A Thaw in Turkish-Armenian Relations


Dossier: A Thaw in Turkish-Armenian Relations

Football Diplomacy and Beyond

A Breakthrough in Turkish-Armenian Relations

Can a football game change the history of a region? The luck of the draw put Turkey and Armenia in the same qualifying group for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The countries had been locked in enmity since the 1990s, and the matches promised merely more of the same - should they be played at all.

Yet, for some time, leaders in both countries had been quietly moving toward a more constructive relationship. They took the opportunity of the first game, played in September 2008, to signal a thawing in bilateral relations. Turkish President Abdullah Gül went to Yerevan for the match, making him the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.

In the months that followed, the momentum gathered pace; Turkey and Armenia may be on the verge of a major breakthrough. The border between the two countries, which has been closed for a decade and a half, may soon re-open. The 2008 war in Georgia gave additional stimulus to reconciliation by showing that the region’s conflicts may not always stay frozen. Although the situation is still fragile, political leaders in Armenia and Turkey are showcasing how a more open Caucasus region may be created.

What would an opening mean for the two countries? What has made the rapprochement possible? How have political leaders handled the delicate process? What are the implications for the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh? How will Azerbaijan react? What are the implications for relations between Europe and the South Caucasus, between Turkey and the rest of Europe?

This dossier combines expert analyses and interviews with political leaders to give a deeper insight into a complex region, and examples of how conflicts can be resolved peacefully.

Ulrike Dufner, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Derneği Türkiye Temsilciliği
Iris Kempe, Heinrich Böll Foundation Southern Caucasus