Turkish-Azerbaijani “Cold War:” Moscow Benefits from Washington’s Indecisiveness - November, 2009

Moscow's decisive military victory over Tbilisi in the summer of 2008 now seems to have been only a prelude. The military victory over Georgian, Turkish and Western interests in the Caucasus prepared the field for a diplomatic coup de grace. With one brilliant move Moscow has now finally brought down the house. Twenty years of close cooperation between Europe, America, Israel, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus has begun to crumble as a result of the Moscow sponsored protocol signing that took place between Armenia and Turkey two weeks ago in Switzerland.

Ankara is now finding itself at odds with Baku. NATO is realizing that it may be gradually losing Turkey. Turkey is realizing that it is dependent on Russia. Baku is feeling forced to move closer to Moscow. Georgia is now effectively isolated and abandoned. Our Armenia, until recently bypassed and isolated, has suddenly become one of the most pivotal nations in the region and a strategic platform from which Moscow is projecting its power - military, economic and political - south into Turkey and beyond. If there still are Armenians today that can't see a historic opportunity for our fledgling republic in the Caucasus - they must be either deaf, dumb or blind...

Arevordi

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Turkish-Azerbaijani “Cold War:” Moscow Benefits from Washington’s Indecisiveness

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November, 2009

Recent weeks have seen unprecedented and potentially far reaching damage to the Turkish-Azerbaijani strategic partnership. Ever since Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced its intension to normalize relations with Azerbaijan’s arch-rival Armenia, the relationship between Ankara and Baku has cooled. The Azerbaijani leadership sent a strong message to Ankara in April, when President Ilham Aliyev refused to accept Turkish President Abdulah Gul’s invitation to attend the U.N. conference “Alliance of civilizations,” held in Istanbul.

Yet, it was after the signing of the protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia that Baku’s outrage spiraled. Both the Azerbaijani public and its political leadership openly condemned this one-sided Turkish policy. Indeed, the Azeri foreign ministry immediately issued a press release in which it said that the signing of the protocols “directly contradicts the national interests of Azerbaijan and overshadows the spirit of brotherly relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey built on deep historical roots” (www.mfa.gov.az, October 12).

That apparent cooling of the bilateral relationship, moved toward a cold war when Azerbaijani flags were banned during the Turkish-Armenian soccer match in Bursa on October 14 and Azerbaijani media outlets broadcast images of the Azerbaijani flag being torn apart and thrown into trash bins by Turkish police officers. In addition, the Azeri public was outraged by reports that the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, whom Azerbaijanis view as one of the main organizers of the Khojali massacre in 1992, was warmly embraced by President Gul and his wife during the soccer match. Gul’s wife, reportedly, even cooked for Sargsyan and Gul offered his bedroom to his Armenian counterpart.

Such news has caused deep anti-Turkish sentiments to flourish in Baku. Traditionally an ally, brother and last resort of hope, Turkey is no longer trusted in the Azerbaijani capital. In an effort to gain an additional friendly neighbor, Ankara seems to have overstretched and nearly ruined its strategic relations with Azerbaijan.

The reaction in Baku was swift. Turkish flags, hanging in the memorial for martyred Turkish soldiers, were lowered. Youth groups and opposition parties lashed out at the Turkish leadership for the humiliation and disrespect shown to the Azerbaijani flag in Bursa. And parliament held heated debates about the “flag incident,” during which Vice-Speaker Ziyafat Asgarov said, “I take the disrespect shown against the Azerbaijani flag as a personal insult” (AZTV, October 16).

Moreover, on October 16 Aliyev announced during his cabinet meeting that Azerbaijan would consider alternative options to export its gas, since Turkish-Azerbaijani talks on gas transit have not produced concrete results (www.day.az, October 16). He accused Turkey of stalling these negotiations by offering unacceptably low prices for Azerbaijani gas and did not hesitate to mention that until now, Azerbaijan has been selling natural gas to Turkey at 30 percent of its value on international markets. Aliyev also mentioned Russia, Iran and the Black sea as alternatives routes for Azeri gas and coincidently, in the same week, Gazprom and Azerbaijan’s State Oil Company SOCAR signed an agreement in Baku for the export of 500 million cubic meters of Azeri gas to Russia at the price Aliyev described as “mutually beneficial” (Trend News Agency, October 16).

It is clear that the recent developments in the South Caucasus and the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement have seriously damaged the Turkish-Azerbaijani strategic partnership. This partnership has been the backbone of East-West energy and its future transportation corridors, security, political and geostrategic balance in the region as well as the overall Turkish (or Western) entrance into the Caspian region. Without this strategic partnership, the Turkish, E.U. and U.S. axis of influence in the South Caucasus and further into the Central Asian region is at risk. This geopolitical miscalculation on the part of Turkish, E.U. and U.S. officials, all of whom have actively pushed for a one-sided normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations without the consideration of Azerbaijan’s interests and the resolution of the Karabakh conflict will see a boomerang effect.

