BURSA, Turkey—Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian arrived in the Turkish city of Bursa on Wednesday ahead of the Turkey-Armenia soccer match and during a meeting with Turkish leaders he said he was not asking the Diaspora’s permission about the protocols but rather telling them of a government decision.
“I have not tried to inform people in order to receive permission from the Armenian Diaspora. I wanted to convey a decision of the Armenian Government to the Diaspora and held meetings to update them,” said Sarkisian as reported by the Anadolu News Agency.
“There could be individuals with different thoughts in both countries. What is important is to see that the number of the people thinking positively about our steps in the majority,” added Sarkisian, according to Anadolu.
In his remarks, Sarkisian said the protocols were a crucial step, adding that he had experienced difficulty while trying to inform certain circles about the process.
During a meeting of both countries’ delegations, Turkish President Abdullah Gul declared “We are not writing history, we are making history,” adding that making history cannot take place in a single day.
“This is a process. We have witnessed together that we can solve the difficult problems within this process,” added Gul.
Sarkisian and Gul are due to attend a return match of their countries’ national soccer teams, which was scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.
Sarkisian, accompanied by Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian and other Armenian officials, arrived at Bursa airport late in the afternoon. He was greeted there by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in an official ceremony broadcast live by Armenian and Turkish television. Sarkisian smiled as he watched a brief performance by Turkish folk dancers.
The two presidents were to have dinner before heading to Bursa’s Ataturk Stadium. Gul will give a reception in honor of his Armenian counterpart after the match. It was not clear if they will make public statements after the talks as they did in Yerevan last year. A statement issued by Sarkisian’s office earlier in the day said the president will first visit Armenia players and coaching staff to “encourage” them ahead of the politically charged game.
Turkish authorities mounted tight security measures in and around the stadium hours before the match. Turkish media has reported that thousands of uniformed and plainclothes security personnel will be deployed there to avoid possible provocations. Fans will only be allowed to carry Turkish and Armenian flags. Turkish officials have banned fans from chanting political slogans and displaying Azerbaijani flags at the match.
Ticket sales have been restricted, with most distributed to students of military academies, police and their families, according to media reports. President Gul has met with leaders of fans groups to personally ask them not to overshadow the game and return the “hospitality” with which he himself was greeted in Yerevan.
AFP news agency reported that in a gesture to their Armenian guests, the Turkish fans were expected to greet them in the stadium by singing a folk song about a blonde lover, which is popular in both Turkey and Armenia.