Football, it is hoped, will prove to be the key to ending almost a century of hostility between Turkey and Armenia. Turkish President Abdullah Gul joined Armenia’s President Serzh Sarksyan at a world cup qualifying match, the first meeting between the two national sides which Turkey won 2-0.
The neighbouring countries have no diplomatic ties. Their relationship remains strained by claims of the “ethnic cleansing” of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during the First World War. The two presidents expressed hope the match would herald a new beginning.
Russia’s decision last month to send its forces into Georgia, which borders both Armenia and Turkey, has convinced many it is time for the two nations to end their differences and establish normal relationships. But even as the two leaders took their seats together behind bullet-proof glass in the Hrazdan stadium in the Armenian capital Yerevan, fans booed the Turkish national anthem.
Outside demonstrators waved flags and banners and one group held a silent vigil at a monument to the war dead near the stadium. President Sarksyan has promised to attend the return match in October 2009.