YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), met with President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of Armenia’s participation in the first-ever European Games that will be hosted by Azerbaijan next year.
Bach arrived in Yerevan with a delegation that included Patrick Hickey, the president of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) which has decided to hold Europe’s biggest-ever multi-sport event in Baku in June 2015. The main official purpose of their two-day trip is to discuss ways of boosting the IOC’s ties with the Armenian National Olympic Committee.
Armenia has yet to decide whether or not to send its athletes to the Baku games given its unresolved bitter conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani government publicly pledged to guarantee their safety late last month.
The issue reportedly featured large during Bach’s and Hickey’s meeting with Sarkisian. According to the presidential press office, Hickey briefed Sarkisian on ongoing “negotiations” with Azerbaijan aimed at ensuring that the European Games are held “in an atmosphere of tolerance.”
“Thomas Bach assured that both the IOC and the EOC will make every effort to ensure that Armenia and the Armenian people are satisfied with the results of those negotiations and that necessary conditions for Armenian athletes and their coaches are put in place in the host country,” the office said in a statement.
The statement said Bach and Sarkisian agreed that “politicizing sports is inadmissible.” It gave no other details.
It has not been uncommon for Armenian and Azerbaijani athletes — notably wrestlers, weightlifters and boxers — to participate in international sporting competitions held in each other’s country. They have been provided with around-the-clock security escorts in such cases.