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THE POSSIBILITY FOR COOPERATION AT THE BLACK SEA BASIN AND THE SOUTHERN CAUCASUS

Kamer KASIM, Assoc. Prof. Dr.
04 January 2008 - Dünya Gündemi
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While the double-polar order of the World was reaching to its closing stages at the end of Cold War era, regional crisis and conflicts had erupted, which caused a discussion atmosphere over the collaboration possibilities intended for the potential solutions, and this situation has intensified the force of gravity of the regional powers at the international policy. Turkey is a regional power, which has the potential of being effective on all of these geographies with her position at the Back Sea, the Mediterranean, Caucasus, Balkans and the Middle East. As Gaddis has stated controversially, dynamics, which integrate and break into peaces, has been influential at the international policy in the end of the Cold War.

Ethnical and religious based crisis and conflicts came into daylight at some regions like Caucasus, and the fact that the regional states should first overcome the problems among themselves and also their domestic problems for opening the channels of the regional cooperation, has come out. Complex relations and strategies were applied at the Black Sea and Caucasus because of the interest of both the regional powers, and the USA, which is a super power outside the region.

The first and the most important obstacle in front of the cooperation possibilities has been Nagorno Karabagh conflict at Caucasus. The conflicts which had erupted, just before the cold war era ended, have won both an international and a regional character when Armenia and Azerbaijan gained their independence in 1991. Currently, %20 of the Azerbaijani lands are under the invasion of the Armenian forces and over one million of Azerbaijani citizens inhabit as refugees in exile at the invaded lands. The attempts in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have not given results yet.

The ceasefire in the lands where the invasion continues points out that conflict may again erupt. Apart from the Karabagh problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Georgia has also witnessed significant ethnical based conflicts. Particularly, Abhazya conflict constitutes a threat against the stability of this country. In fact, The Black Sea and the Caucasus region present profitable conditions with its natural resources and strategic location if the region countries manage to cooperate.

When the roles of the regional powers and regional policies increased at the international policy after the Cold War era, this has caused Turkey to resort new expansions. In this framework, Turkey, which has pioneered to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Project, has played a significant role in the Organization for Economic Cooperation. Despite the role she has played at the regional security and cooperation, Turkey desired to stress the role of the country over the security of Europe and evaluated her attempts at Caucasus and Middle Asia as the regional steps that would bring Turkey forward in the framework of her integration with Europe. The Black Sea Economic Cooperation is consisted of 11 member countries (Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Greece and Albania). The Black Sea Economic Cooperation is the first regional attempt of Turkey, which has been made independent from her Western allies.

The project is an impressive attempt, which includes 2 million square kilometers of lands and 320 million of population. However, it has not become a functional organization because of the problems and the disagreements among the member countries. Primarily, harmonizing the interests of the regional countries, in addition to solving the problems particularly as regards the Caucasus is needed for constituting an active cooperation environment at the Black Sea and Caucasus region. And the Karabagh question should be solved as the first step for this move.

The role of Russia at the region, which does not desire to loose its effect on the rich energy sources of the region, and the existence of the authoritarian administrations at the region, are significant factors at solving the problems both on this question and the question on the security of Georgia. Armenia wouldn’t be able to invade Karabagh and Azerbaijani lans if Russia hadn’t supported her.

Currently, Armenia, the only country in the Caucasus that Russia is able to provide troops without confronting with objections, could follow an irredentist policy at the region, but while that policy caused Armenia be more dependent to Russia on one hand, on the other, it has strengthened the authoritarian structure in this country. While following 11 September 2001, USA’s activities directed at being present at the region had a limiting effect on Russia; Azerbaijan and Georgia approached more closely to the West.

Georgia doesn’t want Russian military troops at her lands. Even though both of the countries have reached an agreement on evacuating the base until the end of 2008, tensions can rise from time to time. Turkey has obtained a very significant advantage with the transfer of the regional energy sources to the international arena when the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipe line was opened, and the security of Azerbaijan and Georgia has gained significance both for Turkey and for all the Western countries.

Turkey is important country for the security of Russia because of the role it plays at the Black Sea. Cooperation of Turkey and Russia as the two regional powers is significant both for the regional balances and for solving the regional problems. However, the support provided for the Armenian administration by Russia in addition to Georgia’s lack of demonstrating the necessary sensitiveness on the land integrity, makes the circumstances difficult. Although Turkey recognizes the independence of Armenia, normal diplomatic relations could not be established among the two countries. There are three important obstacles in front of establishing normal diplomatic relations among Turkey and Armenia. These are: the efforts of the Armenian administration for the acknowledgment of the genocide claims on the international arena, the expressions, which implies that the Turkey-Armenia border is not recognized by Armenia, as well as the land integrity of Turkey, which shows a part of Turkey’s lands as West Armenia, and the Nagorno Karabagh question.

The 11th article of the Armenia’s Declaration of Independence that has been issued on 23 August 1990 it states: “The Republic of Armenia will support the efforts for the international acknowledgment of the 1915 genocide, which was realized at the Ottoman Turkey and the West Armenia”. There is an attribution to the declaration of Independence at the constitution of Armenia, which was accepted in 1995. Also, from time to time speeches are issued at the Armenian Parliament which point out that the 1921 Kars Treaty is not recognized, which arranges the Turkey-Armenia border. Considering that Armenia has recognized the borders with her membership to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) (formerly the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe) in 1992, the expression of “West Armenia” in the Armenia’s Declaration of Independence, in addition to the questioning of the 1921 Kars Treaty is in contradiction with the international responsibilities of Armenia. Following Armenia has gained her independence, she has refused to sign a declaration which includes good neighborhood relations with Turkey, immunity of the borders and the land integrity.

