Sunday, September 07, 2008

Caucasian Soccer Diplomacy

In a visit that would have been unimaginable not so long ago, Turkish president Abdullah Gul has travelled to Yerevan to attend a Turkey-Armenia soccer match and meet with Armenian president Serzh Sarkisian. Whether this will truly lead to an end to the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries, however, remains to be seen. Of the two major issues, the Armenian genocide can probably be papered over, but a resolution of the Karabakh conflict looks much more difficult to achieve. Turkey may, however, move to normalize relations without such a resolution, perhaps under the cover that it can be a better ally to Azerbaijan if it has a regular presence in Yerevan.

From Armenia's perspective, the crisis in South Ossetia is probably a factor influencing decision-making. Armenia is, right now, Russia's closest ally in the Caucasus. This, however, has more to do with being frozen out by Azerbaijan and Turkey than any particular affection between Yerevan and Moscow, and Armenian officials may fear that Russia's newfound positions closer to the Armenian border may herald a time when Russia might seek to intervene directly in its affairs. If that happens, Turkey will be an important country to have relations with in the interest of playing one large power against another.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

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