Turkey In Between: Syria-Israel & Georgia-Russia

May, 2008

Adding to its much coveted resume as “Europe’s bridge to the Middle East”, Turkey has now been officially recognized as the facilitator of talks between Israel and Syria. Whether or not the Israeli media agrees with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s motivations for publicizing the existence of talks, Turkey can at least shine in the warm spotlight of international recognition for a few weeks. While most Turkish diplomatic activity in the Arab Middle East other than with Iraq follows a mechanical approach, Turkey’s role as a mediator between Israel and Syria is uncharacteristically complex. There exists a very clear logic behind Turkey’s effort to mingle in the affairs of these two countries.

Compared to its relationship with neighbor Iran, Turkey’s rapport with Syria is relatively underdeveloped. Perhaps the most significant reason for this is the incredible backwardness of Syria’s Baathist state-controlled economy, which is also responsible for the incredible backwardness of Syria’s regional foreign policy. Syria’s problematic approach last affected Turkey in a dramatic way in 1998. Syria gave refuge to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, much to the disgrace of Turkish public opinion that had designated Ocalan as a terrorist. Syria would ultimately harbor the Kurdish leader in Damascus until the threat of a Turkish invasion successfully forced his eviction. In comparison, Turkey’s rapport with Israel has proved quite dynamic. Successive Turkish governments and the Turkish military have pursued a symbiotic relationship with Israel despite the risk of alienating Turkey even further in the eyes of the Arab World. Both countries, similarly focused on linking themselves with the West, have cooperated through military exchanges and natural resource transfers. In addition, Turkey hopes to court the sympathy of the Israeli lobby in Washington as a means of counter-balancing the influence of the Armenian lobby on American foreign policy.

While no observer could claim that Turkey’s efforts will actually make a significant difference in solving the issues that separate Israel and Syria, Turkey’s actions will help it acquire some additional credibility with pundits who influence EU opinion. This alone could be reason for Turkey to exert its diplomatic energy. The highly involved nature of Turkey’s interest in affairs south of its border stands in tremendous contrast with its attitudes concerning the tumultuous political situation to its north-east. Turkey has chosen a relatively silent course as Georgia struggles to deal with breakaway Abkhazia and omnipresent Russia. (On Monday, the UN announced that a Russian jet did indeed shoot down a Georgian unmanned surveillance drone patrolling over Abkhazia.)

Other than its relations with Armenia, which are “very well” defined, Turkey’s diplomatic intentions in the greater Caucasus region and Central Asia have been unclear ever since the failure of its Pan-Turkism initiative in the 1990s. While Turkish construction companies and textile producers have been keen to acquire contracts and conduct foreign direct investment projects, Turkey’s main interest in the region has been its role as a conduit for Central Asian energy exports to Europe and beyond. Turkey’s energy interests in Central Asia have understandably run counter to those of Russia, which are monopolistic by nature. Turkey’s concern for its trade relations with Russia must also not be overlooked. Roughly 70% of the country’s natural gas supplies come from Russia, worth approximately $2bn. In addition, Turkish companies currently boast $4.5bn in foreign direct investments in Russia, while Russia companies have $3bn in Turkey. Therefore, the rather undefined character of Turkey’s relations with the Caucasus and Central Asia is most likely due to its disinterest in provoking Russia’s wrath.

In contrast, provoking Russia’s wrath has been one of the main occupations of Georgia’s second post-Soviet Union president, Mikhael Saakashvili. Saakashvili’s attempts to overhaul his country’s economy and mentality, often in brazen defiance of Russia, have won him a large following in the West. The US is widely believed to have provided the George Washington University Law School trained lawyer with the necessary moral support and financial backing to overcome considerable odds. While Turkey has shown such great interest in helping Israel resolve its issues with Syria, it has comparatively neglected neighboring Georgia’s plight. Although comparing Georgia to Israel on a geopolitical scale is like weighing a bowling ball against a golf ball, it is nevertheless unfortunate that Turkey chooses not to more publicly support the Caucasus’ own geopolitical David against the Russian Goliath.

Turkey does in fact give military support to Georgia in the form of training and funding. While the monetary figure of this military support is dwarfed in comparison to that provided by the US, Turkey is probably Georgia’s second largest military donor state. The two countries have also successfully cooperated together on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project – the cornerstone of Turkey’s design to become an energy transfer hub. A new train connection between Azerbaijan, Georgian and Russia will also encourage closer trade relations. Saakashvili is reputedly trying to transform his country into a fully-functional democracy and regional economic force, both of which would be beneficial to Turkish interests. While Georgia is still far from realizing this dream, Saakashvili’s goals are noble and most likely much more of a near-term reality than expecting Baathist Syria to dramatically evolve.

If Turkey wishes to demonstrate its constructive potential to influence the affairs of the surrounding regions, it would be well-served by addressing an issue that is clearly within its means and in its natural sphere of influence. Sadly for Georgia, Ankara is either too scared to compromise economic relations with Russia or too consumed by the international notoriety it receives from pursuing “peace in the Middle East” as opposed to in the Caucasus.

Source: http://poligazette.com/2008/05/27/tu...eorgia-russia/

In related news:

Turkey reaffirms support for Nabucco plan

The Turkish president emphasized his country's interest in the Nabucco pipeline project in a meeting with his Austrian counterpart in Ankara. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Tuesday his country had the political will to back the 2,000-mile project and saw it as a way to provide energy security for Europe, the Turkish daily Hurriyet said. Gul said his country was a link to the eastern and southern energy corridors of Europe and saw it as a viable opportunity to ease Europe of its dependency on Russian gas supplies. The $5.8 billion Nabucco pipeline is slated for construction in 2010. It would run through Turkey and southeastern Europe to bring gas to the Middle East and Central Asia. Austrian President Heinz Fischer said the Nabucco project was on the agenda for Tuesday's talks with Gul as well as discussions regarding Turkey's admission into the European Union.

Source: http://www.upi.com/International_Sec...cco_plan/9488/


The European Union is more anxious about possible renewal of war in Karabakh with regards to energy security, as some communications are only 20 kilometers away from the conflict area, Johannes Rau, German expert, doctor of philology, professor, member of the Forum on international security under the academy of leading staff of Bunderswer, said in an interview with Day.az. Speaking about the threat of resumption of military actions, the expert said this way of conflict resolution is possible, but extremely dangerous. "All communications are passing via Azerbaijan. Some of them are only 20 kilometers away from the conflict area. Therefore, the energy security of Europe requires peaceful resolution of the conflict. But I do not rule out the second variant as well," he said. According to Johannes Rau, the resumption of war is dangerous, primarily, for the European Union and the United States. "Perhaps, even Russia would be less anxious about the renewal of hostilities, while the European Union and the United States will have a serious reason to be anxious," the expert noted.

Source: http://groong.usc.edu/news/msg233136.html

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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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