International chess grandmaster Levon Aronyan has said that he will not participate in the Candidates Tournament of World Championship if they are held in Azerbaijan. Armenian media have released the text of a letter that Aronyan has sent to FIDE President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, ahead of a meeting which is to decide if the World Championships are held in Azerbaijan or Bulgaria.
In his letter Aronyan states that "I would like to inform you that general atmosphere in Azerbaijan and continuous tensions between our countries make my participation in such high ranked tournament in Azerbaijan impossible. A responsible and important event, such as the Candidates Tournament, requires peace of mind and special concentration. No circumstances, if they are not chess-related, should prevent the grandmaster from demonstrating all of his skills. Unfortunately, at this moment no Armenian can find favorable or adequate psychological atmosphere in Azerbaijan, whereas that is something absolutely necessary. In my opinion, all the participants should be in equal conditions, which is impossible in case of holding the tournament in Azerbaijan. Security guaranties and any kind of additional support cannot be a remedy.
Taking into account the above-mentioned considerations, I inform you that I would be delighted to take part in Candidates Tournament any other country, but my participation in the candidates tournament in Azerbaijan has to be excluded."
Azerbaijan has become an increasingly popular venue for world sport and cultural events due to an impressive array of new facilities that have recently been constructed in Baku and other cities. The Azerbaijan government is keen to promote the country as a regional and global sports and cultural centre. The problems in Armenian-Azerbaijani relations constitute an obstacle in this strategy, even if the Azerbaijan government generally has accepted the participation of Armenian participants and offered security guarantees to Armenian participants. The ultimate test of this policy will come in May when Baku hosts the Eurovision song festival, a high profile public event attracting thousands of spectators and millions of television viewers