I’m leaving Turkey this evening. As I mentioned last week, this was a very politically significant time to be in Turkey. On Saturday, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Armenia (beneath the helpful gaze of Hillary Clinton) signed the Turkey-Armenia Protocols which pave the way for the opening of the Turkey-Armenia border and the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Of course, not everyone is happy with this move. A politically mobilized Armenian diaspora community has been protesting the Armenian government’s decision to enter an “agreement without preconditions.” Opposition parties in both countries are also raising objections to the move, and for the Protocols to come into effect they must be ratified by both Parliaments. To add another layer of intrigue, in a speech today Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan explicitly linked the Protocols to progress on the Nagorno-Karabakh. This issue, involving Armenian control of an enclave in Turkey-ally Azerbaijan, was purposefully excluded from the agreement. While linking Nagorno-Karabakh to the Protocols after-the-fact could gain support for the agreement among Turkish parliamentarians, doing so would have the exact opposite effect in the Armenian parliament.
Still, the mood here is exciting. I don’t speak Turkish, but I have watched enough cable news to get a sense of the tone of coverage of the signing ceremony, which was carried live by the twelve (really!) 24 hour cable news networks here. And on Wednesday, Armenia will play Turkey in a World Cup qualifier in the town of Bursa (where I stayed earlier in the week.) The game will be attended by Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan. This is a very big deal, even if both countries are out of contention for a World Cup birth.