Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan to Visit Turkey

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said on Monday he would visit Turkey to attend a football match this week between the two neighbours who have signed a peace accord after a century of hostility.

Sarksyan said he had accepted an invitation by his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, to watch Turkey play Armenia in the Turkish town of Bursa in the second leg of their World Cup qualifying tie. Gul attended the first leg last year in Yerevan.

"Providing nothing extraordinary happens in these two days, I will go to Bursa and support my favourite team," he told reporters before he left Yerevan for talks in Moscow with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
"I see no serious basis not to accept this invitation," he added, Reuters.

Sargsyan is due to attend the Oct. 14 match in Bursa, northwest Turkey, the first visit by an Armenian leader in a decade, as a guest of his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul. A year earlier, Gul broke new ground by watching the last match between the sides in Armenia.

The visit comes four days after the two countries agreed to a road-map for establishing diplomatic ties. Turkey hopes the thaw in relations will assuage European Union opponents of Turkish membership. Armenia hopes it will raise living standards. Politicians from both sides face opposition though, as Armenians demand that Turkey recognize the massacre of their compatriots in 1915 as genocide, Bloomberg informs.

According to AFP, Turkey and Armenia signed pacts on Saturday to establish diplomatic ties and open their shared border, a first step towards reconciliation after decades of hostility since the World War I-era massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

But the pacts must be approved by the two countries' parliaments and full normalisation may still be thwarted by Armenia's dispute with its neighbour Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey, over the Nagorny Karabakh region.

Turkey and Armenia are due to play a World Cup qualifier football match in the Turkish city of Bursa on Wednesday.

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