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 FIFA World Cup of 2010. The countries had been locked in enmity since the 1990s, and the matches promised merely more of the same, if they were played at all. But leaders in both countries had been quietly moving toward a more constructive relationship. They took the opportunity that the first game, played in September 2008, offered and staged a dramatic set of gestures around the international competition. Turkish President Abdullah Gül went to Yerevan for the match, the first visit of a Turkish head of state to Armenia since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union.

In the months that followed, the momentum continued, and Turkey and Armenia may be on the verge of a major breakthrough in relations. The border between the countries, which has been closed for a decade and a half, may soon re-open. The war in Georgia in 2008 gave additional stimulus by showing that the region’s conflicts may not always stay frozen, and that the status quo will not last forever. Though progress is still fragile, political leaders in Armenia and Turkey are showing how a more open Caucasus region could 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 new prospects open for relations between Europe and the South Caucasus, or between Turkey and the rest of Europe?

This dossier combines expert analysis and interviews with political leaders to give the latest insight into a complex region, and how conflicts can be peacefully overcome.

Ulrike Duffner (HBF Turkey), Iris Kempe (HBF South Caucasus)

A. Iskandaryan. Armenian Domestic Policies and the Rapprochement with Turkey. pdf (28 KB)
H. Khachatrian. Economic Impacts of Re-Opening the Armenian-Turkish Border. pdf (32 KB)
D. Hovhannisyan. Armenian Foreign Politics and the Rapprochement with Turkey. pdf (54 KB)
R. Giragosyan. Turkish-Armenian Normalization and “Great Power Politics”. pdf (63 KB)
T. Hohberg. When Diplomats Score: The Role of Football in the Turkish-Armenian Rapprochement. pdf (70 KB)