Russia may utilize this excellent opportunity to further advance its political agenda in the region: the isolation of Georgia by cutting it off from new transit routes; shelving the E.U. and U.S.-backed Nabucco gas pipeline project by destroying the Azerbaijani-Turkish strategic partnership and thus forcing Azerbaijan to sell its gas to Russia; drawing Turkey into its own orbit of influence undermining the E.U.-U.S.-Turkey axis of influence in the region. Before Washington realizes, it will be too late to protect the South Caucasus as a sovereign and independent region. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. appears to underestimate what is unfolding in the region. A lack of clear vision on the part of the U.S. administration clearly plays into Russian hands. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov so actively pushed his Armenian counterpart to sign the protocol with Turkey.

Source: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=35684&tx_ttnews[backPid]=7&cHash=4e50e9633a

Turkey, Russia and the Caucasus: Common and Diverging Interests

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (L) and Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev meet in Moscow for talks, February 13, 2009.

“Problems in relations with the United States, and the lack of progress in Turkey’s efforts to secure membership of the EU, led commentators to speculate that Turkey and Russia could form an ‘axis of the excluded’ in Eurasia,” reads the report by British Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House, titled “Turkey, Russia and the Caucasus”. According to the report, Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008 made Turkish authorities “to reassess” policy towards Russian and the Caucasus. “Turkey had developed burgeoning economic and political ties with Russia and maintained close links with neighbouring Georgia,” the report says. NEWS.am posts the passages from the report concerning Armenia.

“The conflict raised questions over whether Turkey would become a key energy transit state given the deteriorating security situation in the South Caucasus. Relations between Ankara and Moscow were challenged as both had previously stressed their common interests in preserving regional stability.

However, the conflict opened up possibilities for Turkey to normalize relations with Armenia, although this could upset Ankara’s close ties with Baku. Concerning the North Caucasus, an initial sympathy in Turkey for the plight of the Chechens caused friction between Ankara and Moscow. Turkey was grouped with Azerbaijan and Georgia in a bloc supportive of the emerging interests of NATO and the EU in the South Caucasus and aligned against the policies of Armenia and Russia. Turkey’s official position has been that the land frontier would only be reopened and diplomatic relations established with Yerevan after Armenia openly acknowledged Turkey’s borders, abandoned its international campaign for recognition of the events of 1915 as Genocide, and resolved the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh to the satisfaction of Azerbaijan.

With little prospect for a peaceful solution over Nagorno-Karabakh and feeling threatened by Baku, Yerevan has developed close economic, political and military ties with Moscow. After the events of August 2008 President Gul accepted an invitation from his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan to attend a World Cup qualifying football match between the Turkish and Armenian national teams in Yerevan on 6 September. The Russo-Georgian conflict gave an added impetus, and in the wake of Gul’s visit there were a number of high-level contacts between Turkish and Armarevagalenian politicians. Ankara was also being pressured by the new Obama administration, which was seriously considering officially recognizing the events of 1915 as Genocide.

After further Swiss mediation, on 31 August 2009 a statement was released noting that Ankara and Yerevan had initialled two Protocols to establish diplomatic relations, open the land border and develop bilateral relations. The intention was for both parties to complete internal political consultations within six weeks, sign the Protocols, and then submit them to their parliaments for ratification. According to an agreed timetable, the land border would be open within two months after the Protocols entered into force. Various sub-commissions would also then be formed to develop relations, including most controversially a sub-commission to work on the ‘historical dimension’. The two Protocols were signed by the Turkish and Armenian foreign ministers in Switzerland on 10 October and a few days later Sargsyan visited Turkey to attend the second match between the Turkish and Armenian national football teams.

Expectations have been raised that relations between Turkey and Armenia will be fully normalized in the next months. Both the EU and the United States have warmly welcomed this turn of events.”

Source: http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/15211_bp1109turkey.pdf

"NATO Doesn't Want to Compete With Russia in South Caucasus"

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News.Az interviews Vladimir Socor, senior fellow on the Eurasia Programme at US thinktank the Jamestown Foundation.
Baku thinks that ensuring the security of NATO partner states, including Azerbaijan, is a problem. What can be done about this?

