(Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday urged soccer fans to keep politics away when Turkey and Armenia face each other on the pitch in a World Cup qualifier, as the two neighbors aim to restore diplomatic ties.
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian has confirmed his attendance at a World Cup qualifier in Turkey on Wednesday, which will take place days after Ankara and Yerevan signed an accord to end a century of hostility.
Turkish leader Abdullah Gul went last year to Yerevan to the first leg of what has been called "soccer diplomacy" between the two countries, whose ties are traumatized by the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One.
"The Armenian president and the Armenian national team will see what Turkish hospitality is," Erdogan told deputies of his ruling AK Party ahead of the game in the city of Bursa.
"I know our soccer fans in Bursa and in the rest of the country will behave like respectable fans. I believe our country and the citizens of Bursa will not bow their heads to politics and to the aims of those who want to use the game to achieve something else," Erdogan said.
Turkish media said authorities will undertake tight security measures to avoid possible provocations during the game. “Aksam” newspaper said fans would not be allowed to buy tickets for the match, instead authorities would control ticket distribution.
The governor of Bursa has said Azeri flags will not be allowed into the stadium for the match, media reports said, but Turkish nationalists have made some 10,000 of the flags and are distributing them in the northwestern town.