turkish-Armenian border. The two governments unveiled draft agreements to that effect on August 31.
Heghine Bisharian, a leader of the Orinats Yerkir Party, which holds three portfolios in the Armenian government, spoke out in favor of Sarkisian’s acceptance of Gul’s invitation. “If they came here, we should go there too if we are committed to the normalization of relations,” she said.
Bisharian also expressed her party’s unequivocal support for the Turkish-Armenian protocols that are due to be signed by October 14. She said an open border with Turkey would greatly benefit the Armenian economy. “People think that prices in our country will fall, there will be more [business] activity, more people will come to our country, trade and business will develop,” she told a news conference.
Speaking at a news conference, Bisharian also defended the two governments’ plans to set up a panel of historians who would jointly study the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Sarkisian’s political opponents are strongly against such a study, saying that Turkey would exploit it to keep more countries of the world from recognizing the massacres as genocide.
“We have many historical facts, documents with which we can prove our point through that sub-commission,” countered Bisharian. She also dismissed opposition speculation that as part of its deal with Ankara, Yerevan agreed to make more concessions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“Not a single provision of the protocols mentions the Artsakh issue,” she said, echoing statements by Sarkisian and his political allies.