Opening of Armenian-Turkish Border Should be a Russian Project - September, 2008

One thing is certain, Moscow would never allow Yerevan to open up to Ankara if it did not directly or indirectly control the situation at hand, especially now that the Kremlin has fully reinserted itself in the Caucasus. In my opinion, the current developments we are witnessing in Turkish-Armenian relations were gradually put together by Moscow during the several months preceding the war in Georgia. Most likely, Turks and Armenians were made aware of the impending situation and they were made an offer they simply could not refuse. After the war, all the sides in question knew their responsibilities, their expectations, their script, just like in a well rehearsed theatrical play. 

Now, we are in the opening act of that play.

Besides the surprising news that Armenia will be selling electricity to Turkey there is now talk about the possibility of resuming the Kars-Gyumri railway. According to some sources, Russia is supporting these deals and may in fact be encouraging them. More significantly, as I predicted, there is also talk about the construction of a new pipeline going through Armenia. I don't want to draw any conclusions at this time, but if our politicians can properly manage this complex situation Armenia can potentially become a major regional power. Let's also take into consideration that Russia wants to build a new nuclear power station in Armenia; it wants to mine in Armenia; it wants to build a railway from Iran to Russia through Armenia; and it wants to build an oil refinery plant in Armenia. These are serious proposals.

Moreover, I feel that Armenia is more secure now, militarily and politically, than it has ever been in its modern history. Without a doubt, Armenia is gradually becoming a major regional player. Barring some unforeseen Russian withdrawal from the Caucasus region, Armenia will continue to grow in stature. The only problem that is hindering our forward progression at this time remains our fragile economy. Nonetheless, the current geopolitical climate of the Caucasus region is the primary reasons why I'm no longer concerned about opening our borders with Turkey. The following several articles highlight the heightened
economic activity we are currently seeing develop in the Caucasus and the pivotal role Armenia has begun to play in it.



Opening of Armenian-Turkish Border Should be a Russian but not a U.S. Project

September, 2008

Some warming between Yerevan and Ankara is favorable. The Armenian-Turkish relations need gradual normalization, Andrey Areshev, expert at Strategic Culture Foundation said in an interview with PanARMENIAN.Net. “Consultations of diplomats are no longer a secret. Russian concessionaires of the Armenian Railways announced readiness to reconstruct Kars-Gyumri line. Foreign media circulated information that some oil companies negotiate construction of a gas pipeline with Armenia. The Ayrum-Gyumri-Akhuryan route (bypassing Georgia) is being discussed. Certainly, these are just variants but Georgia’s destructive role in the region becomes more and more evident not only for Russia or Iran but also for U.S. allies, such as Turkey, and the key EU countries, which are concerned over their energy security,” he said. “Possible normalization of the Armenian-Turkish relations and partial opening of the border should not be used as an argument for withdrawal of the Russian military base from Armenia. Furthermore, opening of the border should be a Russian but not a U.S. project,” Areshev emphasized. “The Armenian authorities’ flirtation with the U.S. and NATO, the forthcoming joint exercise in September are quite understandable as a part of complementary policy pursued by the republic. However, it’s clear that the west will use Caucasian nations as active storage (Georgia is a vivid example) Cooling with Russia in exchange for attractive offers can have deplorable consequences for Armenia and NKR’s security. The Karabakh conflict can’t be resolved with NATO’s assistance. Partial restoration of Russia’s positions in the Caucasus, Turkey and Iran’s firm opposition to resumption of hostilities may push Baku to search for more adequate way to resolve the Karabakh conflict. However, it will not happen before the presidential election in Azerbaijan,” he concluded.


In related news:

Impact of Five-Day War on Global Energy

The brief armed conflict in South Ossetia will have long-lasting and serious repercussions globally. The infrastructures of the energy sector have been particularly affected by the crisis. It is hard to say at the moment whether fundamental changes in the energy landscape of the Caspian and Middle East regions should be expected, but the immediate character of the reaction of exporters and transit countries shows that the military factor is bound to play a bigger role in assessing both individual energy projects and the potentials of entire regions in the global energy politics. It is also true, though, that the essence of the conflict in South Ossetia is not limited to struggle over transit routes used to deliver oil and gas from the Caspian region. The situation should be viewed in a broader perspective: Russia has resolutely made a bid to regain its positions in the Caspian region, and the control over energy transit routes is just one of the aspects of the matter. The hostilities in South Ossetia triggered a new information war between Russia and the US largely centered on the control over oil and gas transit from the Caspian region. Expressions of skepticism concerning a number of corresponding energy projects – primarily the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline constructed thanks to the US political and financial backing - are often perceived in the US as efforts aimed at deliberately discrediting them. As a result, Washington has a thin skin to any criticisms of the Trans-Caucasian routes originally devised to bypass Russia. “We have important strategic interests at stake in Georgia, especially the continued flow of oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which Russia attempted to bomb in recent days”, said US presidential contender Sen. John McCain. He called for US to cooperate with Baku and Ankara on the BTC security: “The US should work with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and other interested friends, to develop plans to strengthen the security of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline”. Currently, the atmosphere in which the US is appealing to its traditional and freshly baked allies became different from what it used to be prior to the war in South Ossetia. Several new factors are contributing to the balance of forces in the region.

