7 Sep 2008

Soccer diplomacy between Turkey and Armenia

5:57 pm on 7 September 2008

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul has joined Armenia's President at a soccer match which both men said could help end almost a century of hostility.

It was the first visit to Armenia by a Turkish leader. Armenia says 1.5 million Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915 during World War I, and insists the killings were genocide.

Armenia was a Soviet republic until 1991.

Security for the trip was tight. The two presidents sat together on Saturday behind bullet-proof glass in a VIP box in the Hrazdan stadium, in the capital, Yerevan, and expressed hope their meeting would herald a new beginning.

Armenian fans booed the Turkish national anthem, and dozens of demonstrators were at a monument to the killings on a hillside behind the stadium.

The World Cup qualification match was the first between the two national sides. Turkey won 2-0.

Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan said he would attend the return match in October 2009.