Turkey End Play: Turkey Goes Active In The Caucasus And Plans To Res

by Dmitry Yermolayev

WPS Agency
What the Papers Say Weekly Review (Russia)
September 15, 2008 Monday

Presidents of Armenia and Turkey met in Yerevan and decided to finally
normalize relations between their two countries, severed in 1915. "We
all hope that we are able to express good-will for solution to the
existing problems rather than leave them to the next generations to
grapple with," President of Armenia Serj Sargsjan said. "We expressed
the political will to create the atmosphere necessary to solve the
problems that exist," his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul Enhanced
Coverage LinkingAbdullah Gul -Search using: Biographies Plus News News,
Most Recent 60 Days added. A meeting between Armenian and Turkish
foreign ministers followed the summit. The ministers reiterated the
determination to reestablish fully-fledged relations and discussed
the Caucasus Stability and Security Platform.

What does it mean? Could Ankara, Baku’s dedicated ally in the Karabakh
conflict settlement, decide to normalize relations with Armenia
and even perhaps establish diplomatic relations with it? Everything
done in the region so far (construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan
pipeline and development of transport routes between Baku and Ankara
bypassing Armenia) did not exactly endear Turkey to Armenia. Neither
was it calculated to, for that matter.

So dramatic a turn in Ankara’s foreign policy took Azerbaijan entirely
by surprise so that it took Baku certain time to recover its wits
and try to puzzle it out. A statement made by Novruz Mamedov of the
Azerbaijani president’s secretariat implied that "Yerevan needed
Gul’s visit more than Ankara itself did." It was a misinterpretation,
of course. President of France Nicolas Sarkozy appraised Gul’s visit
to Yerevan as "a gallant initiative of historic magnitude."

What with the geopolitical changes taking place in this part of the
Caucasus, Armenian-Turkish normalization facilitates settlement of the
old conflict over Karabakh and, even more importantly, brings Turkey
into the equation in a manner official Baku never expected. No wonder
Sargsjan made a point in the talks with Gul that a dialogue was all it
took to discuss any problem however complicated. Bearing in mind that
Gul is also expected to visit Azerbaijan now and the United States
on September 20, observers are stone-cold confident that some game
on a major scale is under way, one where stakes are high indeed.

Activization of Turkey’s policy in the Caucasus in the meantime may
have a thoroughly logical explanation. Georgian aggression against
South Ossetia played havoc with the previous geopolitical accents
in the region, including the ones that concern security of energy
routs from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia. What really counts
is that this aggression put the Western community’s pet Nabucco in
jeopardy. Official Baku is understandably upset. In fact, Azerbaijani
Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedjarov informed official Ankara on a visit
there recently that Azerbaijan could shift all its energy export routes
to the territory of Russia after all. Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan
seem to be of the same frame of mind. It means that Turkey may cease
being the route by which Central Asian hydrocarbons reach Europe.

It may be added that Ankara’s refusal to recognize genocide of the
Armenians in 1915 was one of the factors that prevented its membership
in the European Union. Normalization of the relations with Armenia
now may remove this barrier and some others as well. There is actually
more to it than meets the eye. Turkey’s participation in the so called
Caucasus Five project boosts its geopolitical weight in the eyes of
Europe and makes it a broker in the international dialogue initiated
by Paris.

As for the Turkish-Azerbaijani relations, Gul’s visit to Yerevan
plainly shows that Baku is about to be asked to accept a peaceful
solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. This is precisely the
geopolitical end game Moscow has been telling Baku to beware. It is
up to Azerbaijan now.

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