The NATO partner states in the east are in an unsafe situation. NATO mechanisms are not working there. Some countries like Russia and Armenia violate international law and hold under occupation lands that do not belong to them. International law does not work there, though it must. There is a definite security vacuum in this region and even a strategic power vacuum. These factors are hardly taken into account in NATO’s activity. NATO’s new strategic conception is currently being discussed. NATO is likely to specify the role and place of the alliance's eastern neighbours. This is of critical importance for the security of NATO’s allies in Europe too. The operation of the transportation and energy corridor from the Caspian basin to Europe meets the interests of not only NATO's neighbouring states but also Europe and the alliance. The political unity inside the North Atlantic bloc depends on the security of this corridor. And if some countries of the bloc become dependent on Russian oil and gas, the political unity inside the alliance is broken. Therefore, NATO is interested in the security of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Azerbaijan has not yet applied for NATO membership, but Georgia and Ukraine have and have come under great pressure from Russia as a result. Can NATO neutralize this pressure or are its member-states too dependent on Russian energy sources?

The political unity in the alliance has not broken, but it might if Russia manages to cut the Caspian basin off from Europe. You were right to say that after Georgia applied for NATO membership, its situation worsened as the United States and NATO had no means, powers or reserves to avert the conflict. Nobody in NATO expected this, as the expectations of Russia turned out to be too unrealistic. Nobody in NATO expected such a war. And when it happened NATO did not react.

You said the US and NATO did not have means. Isn’t this a question of unwillingness?

I cannot say whether it was a matter of unwillingness but there was no expectation. And when there is no expectation, the issue of unwillingness does not arise at all. If there had been expectations, we could have spoken of willingness or unwillingness.

Russia has not fully executed the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan to bring peace to Georgia. Can NATO put pressure on Russia to comply with its obligations?

It is too late to do so, but perhaps it can be done in the future. But now NATO does not want to deal with this situation.

NATO considers Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia its partners. But Armenia is not going to quit the Collective Security Treaty, while Azerbaijan and Georgia are closer partners with NATO. In this context, can NATO be involved in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict in any way?

First, NATO does not want to be involved. But if NATO had had the political will, the alliance could have started negotiations with both parties to mediate in terms of regional security. Yet, relations with Russia are more important for NATO. NATO does not want to compete with Russia to ensure security in the South Caucasus. NATO and the USA have an erroneous opinion that they depend on Russia in combating terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapon as well as in conducting operations in Afghanistan and Iran. Brussels and Washington think that they need Russia’s assistance on these problems. But, certainly, Russia will not help except in exchange for concessions on other problems.

Source: http://www.news.az/articles/2910

Russian Minister Indirectly Plays Down Azerbaijani Fears Over Armenia-Turkey Rapprochement

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The Armenian-Turkish accords do not harm any third party, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin has said, implicitly referring to Azerbaijan's concern that the accords will hinder a solution to the Karabakh conflict. "Both Armenia and Turkey are our friends, so we are interested in establishing a neighbourly atmosphere between them," Karasin said in a wide-ranging interview published today in the newspaper Republic of Armenia. He said that improvement in Armenian-Turkish relations would invigorate economic ties which in turn would benefit society and the economy in both countries.

"Settling relations between Yerevan and Ankara will objectively help to reduce tension and promote peace, security and stability in the Caucasus. Moreover, nothing in the Armenian-Turkish accords can be interpreted as harmful to a third party," Karasin said, indirectly referring to Azerbaijan's concern that the accords will hinder a solution to the Karabakh conflict. "The Russian Federation is ready to support the normalization process through further cooperation projects with Armenia and Turkey. This primarily concerns electricity, transport and communications," Karasin continued.

He said that Russia's energy giant RAO YeES has facilities in Armenia and is supplying power to Turkey, while Russian Railways are ready to establish rail links between Turkey and Armenia via the Dogukapi-Akhuryan border crossing. Asked about Russia's position on the Karabakh peace process, Karasin said, "We see our role as to assist the settlement process by helping the sides find mutual acceptable solutions to key issues, but without dictating any formulas on the sides from the outside." Karasin said Azerbaijan and Armenia themselves bear responsibility for settlement of the conflict.

"Russia has been an active mediator in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since the beginning of the talks process. Moscow is now carrying out these functions on a multilateral basis, working with France and the United States as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - the main international forum in the search for a political solution to the Karabakh conflict. At the same time, we are also mediating through bilateral contacts with our partners in Yerevan and Baku. It is worth nothing that during the meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Moscow on 12 October, (Russian President) Dmitriy Medvedev described Russia's participation in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process as 'a very important yardstick for our relations overall'." Karasin said that Russia is willing to support any solution acceptable to both sides.

"Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met seven times in 2008-2009 and four tripartite meetings were held involving the Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian presidents. Despite the existing differences, the sides made significant progress towards agreement on the basic principles. Moscow is ready to take all possible steps to move this process forward."

