YEREVAN – On late Thursday President of Armenia Serj Sargsyan made public appearance on national TV to announce Armenian-Turkish relations in deadlock. President’s statement stressed that lingering pause in soccer matches between Armenian and Turkish teams is “main cause” that triggered a crisis in bilateral rapprochement process.
“Fellow Armenians, over six months have passed, since Armenian and Turkish football players met last in a play field. Within this period Turkey has made no attempt to initiate new games and has turned down our invitations to host games locally,” reads Sargsyan’s address.
“Everyone understands that this is done to avoid meeting Armenian leadership and discuss the border issue. Our Turkish colleagues have resorted to cheap tactics of avoiding football games to torpedo the normalization of long frozen relations between the two countries. All the efforts of our football team to make such games attractive for Turkish players have been carelessly ignored.”
Head of FIFA Michelle Platini called on sides to rethink their positions: “I think there needs to be a new game as early as June 2010, otherwise the political momentum may be lost. It may be at least a junior team match”.
The stalemate has been shaped since October 2009, when the two national teams played their last match. Long suspense in soccer games has deprived the two presidents of any means of communication and exchange of ideas on the highly controversial border issue between the two countries.
Sources report zero links between the two presidents both on social networks and any other communicational platforms which made soccer games the instrumental mediation device.
The tensions get additionally high as 95th commemoration of Armenian Genocide approaches with Resolution in US Congress on recognition of the massacre of 1.5 mln Armenians in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 as Genocide. Despite the fact of inclusion of the resolution into the agenda by Adam Schiff, official stance of the White House has been against the motion.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton explained motives of the official stance to the Armenian Diaspora organizations: “It’s.. well.. you know. It’s hard to explain why we stand against officially recognizing the intentional, ethnicity-based killing of 1.5 mln Armenians in 1915 by Turks as genocide without sounding cynical, but.. it’s just not the right time for this. We all accept that Turks are major assholes and all that, but with the war in Iraq and the Afghanistani campaign and possible attack on Iran, which I’m actually not supposed to mention yet, it’s just not the right moment. Maybe next year, or the one after that.”
Political analyst Richard Giragossian dwells on freezing the football diplomacy and the Genocide resolution. “President Sargsyan made a wise move by declaring the deadlock in relations, so the US side will not have excuse to discard the Genocide resolution on last year’s grounds of ‘burgeoning dialogue between the two countries’. Of course, Turkey remains a strategic partner to US and the Congress is unlikely to adopt the Genocide bill, but there is a good chance for compromise through passing a bill at least recognizing Turks as “real assholes”, says the analyst.
Reaction from Turkey has followed relentlessly. President Abdullah Gull retorted to his Armenian colleague via media that “We were just about offering a new soccer match and even wanted to open the border, but now that Sargsyan said all that stuff about us, we won’t play and open it for sure. We were this close to get things straight (fingers almost snapping), but now – nope, no way!”
Nevertheless, the Armenian side confirms commitment to continuing the settlement process upon emergence of political will in Turkey. “Our soccer players will keep the fit shape for as long as it takes, in case our colleagues across the border decide to resume the political talks,” concludes Sargsyan’s address.