ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reportedly criticized his predecessor’s visiting Armenia in 2008 to attend a soccer match between the Turkish and Armenian national teams as part of reconciliation efforts between the two countries, Today’s Zaman reports.
Speaking to a group of academics and historians known for their expertise on the conflict between Turkey and Armenia, Erdogan targeted his predecessor Abdullah Gül’s visit to Yerevan to attend a football match years ago. Gül had visited Yerevan in 2008 for a match between the Turkish and Armenian teams, which at the time had been dubbed “football diplomacy” between the two countries who do not share diplomatic ties with one another.
Historian Mustafa Armagan, who attended the meeting held at the Turkish presidential palace Ak Saray on Thursday, claimed that Erdogan thought Gül’s visit had played into the hands of Armenians and failed to yield any substantial result on the diplomatic front. “He [Erdogan] stressed how moves like Gül’s visit to Yerevan to attend the football match gave an upper hand to the other side and paved the way for them to exert pressure on us,” Armagan said.
Following Gül’s visit, both countries embarked upon a number of diplomatic meetings mediated by Switzerland, resulting in the Zurich protocols to normalize ties between Turkey and Armenia. The protocols were signed in Zurich on Oct. 10, 2009 with the aim of establishing diplomatic relations and opening the two countries’ land border.
The process for reconciliation between the two countries has been deadlocked since then.
On Friday Abdullah Gül said that historian Armagan must have misunderstood President Erdogan’s comments and that he probably didn’t mean to denounce the Yerevan visit.