Turkey: very active in the Caucasus region

The mil­i­tary con­flict in Geor­gia (aka the 5‑day war) has been debat­ed large­ly in Turkey by civ­il soci­ety organ­i­sa­tions, polit­i­cal par­ties and the media. After the out­break of war in South Osse­tia, the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment pur­sued a very active for­eign pol­i­cy in the region. After Nico­las Sarkozy’s vis­it to the region, Turk­ish Prime Min­is­ter, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, paid vis­its to the coun­tries involved and the For­eign Min­istry of Turkey revi­talised the idea of the Cau­ca­sus sta­bil­i­ty pact under the name of “Cau­ca­sus Sta­bil­i­ty and Coop­er­a­tion Plat­form” in order to secure sta­bil­i­ty by involv­ing Rus­sia, Turkey, Geor­gia, Azer­bai­jan and Arme­nia in the process.

Caucasus stability pact

The idea of the Cau­ca­sus sta­bil­i­ty pact dates back to late the 1990s and ear­ly 2000s. Süley­man Demirel, as the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent of the time, sug­gest­ed estab­lish­ing a Cau­ca­sus sta­bil­i­ty pact under the umbrel­la of the OSCE which would be sig­nif­i­cant in increas­ing the inter­na­tion­al community’s atten­tion towards the region while increas­ing the dia­logue and pos­si­bil­i­ty of sta­bil­i­ty in the Cau­ca­sus. How­ev­er, incon­ducive inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­ment hin­dered the devel­op­ment of this idea although the US, France, Ger­many, the UK, Ukraine, Azer­bai­jan, Geor­gia, Rus­sia, Arme­nia and the EU respond­ed pos­i­tive­ly to this initiative.

When the Geor­gian war com­menced in August 2008, the AKP[1] gov­ern­ment revis­it­ed this idea and per­ceived it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to act as a region­al actor/leader in the solu­tion of the cri­sis. Besides, this plat­form was per­ceived as a cru­cial tool in nor­mal­iz­ing rela­tions between Arme­nia and Turkey. It should be men­tioned here that although the plat­form was wel­comed by civ­il soci­ety rep­re­sen­ta­tives and main­stream media since it cre­at­ed an envi­ron­ment con­ducive for dia­logue in the region, it was also empha­sized that Turkey should not put a lot of hope in this Platform.[2] The Turk­ish government’s efforts in the region in estab­lish­ing this plat­form and steps tak­en by the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent, Abdul­lah Gül, and the gov­ern­ment of Turkey in nor­mal­is­ing rela­tions with Arme­nia, shad­owed the NATO and the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy per­spec­tive of the debate.

Perspectives on the war

In the media the out­break of war and the role of the USA in the region took up a lot of room. It was believed that the Geor­gian gov­ern­ment act­ed with the con­sent of the Amer­i­can government[3] and Amer­i­can poli­cies in the region have been con­sid­ered as the con­tin­u­a­tion of her poli­cies in the Mid­dle East. The era has been iden­ti­fied as the ‘new Cold War era’ in which the rela­tions between the USA and Rus­sia are rede­fined and restructured.[4] The cri­sis has been under­stood as a result of Russia’s dis­con­tent about the Amer­i­can poli­cies in the region. NATO’s enlarge­ment towards the coun­tries of the region and EU’s increas­ing atten­tion to the region were cre­at­ing dis­com­fort in Russia.[5] Lim­it­ed com­ments on the issue empha­sised that con­flicts in the Cau­ca­sus should be solved by the coun­tries in the region and the exter­nal actors like the EU and the USA should be kept away from the region­al con­flicts while the Russ­ian aggres­sion should be prevented.[6] Turkey empha­sized the impor­tance of the ter­ri­to­r­i­al integri­ty of Geor­gia but at the same time refrained from pro­vok­ing Russia.

EU’s role in the region

The EU’s role in the region has been debat­ed, but lim­it­ed. The EU has been per­ceived as an enti­ty try­ing to act sep­a­rate­ly from the USA and Turkey wel­comed the EU’s efforts in its neigh­bour­hood to increase sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty. How­ev­er, con­fi­dence in the EU’s capa­bil­i­ties has been low and there­fore, the EU’s efforts in pur­su­ing an active pol­i­cy in the region were per­ceived as per­son­al efforts of Nico­las Sarkozy.[7]

 

 

 

[1] Adalet ve Kalkın­ma Par­tisi – Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party.
[2] İ. Türk­men: ‘Kafkasya’da yeni jeopoli­tik tablo’, Hür­riyet, 16 August 2008; C. Ülsev­er: ‘Kafkaslar mese­le­si (I)’, Hür­riyet, 3 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[3] M. Asik: ‘Haber Carsafi’, Mil­liyet, 22 Feb­ru­ary 2008.
[4] C. Çan­dar: ‘Çır­pınırdı Karad­eniz’, Hür­riyet, 1 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[5] S. İdiz: ‘Türkiye bu krize seyir­ci kala­maz’, 9 August 2008; S. Kohen: ‘Balkan­lara karsılık Kafkaslar’, Mil­liyet, 13 August 2008.
[6] C. Ülsev­er: ‘Kafkaslar mese­le­si (I)’, Hür­riyet, 3 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[7] S. Ogan: ‘Gürcis­tan Savaşı ile AB Küre­sel Aktör Haline Gelirken NATO Ne Yapacağını Tartışıy­or’, 19 August 2008, avail­able at: http://www.euractiv.com.tr/genisleme-ve-komsular/analyze/gurcistan-savas-ile-ab-kuresel-aktor-haline-gelirken-nato-ne-yapacagini-tartisiyor (last access: 12 Jan­u­ary 2009).