The Turkish Factor. In the usual US manner, Sen. McCain is pinning the blame for the problems on a wrong party. Damage to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline was indeed caused recently, but not by Russian bomb strikes. It was paralyzed by a terrorist attack launched by Kurdish insurgents in response to the Turkish army's incursion into the northern part of Iraq. The closure of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline costs Turkey $300,000 a day. Turkey's transit revenues since the opening of the pipeline in May, 2006 had totaled $2.6 bn, but following the terrorist attack oil had to be taken from the Ceyhan terminus stockpile which was to a great extent depleted as a result. Turkey was also worried by the reaction of the Kazakh and Azerbaijani exporters to the problem. Immediately, they asked Russia's Transneft for additional pipeline quotas in order to send their oil via the Russian territory to the Russian Novorossiysk seaport. Even the brief disruption of the transit revenue flow came as a blow to Ankara, which regarded the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan revenue as a partial compensation for supporting Operation Desert Storm in 1991. By the time of the 2003 US invasion, the sanctions imposed on Iraq after Desert Storm had cost Turkey $80 bn due to the loss of transit revenues from the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline and to the freezing of its trade with Iraq. To prevent a replay of the scenario, Turkey took an active role in the settlement in Georgia. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan visited Moscow to meet Russian President D. Medvedev and Prime Minister V. Putin. Erdogan expressed support for Russia's actions. Turkey is keenly interested in stability in the Caucasus as it gets most of oil and gas across it. Erdogan said to President Medvedev that the purpose of his visit was to demonstrate Turkey's solidarity with Russia. Ankara finds itself in a difficult situation now that the West has shown how easily it can ignore Turkey's interests. Having taken Iraq, the US allowed in its north a de facto independent Kurdish state which became a stronghold of Kurdish separatism. Europe continues to deny Turkey admission to the EU. Finally, the recent developments in Pakistan, where the West and the US in particular had abandoned their traditional ally Gen. Pervez Musharraf, made Turkey question the expediency of the exclusively pro-Western orientation. Turkey had to search for an alternative “frame of reference” and to think of its own security architecture in the region, one of its functions being to safeguard the energy transit routes. This is the explanation behind Turkey's support for Russia's peacekeeping mission in South Ossetia, and not only on the verbal level – US warships which headed for Georgia could not pass through the Turkish straits until the active phase of the conflict was over. Ankara's ire drawn by the US policy of destabilizing the region is no reason to expect that Turkey is going to make a definitive step away from NATO and the West. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of Turkey's interests, Washington's plan to partition Iraq is prone to cause a surge of Kurdish separatism. Clearly, Iraq will not be the only country affected as Kurdish populations reside everywhere from the Caucasus to the Middle East, and Turkey will inevitably be the number one target.

The Iranian Factor. The parallel preparation for the Georgian offensive against South Ossetia and buildup of the US Navy presence in the Persian Gulf were seen by many analysts (in Tehran especially) as a prelude to a US attack against Iran. Under the circumstances, the devastation of the Georgian military infrastructure by the Russian army made the use of Georgia as a foothold for an operation targeting Iran much less probable, and thus reduced the threat of the US-Iranian armed conflict. Besides, Iran seized the opportunity opened as a result of the developments in the Caucasus to strengthen its own position in the European energy market. The fighting in South Ossetia was going on when Dr. Hojatollah Ghanimifard, deputy director for investments of the National Iranian Oil Company, said that the Georgian segment of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is no less vulnerable than the Turkish one and that the halt of its operation is a reason to reassess the whole project's security and environmental safety. In Ghanimifard's view, Iran's Neka-Jask export pipeline could serve as a viable alternative to BTC. Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Hossein Nogrekar-Shirazi says a feasibility study for the project is underway. Recently Russia and Kazakhstan indicated being ready to join it. Having faced problems shipping its oil to the West, Azerbaijan turned to Iran for new transit routes. Iran News reported the first transit oil shipment from Azerbaijan to Iran on August 26. Besides, Tehran is increasingly exerting pressure on Europe in the framework of the “political support for energy” formula. Judging by the interview given by head of Nabucco Gas Pipeline International Reinhard Mitschek, the possibility of gas hunger gives Iran a chance to get heard in Europe. According to Mitschek, market studies show that potential exporters need more than 100% of the Nabucco capacity (up to 31 bn cu m of natural gas annually). Europe is interested in buying gas from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, and Iran. Considering that Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have no reserves sufficient to load a major pipeline, Iran remains the only potential source provided that massive investments are poured in gas production in the country.

