TURKEY BUILDING UP ITS ROLE AS EURO-ASIAN OIL AND GAS CROSSROADS
Turkey experienced a flurry of diplomatic activity in mid-May,
similar to periods of "heightened solar activity."
On May 12, President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan met with visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Two
days later, Erdogan paid an historic visit to Greece and on May 16th
he dropped by Tehran where a nuclear deal was signed between Iran,
Turkey and Brazil. From Tehran, he flew to Azerbaijan and then Georgia
non-stop. It was curious how the issues discussed at one meeting merged
with those on the agenda for the next: Iran’s nuclear program, the
Nagorny Karabakh conflict and the Caucasus conflict (discussed at the
meeting with Medvedev), Black Sea pipelines and European energy issues.
It looks like Turkish leaders are deliberately travelling along
the perimeter of the Anatolian Peninsular to make their concept of
regional "geopolitical and energy pluralism" somehow more real. Their
end goal could be described as making Turkey a "regional superpower,"
if such a paradoxical term existed. But who knows, maybe Turkey’s
efforts will eventually make it happen.
Turkey is looking to consolidate its role in the region connecting
Europe and Asia, the Islamic and Christian worlds, the Caucasus and
Russia. This region is set to become the world’s largest oil and gas
"transshipment" hub. It is a region where Moscow’s interests clash
with those of the West, and it is also a gateway to the Middle East.
In this sense, Turkey’s policies are broader than regional.
In any case, Turkey’s efforts over the past week were to a large
extent just for show. In particular, for Europe: more precisely,
the European Union, to which Turkey was denied entry. It is not
even entitled to associate membership until 2020. Therefore, it is
calculatedly showing Europe exactly what it is losing out by not
letting it, Turkey, their Eurasian neighbor, join the group, and in
what direction that rejection is driving it.
Russia apparently plays a special role in Turkey’s plan to improve
its regional status. In fact, Turkey has to maneuver very delicately
here, as it combines political cooperation with Moscow with an "easy"
economic and energy competition. In fact, Turkey’s "geopolitical
pluralism" must include efforts to strengthen the status quo in the
post-Soviet countries, in the South Caucasus in particular. To achieve
this, logically, Turkey must try to draw Azerbaijan and Georgia as far
away from their former colonial power (Russia) as possible. For that
to be achieved, Russia needs to be isolated, for example by cutting
off its oil and gas flows to Europe. But Turkey refrains from doing so.
Turkey is maneuvering very artfully between Russia and Europe. It
agrees to transit Russian oil and gas to Europe, as well as Azeri
(Turkmen and Iranian) oil and gas bypassing Russia. In addition to
that, they must surely realize that the gas flow from Russia will
always exceed that from Azerbaijan, but they need to prove their
energy diversity to Europe. For example, Erdogan is going to sign a
new agreement in Baku on gas supplies from the Shah Deniz 2 gas field
in Azerbaijan. At present, Azerbaijan annually supplies Turkey with
6 billion cubic meters of gas from Shakh Deniz 1, which produces 9-10
billion cu m a year. Turkey wants to buy another 6-7 billion cu m from
Shakh Deniz 2. The field is due to go on stream by 2014-2017 and is
expected to produce up to 16 billion cu m a year. Some of this gas
may be channeled into the planned Nabucco pipeline, which is to ship
gas to Europe bypassing Russia. Turkey agreed to Nabucco crossing its
territory since the role of a "gas dispatcher" for Russia, Azerbaijan,
Turkmenistan and Iran should further boost its regional status.
To achieve this, Turkey is trying to remove political risks arising
from the conflicts in the Caucasus. Erdogan brought the proposed
Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact to Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Turkey prepared the draft last year and is actively promoting it as a
supplement to oil and gas contracts. Officials in Ankara have reason
to believe that a real coordination of regional security policies in
the Caucasus should be added to energy agreements, as this would move
the region one step closer to a unified regional security system.
Turkish President Abdullah Gul described the key idea of the pact as
follows: "The Caucasus is the key as far as energy resources and the
safe transportation of energy from the east to the west is concerned.
That transportation goes through Turkey. That is why we are very active
in trying to achieve an atmosphere of dialogue, so there is the right
climate to resolve the problems. Instability in the Caucasus would
be like a wall between the East and West; if you have stability in
the region, it could be a gate."
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not
necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.