Armenia causes instability at Azerbaijan and Georgia, which is on the route of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipe line that is extremely important to Turkey. The evaluation of the activities of the Armenians located at the Cevaheti region of Georgia is out of the scope of this work. It has been claimed that there is a demand towards the Armenians inhabiting at the Cevaheti region of Georgia and the irredentist policy followed by Armenia against this region and it is even claimed that a second Karabagh is attempted to be created within Georgia. A possibility in Georgia for a conflict similar to the one in Karabagh has decreased due to the developments following 11 September 2001 and also due to the fact that the land integrity of Georgia has gained importance for USA.

      The current situation at the Turkey-Armenia relations limits the regional cooperation and Armenia is excluded at this point. As a matter of fact, after the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipe line has opened, Armenia, which was left behind a significant project attempted to prevent the opening of Kars-Ah?lkelek railway, which is situated between Turkey and Georgia.

When this railway is completed Turkey would be connected to the Middle East via Georgia and Georgia would considerably benefit from this trade. The Armenian administration pursuits a policy of pressure against Turkey for opening her borders particularly via the Armenian lobby in USA. There is an intensive pressure from EU and EU supported lobbies for opening the borders. However, the steps that Turkey expects from Armenia to take, is ordinary expectations that every country that would desire to establish diplomatic relations.

Armenia should either change the expression at the article 11 of its declaration of independence or she should completely remove it, she should sign a communiqué on the immunity of the borders and good neighborhood relations with Turkey, and she should be respectful to the land integrity of all her neighbors by realizing her responsibilities against OSCE and the European Community. EU also should regard the demands of Turkey as reasonable requires. Because, these are related with the principles that OSCE and the members of the European Committee should obey. If a EU member have had demanded land from another EU member, for instance if France have had demanded land from Spain and called some part of her lands as Western France and the forces that are supported by France invaded another regional country, then most probably the relations between Spain and France would not be the same.

      Opening the territorial borders with Turkey, would be more to the interest of Armenia than to Turkey. Considering the fact that the trading capacity of Armenia is approximately 1 milliard dollars, Armenia would not be an important trading partner for Turkey. It is estimated that the trading capacity among Turkey and Armenia via Georgia and Iran is approximately 100-150 million dollars. Though it is considered that the capacity would increase to an extent in the event of the borders are opened, Armenia is not an important market for Turkey. The trade with Azerbaijan, whose population is twice the size of Armenia’s and which has good relations with Turkey and also with Georgia, whose population is also twice the size of Armenia’s, could not reach to a satisfactory point. Kocharyan, who has pursuit an uncompromising policy towards Turkey during his administration, would use the opening of the borders without taking any steps at the domestic policy, and that would put the moderate circles into a difficult position. So, Kocaryan would be able to obtain the thing with a hardship policy that Ter-Petrosyan could not obtain with a relatively moderate policy.

Turkey does not posses many instruments that would force Armenia. Being economically in a difficult position, an existence of a relatively great gap on the development difference at the region from Azerbaijan and Georgia could cause uneasiness among the people and lead to a “soft revolution” in Armenia. However, this scenario may not be easy to realize if the radical groups within the Diaspora and the armed groups inside support the existing structure.

As Turkey desires to have advantages at the EU membership process with her attempts in the Black Sea and Caucasus region, she wants to convey a message that she will ensure significant advantages to the Union if she becomes a member country with her strategically important location, which is situated at the energy transfer lines. On the other hand, this argument cannot be valid each time. As a matter of fact, due to the reasons arise from the EU, Turkey’s role particularly at the Caucasus may not have an contributing influence to her membership process. On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that there is a significant deficiency at the point of creating a mutual foreign policy within the EU.

A group of countries within the EU does not desire the Union to be active outside the geographies of Europe and particularly involve in the military engagements. They even defend that EU should be relatively distant to the unstable countries like the Middle East, Caucasus and the Middle Asia.

The connection of Turkey with these countries may not be regarded as an important advantage for the EU membership for the countries that move at the direction of this thought. Being a neighbor of such unstable countries like Caucasus and the Middle East can also be evaluated as a negative factor for the membership.

In fact, Turkey’s membership may carry the problems of these regions within the EU. However, Turkey’s regional role and its geographic location constitutes a great advantage in support of the membership for the countries within the EU, which wishes the Union to be active at a geography which reaches out from Middle Asia to Europe and which has a strategic vision like England and pursuit an active foreign policy outside the European borders. Turkey’s relations with the EU can be related with her role at transferring the “Hazar” region energy resources. EU is depended to foreign countries as regards energy and particularly its dependence to Russia intensifies progressively more. Transfering the Hazar petroleum and natural gas to EU is extremely important due to the energy security of the EU member countries. At this point, of course a Turkey, which is member of EU, would be an advantage. Turkey’s role at the regional cooperation is also important at this point.

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