New balance in the Caucasus... For this, two terms need to appear side by side. “Caucasus”, “stability” and “pact”. Perhaps “stability” and “pact” can be used together and provoke many positive emotions among people. But both terms have not been used alongside the word “Caucasus” until today. It is this situation with demonstrates how difficult a task Turkey is facing in front of history. The last war demonstrated how important it is to attain stability in the Caucasus. For this reason, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stepped in front of the cameras on 11 August, he said that “Turkey, like in the Balkans, could enter an Alliance of the Caucasus formation”. Just one day later, President Abdullah Gül announced his support for Mr Erdoğan’s “Caucasus Stability Forum” idea. Mr Gül said: “If there is stability in this region, if problems in a region can be solved beforehand, if there is an environment of trust, then development, economic improvement and the welfare of the people will follow.” On 13 August, Mr Erdoğan was in Moscow. On 14 August, he was in Tbilisi. On 20 August, his destination was Baku. With all its might, Turkey is trying to prevent the establishment of a new centre of instability in the Caucasus. But it is clear that this is not going to be easy... Seeking the future in the Caucasus... Can Ankara’s efforts produce results? There is no definite answer for this yet. But if it can yield fruit, a few Nobel prizes in the coming years will go to the Caucasus. This is because even a meeting of the sides around a table, then later having lunch together and posing in front of the cameras is enough of a development to effect history. But the truth is that Ankara will have to exert great effort for those around that table to see themselves as a family. The Caucasus family... The names in this proposed Caucasus pact are Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Azerbaijan. These countries are located in the small Caucasus, sometimes referred to as “the roof of the world”. There are many ethnic groups living in the region, and most countries have unresolved issues between with each other. Historical traumas, border disputes, differences of religion and nation, differences of interests and difficult economic conditions all accentuate everything. When thinking of the Caucasus family, we can compare it to a family in a daily, trying life. A family in which every member has a dispute with every other, where every family member operates under the assumption of “unfairness and pressure”... This family is not a model one. In fact, it is not even a good one. But their home is very valuable! That is why there is a reason why this family is important and all of its neighbours wish to see the members in comfort and good relations with one another. It is in between the Caspian and Black Seas, in effect dividing the world’s north and south. It is the east’s door to the west, and the west’s door to the east. Also, underneath the house and in the garden is a lot of oil. What is more, there are refineries. In fact, families in the east can only trade with families in the west when there is peace in this area. What to do? The existence of peace and stability in the Caucasus is only possible with the strengthening of the Caucasus family’s common interests. The members of the family can cooperate in their need for security and development. They can teach each other what the other does not know. They can be integrated together in the world. Perhaps they could even form a free market, or establish unity of power in fields where they feel deficiencies. Like the paths for energy and transport that stretch from east to west, they could improve projects of regional and multilateral cooperation. They can add more to these. But how to do it? These are desires that are expressed with very good words. Perhaps diplomatic jargon can make them prettier and more decorative. A photograph or two and a few historical slogans could make it both romantic and attractive. That would be very good. As you read at the beginning of this piece, if this project comes to fruition, Nobel Prizes for the next few years will go straight to the Caucasus. For cooperation of this kind in the Caucasus to occur, the sides must want it. There are two conditions for this. The first is reciprocal trust, the second is political and national will. If these two fundamental conditions are displayed, then it can be believed that cooperation and solidarity are sought in the Caucasus. But in how many Caucasian countries is a real democracy and transparent, organised society desired? And are “good neighbourly relations” really that valuable for every Caucasian country? Solution in the Caucasus lies beyond Mount Kaf In Turkish tales, when heroism is sought, the hero-to-be will head to Mount Kaf to kill a monster to seek a talisman. According to differing beliefs, there are seven heavens, made up of different stones and metals, and seven hells, including Araf (Purgatory). The surface is surrounded by a large sea and, in the remaining area, is Mount Kaf. The sacred stone that reflects the blue colour of the sky sites upon Sakrat. It is claimed that just a single one of these stones provides one with magical powers. According to local belief, Mount Kaf is in the Caucasus and is perhaps one of those Caucasian mountains that are so difficult to reach even today. For a solution in the Caucasus, it is vital to reach Mount Kaf – that is to say, the Caucasian mountains. Beyond the Caucasian mountains is Russia; if Russia is not included, nor will Armenia be. And if Russia does not contribute, nor will Armenia. And in that case, the Pact for Stability in the Caucasus will just be a project of besieging Russia and regime change in Armenia, and these are not within the targets of the project. An answer is needed to this question: can Turkey and Russia cooperate in the framework of the Caucasus? For instance, can Russia benefit from projects such as the BTC and BTE, the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway, or Nabucco? How can increased democratisation in Armenia serve as an advantage for Moscow? Experiences Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation was established under the leadership of Turkey in 1992. The aim was to prevent expected