The Israeli Factor. The interests of Israel in various ways affected by the conflict in South Ossetia are diverse and contradictory. On the one hand, instructors and armaments from Israel went to Georgia. On the other, Israel is anything but willing to have its relations with Russia strained, largely due to concerns over its own energy security. Located in the world's major oil-producing region, Israel has no oil reserves of its own and has to import fuel. Since Israel's chances to get any oil from its Arab neighbors are nonexistent, it is shipped to the country from outside the Middle East. Currently, 80% of Israel's 300,000 bpd oil import are supplied by Russia. To lessen its oil dependency on Russia, Israel made efforts to have Caspian oil and Turkmen gas supplied to it via the Ceyhan terminus. Intense negotiations between Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan on the construction of new pipeline legs in Turkey to transit oil and gas to the Red Sea terminals in Ashkelon and Eilat are underway. Oil from the terminals could be shipped to the Middle East across the Indian Ocean. The corridor's capacity, however, is bound to be limited due to the difficulty of large tanker navigation through the Bosporus and the Suez. Still, linking the BTC and the Ashkelon-Eilat pipelines could open new opportunities for reaching the rapidly growing Asian energy markets. The project is quite realistic and should not be overly costly. Interest in it has been expressed by Azerbaijan and Turkey, but the BTC security is the key obstacle. The above explains the contradictions in Israel's position on the situation in Georgia. Nor do Tel Aviv's threats to Iran help Israel join the new oil transit route to Asia, since the Strait of Hormuz would be sealed off immediately in the event of a conflict with Iran, and the tanker segment would thus come to a halt. Consequently, now Israel is faced by the dilemma: either the quite realistic BTC plus Eilat-Asia project or a confrontation with Russia and Iran for the sake of Washington and at the expense of Israel's own energy security.

The Russian Factor. Russian said on August 27 that Russia's decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia signaled with ultimate clarity the country's joining the big geopolitical game, the stake being Russia's new role and status in the present-day world. Having stepped in to protect its citizens in South Ossetia, Russia has also established itself as the only stable transit space connecting Europe, Central Asia, and the Caspian region. When the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum pipeline suspended shipments following the halt of BTC and Baku-Supsa, Georgia as a transit country drew another round of criticisms from the expert community. The August 13 report entitled “Turkey and the Problems with the BTC” presented by the Jamestown Foundation says: “...the long-term impact of the crisis is to throw into sharp relief the West’s assumptions about the expediency of using Georgian territory for oil and natural gas projects without taking Moscow's views into consideration”. Europe is not delighted to see Moscow's control over the oil and gas transit from the Caspian region restored. The options open to it are a confrontation or a new architecture of relations with Russia. The West is threatening Moscow with «a new cold war» but has no intention to downscale trade with Russia, and, consequently, the energy cooperation with it. German Chancellor A. Merkel said the conflict in Georgia would not tell on the Nord Stream pipeline project whose strategic importance to Europe she reiterated during her visit to Sweden on August 26. European media express reservations concerning Europe's potential in an energy confrontation with Russia. Le Mond wrote on August 27, for example: «Some experts criticize Europe's strategy as overly aggressive and warn against new mistakes. It must be understood that Russia is an energy threat, and nearly all of the gas supplied to Europe in the coming 30 years is going to be either Russian or Iranian».


