Tensions Between Turkey and the West Increase - October, 2009

The following New York Times article is more evidence that Turkey is no closer now to joining the European Union than it was ten or twenty years ago. I don't know where our political commentators are getting the idea that Turkey's overtures towards Armenia are aimed at paving a path to the EU. 

It is no longer a secret that Ankara's political formulations are becoming increasingly Eastern oriented. Turkish relations with the US and Israel actually began to sour soon after the invasion of Iraq when the CIA and the Mossad began funding and organizing Kurds in northern Iraq. I cannot yet explain why Washington and Tel Aviv have taken the risk by supporting an entity that their strategic ally, Ankara, considers an enemy. Perhaps this was done in anticipation of future geopolitical shifts, an attempt to create a counter balance between regional powers. Nevertheless, relations between Ankara and the Western world have become increasingly strained.

Some of you may recall that soon after the war between Russia and Georgia in the summer of 2008 there was some talk in Turkey about abandoning NATO. Moreover, as I have already mentioned in previous writings, warming of relations between Ankara and Yerevan was initiated in Moscow without direct Western involvement. Soon after Georgia's defeat Ankara proposed a Caucasus union plan which envisioned the collaboration between Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. This was also done without Western involvement. It is important to mention here that despite Washington's and Tel Aviv's objections Ankara has also been strengthening its ties with Tehran as well.

Turkey is now clearly looking Eastward. Georgia is defeated and mutilated by Russia. Azerbaijan has essentially become a hostage to Moscow. Iran is moving closer to Turkey and Russia. A series of major geopolitical shifts have begun to take place in Eurasia. What does all this mean for Armenia? It means the Caucasus is being remade. Traditional approaches in regional politics will no longer work. As a result, Armenian officials will have to adjust to these changes in unorthodox ways. The geopolitical stalemate created in the region during the past 20 years when Russian, Turkish, American, European and Iranian influences were competing against one another no longer exists today. As a result of the devastating foreign policy pursuits of Washington DC during the past ten years, coupled with the economic crisis currently plaguing the West and Saakashvili's historic blunder in South Ossetia, Russia has become the dominant player in Eurasia. Moscow is now using Armenia as a reliable platform to project its power deep into the south Caucasus and beyond.

We Armenians need to understand that the world does not revolve around Armenia. This is the time to wake up from our fantasies. Recent geopolitical shifts can be an opportunity for our fledgling republic if our nation's representatives as well as our diaspora play their cards correctly. Listening to our "experts" talk about the current political process, however, has been like listening to little children on a temper tantrum: Armenian Assembly types will simply follow the dictates of the US State Department... Dashnaktsakan types can't live life as Armenians without having a bloody conflict at hand... Levonakan types will oppose anything officials in Yerevan propose... Political scientists like Armen Ayvazian think that as soon as borders are opened a multitude Turks and Kurds will flood Armenia en masse... Former ambassador Ara Papian thinks he can liberate Western Armenia with a 90 years old piece of paper... Do we have any sane voices in our society anymore? With all the hysteria and hate they are creating today these people are essentially putting a deep wedge between the diaspora and the Armenian homeland at a time when they should be engaged in encouraging Armenians throughout the world to get active in their republic. Anyway, below are a couple of news articles that shed more light on current political developments in the Caucasus.

Arevordi


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Tensions Between Turkey and the West Increase 



October, 2009


With Turkey’s prospects for joining the European Union growing more elusive and the country reaching out to predominantly Muslim countries with a vigor not seen in years, a longstanding question is vexing the United States and Europe: Is this large, secular Muslim country turning East instead of West? When President Obama visited Turkey in April — a symbolic gesture that underlined Turkey’s geostrategic importance — he emphasized the country’s role as a bridge between East and West, acknowledged its mediation in the Arab-Israeli conflict and threw his weight solidly behind Turkey becoming a European Union member. Now, six months later, some in Washington and Brussels are questioning Turkey’s dependability as an ally, and many Turks are asking whether they should reject the European Union before the bloc rejects them.

