By Ruben Meloyan
A senior Turkish diplomat met Armenian leaders in Yerevan on Wednesday to discuss arrangements for President Abdullah Gul’s expected visit to Armenia.
Unal Cevikoz, deputy undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, arrived in the Armenian capital the previous night at the head of a government delegation comprising members of Gul’s protocol and security services.
They were due to familiarize themselves with security measures that will be taken in and around the city’s Hrazdan stadium, the venue for Saturday’s first-ever match between the Armenian and Turkish national football teams. Sarkisian has invited his Turkish counterpart to watch the World Cup qualifier with him, raising more hopes for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations.
Cevikoz went into talks with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian after being taken on a conducted tour of Yerevan in the morning. Official Armenian sources gave few details of the talks, saying only that they discussed practical modalities of what would the first-ever visit to Armenia by a president of modern-day Turkey.
Cevikoz declined a comment when approached by RFE/RL after the meeting with Nalbandian. For his part, Sarkisian’s spokesman Samvel Farmanian told RFE/RL that Gul’s visit has still not been officially confirmed.
According to some Turkish officials and media, Gul has decided to accept Sarkisian’s invitation and will officially announce the decision this week. His reported intention to arrive in Yerevan has already been criticized by Turkey’s two main opposition parties that want Ankara to stick to its long-standing preconditions for improving Turkish-Armenian relations.
In a statement, Sarkisian’s office said the Armenian president and Cevikoz also discussed the Turkish proposal to set up the so-called Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform, a regional cooperation framework that would bring together Turkey, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. “Armenia has always welcomed and welcomes all efforts to bolster mutual trust, stability and security and to deepen cooperation in the region,” he was quoted as telling the visiting Turkish diplomat.
Nalbandian was also reported to welcome the idea floated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month.