Karasin was upbeat on Russian-Armenian relations overall. "Regular, trusted political dialogue on a high level and elsewhere between Russia and Armenia gives our contacts a good dynamic," he said. "All practical issues that arise in Russian-Armenian ties are resolved constructively. Our collaboration is becoming more balanced and harmonious, which is a sign of its maturity. Cooperation is expanding and improving not only in the traditional political and military spheres, but in the economic, humanitarian and inter-regional areas.

"Our positions on most key problems in world politics concur or are close, which creates a sound basis for further fruitful foreign policy collaboration." Karasin said that although trade between the two countries has fallen this year in comparison to last, Russian investment in the Armenian economy is continuing to rise. "Overall, we are optimistic about the future of Russian-Armenian relations. We think that through our joint efforts we will be able to steadily improve their substance."

Source: http://www.news.az/articles/1570


Additional regional developments in the news:


Ankara will never agree to deterioration of relations with the U.S. because of Azerbaijan

Over the past few days the Turkish press has stopped writing about its "brotherly" neighbour. Moreover, there appear articles about the myth of "one nation, two states". The level of nervousness in Baku after the signing of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols has reached its highest. The authorities apparently realized that, despite the assurances of "brotherly" Turkey, no parallel processes will go with the Karabakh conflict settlement. Though immediately after the signing of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols in Zurich, the rhetoric of high-ranking Turkish officials significantly intensified with regards to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it didn't last long and it had its reasons.

PanARMENIAN.Net - Ankara will never agree to deterioration of relations with the U.S. or any other party concerned about a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Moreover, if we believe certain media reports - and sometimes they really should be believed - Washington actually issued a tough ultimatum to Azerbaijan: she made it clear that "Karabakh independence will be recognized, should Azerbaijan attempt to launch military operations in NKR," Yeni Musavat Oppositional Azeri Party official website reported on Tuesday, followed by other Azeri media representatives. In observer's opinion, Baku's military rhetoric is caused by the fact that in the agenda of Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations on Karabakh status, mediated by Russia, US and France, Azerbaijan's territorial integrity is not discussed, as required by the country's President Ilham Aliyev, NEWSru.com reports.

However, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Elkhan Polukhov said he knew nothing about Washington's ultimatum. "Azerbaijan is not a country to be spoken with in the language of ultimatum," he said. "We are conducting an independent foreign policy based on our national interests," Polukhov added. How independent a foreign policy the South Caucasus countries can have, is probably not worth mentioning. But Baku so deeply believes in her own power and energy, that she does not see what is obvious. And the obvious fact is that over the past few days, the Turkish press has stopped writing about its "brotherly" neighbour. Moreover, there appear articles about the myth of "one nation, two states". Speaking at the rally of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Prime Minister Erdogan spoke about everything: the Kurdish problem, cooperation with Iran on regional projects and Turkey's EU membership. However, he said not a single word about Karabakh, and it is symptomatic.

It so happened that these days, Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu participates in the ministerial D-8 Summit in Kuala Lumpur. D-8 is an analogue of the G8 for the countries of Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in which Azerbaijan has no place. Only Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey are members of this association, i.e. countries for which the resolution of the Karabakh conflict is neither necessary nor important. By the way, the countries of OIC, which so recently were spoken about with great enthusiasm in Baku, have quite a different from Azerbaijan position on Nagorno-Karabakh. For example, Iran and Syria, and sometimes Egypt, if we use the lexicon of official Baku, take up a pro-Armenian position, while others simply do not make public their position, reasoning from their own interests and not out of their great love towards Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Meanwhile, The Jamestown Foundation writes: "Traditionally an ally, brother and last resort of hope, Turkey is no longer trusted in the Azerbaijani capital. In an effort to gain an additional friendly neighbor, Ankara seems to have overstretched and nearly ruined its strategic relations with Azerbaijan. It is clear that the recent developments in the South Caucasus and the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement have seriously damaged the Turkish-Azerbaijani strategic partnership. This partnership has been the backbone of East-West energy and its future transportation corridors, security, political and geo-strategic balance in the region, as well as the overall Turkish (or Western) entrance into the Caspian region," says the author, who, of course, doesn't like the fact that Turkey has decided to "free herself" from Baku. And lastly, US International Republican Institute (IRI) office ends its activity in Azerbaijan. Head of IRI office Jake Johns declared the office would be closed on November 30 of the current year. Chairman of Musavat party Isa Gambar, expressing his regret over the issue, considered it expedient to continue the work of the office in terms of strengthening relations between the U.S. and Azerbaijan, and solving problems associated with democracy and freedom. But the U.S. had different views.

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/details/eng/?nid=1090

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