Armenia will participate in this year’s inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan, a spokesperson for the head of the Armenian National Olympic Committee (ANOC) has confirmed.
Iveta Tonoyan said the decision was made by the ANOC’s executive committee on Tuesday.
In the Games to be held in Baku in June Armenia is expected to be represented in sambo (unarmed self-defense), shooting, judo, wrestling, boxing and taekwondo.
It appears, however, that it will be up to the federations and eventually the athletes themselves to make decisions on their travel to Baku.
Armenia has been hesitating about its participation in the Games in a country with which it is in a de facto state of war over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian-populated region of Soviet Azerbaijan that broke free of Baku’s control in the early 1990s.
The ANOC did not give its definitive answer even after the Azerbaijani government provided security guarantees for Armenian athletes last September.
The matter was also discussed with Patrick Hickey, the president of the European Olympic Committee, who visited Armenia and Azerbaijan last year.
The hesitation of the ANOC also reflected the uneasy situation along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and around Nagorno-Karabakh where deadly incidents have increased dramatically since last August.
Prior to the latest escalation of tensions in the conflict zone it was not uncommon for Armenian and Azerbaijani athletes – notably wrestlers, weightlifters and boxers – to participate in international sporting competitions held in each other’s country. In all cases they have been provided with around-the-clock security escorts, with no serious incidents reported.