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"Football Diplomacy" by Armenian Rules

Yesterday, on March 1, at the National Security Council session, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced about canceling the Armenian-Turkish protocols. The President of Armenia stated about this intention at the UN General Assembly in September 2017, noting that in the absence of positive shifts in Turkey's ratification process of the protocols, Armenia will enter the spring of 2018 without those protocols.

Yesterday the Armenian side made it clear to Turkey that the suspended process of the Armenian-Turkish reconciliation cannot last forever and become a playing card in the hands of the authorities of that country.

Even though, in 2009, Turkey signed the Armenian-Turkish protocols without preconditions in Zurich, after a short time, the official Ankara again began to link the process of normalizing relations with Armenia with the Karabakh conflict. Such a violation of the logic of the settlement process was naturally unacceptable for the Armenian side and incomprehensible for the international community, which was clearly expressed in their statements. In essence, it has become clear to the international community that the Turkish authorities do not have enough will and desire to normalize relations.

It should be noted that the "football diplomacy" and the Zurich process, initiated by Serzh Sargsyan in 2008, were quite well calculated, taking into account all the nuances, possible risks and opportunities: in other words, "football diplomacy" by Armenian rules. Apart from the possible complications because of Turkey, it was obvious that this initiative could also cause discontent among some parts of the Armenian population, and in order to mitigate it, President Sargsyan made a Pan-Armenian visit. In essence, such an unprecedented move justified itself, somewhat softening the negative perceptions about the initiative.

As for Turkey, the Armenian side realized that the Zurich process would either lead to the normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations and the opening of the border, or would highlight the destructive position of Turkey, making everyone clear who the guilty party was. It should be stated that the willingness and constructiveness of the Armenian side demonstrated to the world that the current authorities of Turkey, aspiring to EU membership, are not ready to open one of Europe's last closed borders.

Thus, Armenia put an end to the process launched in 2008, at the same time leaving an open window of reconciliation. At the Munich Security Conference, Serzh Sargsyan stated that if Turkey wishes to normalize relations with Armenia, then a new document should be negotiated under new conditions.

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