Armenia's President Being Good At Soccer Diplomacy

   Armenia's president intends to go to Turkey this week for a football World Cup qualifier between the two national teams, returning a visit by Turkey's president in what has become known as soccer diplomacy.

  President Serge Sarkisian's announcement followed the signing of an agreement between Armenia and Turkey to establish diplomatic ties and end a century of enmity between the two neighbors.

   Turkish President Abdullah Gul attended the initial World Cup qualifier in Armenia last year.

   "The president of Turkey came to Armenia at my invitation and I don't see a serious reason not to accept his invitation," Sarkisian told reporters. "If in the coming two days nothing extraordinary happens, I'll accept his invitation. I'll go to Bursa and support our team."

   Sarkisian had previously said he would not attend Wednesday's return game unless there was progress toward opening the border between the two countries. Although the deal signed Saturday calls for a reopening of the border, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Sunday that Armenia must first withdraw from the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

   The statement appeared to be an effort to appease Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally that has criticized the new agreement, saying it will only aggravate the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

   Armenia controls the enclave, which is located within Azerbaijan and inhabited mainly by ethnic Armenians. Turkey sealed its border with Armenia in response to Armenia's invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993.

   Sarkisian said Monday that the statements by Turkey's leaders were addressed primarily to the people of Azerbaijan.

   "Today the ball is on Turkey's playing field," the Armenian president said. "We have already spoken out about our steps and will move in this direction. We have enough patience to wait for the developments. We will move forward with no wavering."

   Sarkisian spoke to reporters at Yerevan's airport before flying to Moscow, where he was to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, according to the Associated Press' report.

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