Despite the Azerbaijani government’s assertion that the European Games in Baku would “promote rapprochement” with longtime foe Armenia, little sign exists for most Armenians that that has occurred.
The controversy over Armenia’s participation in the June 12-28 mini-Olympics is rooted in the two countries’ unresolved 27-year-long conflict over the territory of Nagorno Karabakh, a war that took tens of thousands of lives and displaced huge numbers of people. Despite a ceasefire agreement, unrest at the frontline keeps taking more lives on both sides – particularly in the past two years, when ceasefire violations have raised international concerns that a full-scale war could resume.
Against this backdrop, most Armenian politicans and public figures at first opposed Armenia’s participation in the Games. But when it became known that 11 of the 20 sports would qualify athletes for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, Armenia's National Olympic Committee reconsidered.
“This is just another international sports event and we have to take part and win,” Armenian Sports Minister Gabriel Ghazarian commented to EurasiaNet.org.
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Gayane Abrahamyan is a freelance reporter and editor in Yerevan.