Fears that Turkey is abandoning its bridge-building role were fanned this month when it canceled air force exercises with Israel, straining ties that frayed in January when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan castigated Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, over the war in Gaza, in front of world leaders at Davos, Switzerland. Senior Turkish officials say Mr. Erdogan, who was mediating between Israel and Syria just weeks before the conflict in Gaza broke out, felt personally betrayed by Israel’s aggression and what he regarded as the needless killing of innocent Muslims. At the same time, some Western diplomats say, Turkey has made what they consider alarming overtures toward Iran.

When the official result of Iran’s disputed presidential election was announced in June, Turkey was one of the first countries to congratulate President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his re-election. On Tuesday, during a visit to Tehran, Mr. Erdogan said the West was applying a double standard in pressuring Iran over its nuclear program. “Those who are chanting for global nuclear disarmament should first start in their own countries,” he said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has vociferously opposed European Union membership for Turkey, arguing that it is not geographically part of Europe. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has expressed similar reservations. Many Turks have interpreted the rejection to mean that their country is not welcome because of its large Muslim population.

At a meeting in Istanbul last week about Turkey’s relations with its neighbors, Representative Robert Wexler, chairman of the European subcommittee in Congress, said: “You wonder why Turkey is curious about different avenues? Look at your own behavior and attitude, Europe.” Other analysts say that cultural and economic factors are also pushing Turkey in that direction. Ersin Kalaycioglu, a political science professor at Sabanci University, noted that the global financial crisis had contracted European economies, prompting Turkey, a large exporter, to seek different markets. He and others also suggested that leaders of the governing Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., a socially conservative party with Muslim roots, felt more at home in Riyadh, Damascus and Baghdad than in Paris, London or Rome.

Even a partial collapse of talks with the European Union would have far-reaching consequences. Turkey is an indispensable ally for the United States and Europe. Bordered by Iran, Iraq and Syria, Turkey is a powerful symbol of the compatibility of democracy, capitalism and Islam. Located between the Middle East and the former Soviet Union, it has vital strategic importance as a transit country for gas. It also has deep influence in Afghanistan and is a regional leader in the Caucasus. Yet the country’s European Union negotiations are in a precarious state. Negotiations on a number of issues have been blocked because of its long dispute with Cyprus. For the first time in years, leading figures in the business establishment, which has always led the drive for European Union integration, are questioning the wisdom of continuing a negotiating process that appears to have no end.

“We Turks are a proud nation and we don’t want to go to a house where we were invited but where the host keeps slamming the door in our face,” said Hasan Arat, an executive at a top Turkish real estate development firm. For all the country’s wounded pride, Turkish officials and analysts insist that Turkey has no intention of abandoning the West. Rather than reorienting Turkish foreign policy toward the East, Egemen Bagis, Turkey’s minister for European Union affairs, argued in an interview that the recent outreach to its neighbors — including the opening of its border with Syria, the signing of a historic agreement with Armenia to establish normal diplomatic relations and the engagement of Iran — was helping Turkey become a more effective interlocutor for its Western allies.

“Any bridge with one strong leg and one weak leg can’t stand for long,” Mr. Bagis said. Ibrahim Kalin, chief foreign policy adviser to Mr. Erdogan, said Western critics of Turkey’s new inclusive foreign policy were using a double standard. “When the U.S. makes an overture to Russia, everyone applauds this as a new era in diplomacy,” he said. “But when Turkey tries to reach out to Iran, people ask if it is trying to change its axis.” Mr. Kalin said that the anti-Turkish talk emanating from key European capitals was making it harder to convince the Turkish people about the need for European Union membership. Rather than worrying that Turkey is moving toward the East, said Cengiz Aktar, a leading expert here on the European Union, the West should fear a wounded Turkey turning to Russia. Already, Russia has been courting it as a distribution point for energy supplies, while Turkish investment in Russia is intensifying. “This government is perfectly capable of saying ‘no thanks’ to Europe and instead shifting toward Russia,” Mr. Aktar said.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/28/world/europe/28turkey.html


A Couple of Slaps to Baku From “Big Brother”