clashes in the Black Sea region. The technique was to develop cooperation and support it. Turkey and Russia signed an Action Plan for Eurasian Cooperation on 6 November 2001. The intention was to enact economic, cultural and educational cooperation in the Eurasian region, including the Caucasus. Additionally, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, founded in 1975, began from 1 January 1995 a task to achieve stability throughout Europe in the new post-Cold War era. The securing of peace and solutions to disagreements were considered. It concerned the strengthening of democratic institutions and human rights in a humanitarian framework. It has made some important work through the National Minorities High Commission since 1992. But this entire process has brought little peace or welfare to the Caucasus family. The mother of all problems When Saddam Hussein started the First Gulf War, it was referred to as “the mother of all wars”. When looking the list of problems in the Caucasus today, it becomes clear it is long: unemployment, non-productivity, an absence of foreign investment, corruption, absence of transparency. Other deficiencies are in the fields of human rights, minority rights, democratic traditions, the independence of the judiciary, the supremacy of law, participatory pluralism and others. But all these problems connect to just one and this makes it all the more difficult to solve: an absence of political will. More free market and more democracy might not be attractive for many a person. Political traditions from the Soviet period are stifling the productivity of the newly-emerged generations that favour freedom. A turnaround of mentality throughout the entire Caucasus does not seem possible yet. In this case, the strengthening of common interests is not an easy choice either. The success of South Caucasian states is based on the development of democracy and civil society, and the marketing of oil resources – that is to say, the opening of the economies to the outside. In the same way, Moscow and Yerevan, both for the same political traditions and mentality, might not be able to see the benefit of the use of development, security, stability and improvement, and the opening of Caucasian and Central Asian oil and natural gas to the international market. The Demirel factor The “Caucasus Defence Alliance” Mr Erdoğan mentions alongside the “Caucasus Stability Alliance” was first proposed by the then President Süleyman Demirel at an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul on 18 November 1999. It was planned to prevent clashes through a consistently-existing mechanism in the Caucasus. The project’s source of inspiration was the Balkan Stability Pact, previously implemented successfully by the European Union. In January 2000, Mr Demirel wrote to heads of state and government in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, OSCE term president Austria, the Russian Federation and Caucasian countries to seek support. His proposal did not awaken the expected interest. The basic problem was Russia’s effect and approach, but Ankara still gave this project space in its South Caucasus strategy. In 2006, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly passed a decision to form a Caucasus Stability Pact. But there has yet to be any serious initiative on this matter. Praise The project in question is healthy. Turkey, as a regional power, in the framework of its historical responsibility and present capabilities, must observe international law and encourage cooperation among first generation countries. Turkey is a country that has adopted the role of mediator in the Greater Middle East Project, the Alliance of Civilisations, the Neighbouring Countries to Iraq summit, Cyprus, Afghanistan, and in relations between Palestine and Israel and Syria and Israel. Turkey has previously been effective in many mechanisms of collaboration, including Black Sea Economic Cooperation, the Economic Cooperation Organisation and the D8. It is important for the sides in the Caucasus to meet around a table, and it should be noted that the countries in question have responded positively to Ankara’s efforts. How right is it for Turkey, having been unable to produce the benefit it expected from earlier projects it launched itself, to seek such openings post haste? Diatribe The project emerged during the Russia-Georgia war, as the world’s hope of developing cooperation between east and west faded. Armenia remains technically at war with Azerbaijan. Armenia has territorial demands from Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Also Armenia follows policies concerning Turkey which are immature, maximalist and demanding. Turkey has requested reconciliation with Armenia on three occasions in the last two years, but found no response. Georgia and Russia too remain technically at war, and Russia proved it does not recognise Georgia’s territorial integrity. Both Azerbaijan and Georgia are uncomfortable with Russian pressure. The Caucasus is split in two: on the one side is Russia and Armenia; on the other, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. At a time when US-Russian tensions are mounting, no mechanism for cooperation in the region could operate healthily. “Armenia has always supported dialogue and talks regarding regional stability and cooperation. The Yerevan government supports the Turkish prime minister’s position on the Platform for Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus fully.” Edward Nalbandian “The enterprises and comradeship of Turkey and Azerbaijan will ensure comradeship, stability and peace in the region.” Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev “As Turkey, we are trying to carry out our responsibility to contribute to global peace in terms of regional and global issues in the best manner possible. These days, in light of the present difficulties in the Caucasus, we are working to establish a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. As part of efforts launched by our colleagues, talks will be held with Armenia and we will hopefully establish a region of stability and cooperation among these five countries through these efforts.” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
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