Iran-Armenia Gas Pipeline Completed

Construction on the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline was completed on Wednesday, opening up a new route for the transport of natural gas into the resource deprived Caucasus country. The 140km pipeline, which runs from Iranian Tabriz to Armenia's Meghri region, will bring 2.3 to 2.5 billion cubic meters of gas annually from energy rich Iran into Armenia. The pipeline will start tests soon, and shortly after start transporting gas from Iran to Armenia. Having an alternative gas pipeline is very important for Armenia, according to Armenia's Energy and Natural Resources Minister, Armen Movsisian, who explained that the instability in the region requires Armenia to diversify its energy imports. “By the construction of Iran-Armenia gas pipeline we first of all solve the issue on energy security for our country,” Movsisian said. “It will give [Armenia] an opportunity to ensure gas supply in unforeseeable situations, to avoid blows to the country.” The contract was signed for 20 years. For each cubic meter of the Iranian gas, Armenia is supposed to return 3 kwh of electric energy to Iran. The pipeline's diameter is 700 mm and it cost about $220 million to construct. Many suspect that the pipeline's diameter was reduced from 1,420 mm to 700 mm under pressure from Russian energy giant Gazprom, which purchased a majority share in the Armenian section of the pipeline through its subsidiary, Armrosgazprom. If the pipeline had been built at the initial diameter, it would have allowed Iran to export to markets in Europe, thereby competing with Russia's own natural gas industry. According to the minister, an agreement will soon be signed over the tariffs of gas supplied from Russia. The negotiations are ongoing, he said, adding that it is too to speak about the new tariffs. The first section of the pipeline started operation on 20 December 2006, and was officially inaugurated by the Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Robert Kocharyan of Armenia on 19 March 2007.


Iran, Armenia and Russia to Investigate New Oil Pipeline Construction Project

Azerbaijan, Baku, 12 September / Trend Capital / According to the Armenian Industry and Energy Ministry, Iran, Armenia and Russia investigate the joint oil pipeline construction project. This was reported by Iranian Isna agency. “At present, the trilateral special commission from Armenia, Iran and Russia on construction of an oil refining in Armenia, has commenced investigation to lay an oil pipeline,” Armen Movsisyan, the Armenian Industry and Energy Minister, said. The oil refining, which is expected to be built in Armenia, will produce 7mln tons oil per year. Construction’s cost is $2.5bln or $3bln.


Armenia, Turkey Sign Energy Deal

Armenia has signed a deal to supply electricity to Turkey from the beginning of 2009, Armenian Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said Wednesday. Movsisian told reporters that the deal will see electricity from Armenian thermal power plants supplied to eastern Turkey. "An agreement on this was reached during the recent visit of the Turkish President Abdullah Gul," he said."Turkey is a new market for Armenia, as Armenia last supplied electricity to this country during the Soviet period." Discussions to begin selling energy to Turkey, which Armenia currently has no diplomatic ties with, took place during Turkish President Abdullah Gul's visit to Yerevan over the weekend to watch a soccer match between the two countries' national teams. The deal was signed between Armenia's state-owned High Voltage Electricity Network company and a privately owned Turkish firm called UNIT, Movsisian said. He said the infrastructure was in place on the Armenian side to deliver the electricity but that repairs to transmission lines and the installation of a new transformer in Turkey would take four to five months. He said Armenia would initially supply 1.5 billion kilowatts per hour of electricity to Turkey and that the amount would eventually increase to 3.5 billion kilowatts per hour.

Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan said Wednesday that if Turkey and Armenia forge diplomatic ties and are seen to have good relations, other countries could well stop passing resolutions condemning Ottoman Turks for committing genocide against their Armenian population in 1915-1923. Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said in a television interview that after the Turkish president's breakthrough visit to Armenia on Saturday, the two countries had stepped up efforts to resolve their differences. Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were massacred in 1915-28 in Ottoman Turkey in the first genocide of the 20th Century. About 20 parliaments have passed resolutions reiterating this fact. Turkey denies any genocide, saying the death toll has been inflated and the dead were victims of civil war and unrest. Turkey lobbies vigorously against any legislature that handles a bill that recognizes the Genocide.

Last year, President George W. Bush narrowly prevented the passage of a nonbinding resolution to that effect in the U.S. Congress. He warned lawmakers that it would imperil Turkey's logistic support for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in protest over its support for Nagorno Karabakh's struggle for independence from Azerbaijan, a Turkish ally. In addition, Mount Ararat and much of eastern Turkey is western Armenia. "If we manage to make rapid progress in our initiative to solve the problems," Babacan told the local channel NTV, "then there will be no need for third country parliaments to discuss these issues. We can tell them: 'Mind your own business. Armenia and Turkey are getting along well.'"

He declined to say which problem the two governments would tackle first, saying all the issues must be laid on the table. Armenia "has a solution-focused position," Babacan said. "There is a political will on both sides for a solution." He added he might take part in a tripartite meeting with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York. Turkey's closure of its border with landlocked Armenia is known to have hurt the smaller country's economy.


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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.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.