Yesterday, Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yıldiz put an end to the empty talk about Azerbaijan’s ability to influence Ankara’s foreign and energy policy in any way. The aim of the empty talk was “enhancing” Azerbaijan’s regional influence by means of rhetoric. In fact, however, Baku exhausted its potential for energy diktat long ago – it has neither the necessary resources nor means of diversifying routes or political weight to torpedo Turkey’s strategic task of becoming the main point for hydrocarbons transit to Europe. That was the reason why billons of U.S. dollars were invested in the Baku-Ceyhan and Baku-Erzurum projects. Leaving the communications inoperative is as impossible for President Ilham Aliyev as yielding his chair to some Isa Gambar. So the direction for the transit of Caspian resources at Azerbaijan’s disposal can by no means be changed. Another matter is that the reserves are not sufficient to meet both Turkey’s ambitions and Europe’s demands.

Ilham Aliyev is not to blame for the West having been unable to push through the Transcaspian gas main project. As a result, the two pipes of great length designed for supplying energy resources from Central Asia to Europe — the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline with an annual capacity of 50m tons, and the South Caucasus gas pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum with an annual capacity of up to 30bn cubic meters – actually run only to end in Azerbaijan’s well that is running dry. Strategically, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline was designed for Central Asian gas, rather than for Azerbaijan’s. It was laying the gas main through the bottom of the Caspian Sea than was supposed to make the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline part of the Nabucco project. Azerbaijan is capable of supplying only 1/3 of the necessary volume to this pipeline, which can hardly satisfy Turkey and the end consumers in Europe. The designed annual capacity of the Nabucco gas pipeline is 30bn cubic meters, and, in this context, Azerbaijan’s efforts are “a drop in the ocean.” By various estimates, over the following decade, Azerbaijan will be capable of supplying within 5bn cubic meters of gas to this pipeline, whereas at least 15bn cubic meters are required for it to be put into operation. Moreover, the volume Azerbaijan is ensuring now does not reach Turkey in full. Let us remember that Georgia, a transit country which completely upset its relations with Russia, became dependent on Azerbaijani gas, while Turkey “granted” its gas quota in the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline to Georgians. So Turkey has never received strategic amount of gas from Azerbaijan and hardly expects to receive it.

Realizing that Russia will go all out to prevent a pipe from being laid through the Caspian bottom, Turkey, without wasting time, joined the Russia-launched South Stream project. The difference of this project from Nabucco is as follows: from Central Asia the pipeline will run along the northern Caspian coast (a Near-Caspian gas pipeline), rather than through the bottom of the Caspian Sea, which, however, is not of essential importance for Turkey. On the contrary, this reduces the number of transit countries between Central Asia and Turkey — Russia in place of Azerbaijan and Georgia. The efforts exerted by RF Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi were crowned with success – Turkey joined the South Stream project. At that very moment Azerbaijan felt the hard slap delivered by its “big brother” – it was not while Yerevan and Ankara were signing the Protocols in Zurich.

The second slap proved to be even header. Baku got it yesterday, when Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz agreed on the details of Turkey’s participation in the South Pars project with Iran. It is the world's largest gas field coverings an area of 9,700 square kilometers, with 3,700 square kilometers (South Pars) being in Iranian territorial waters. It can really serve as resource base for the Nabucco project, but Azerbaijan drops out of the game. Moreover, the West may share the same fate, as Turkey seems to be going to “uncap the Iranian barrel” with Russia. So Russia is “drawing” Central Asian resources into the South Stream and Blue Stream projects, while Turkey is ensuring access to the European market for Iranian gas. Thus, Europe’s energy security problem can be resolved by combined efforts of Turkey and Russia, with Iran’s energy potential necessarily used. Armenia may play a key role in the Turkey-Iran-Russia energy triangle. In any case, over the last few years, Russia, slowly but surely, has been creating a powerful “electric energy base” in Armenia. With the Iran-Armenia gas main considered, Armenia’s prospects will be even better after the Armenian-Turkish border has been reopened. As regards Azerbaijan, the only thing for it to do is to feed the West promises, beg compensation of Turkey for gas at a giveaway price and try to get Russia’s support by supplying ridiculously small volumes of gas (500m cubic meters) to the Gazprom Company by means of bypass routes.

Source: http://news.am/en/news/7449.html

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