Saturday, 23 August 2008

Turkey – Armenia: “Positive gestures” amid activated diplomacy

Reports in Turkish press indicate that there is active behind the scene diplomacy going on (direct and indirect) between Armenian and Turkish counterparts under the framework of discussions for the ‘Caucasian Union’ Turkey-led initiative. While many rightfully doubt the viability of the proposal considering conflicts between member states, there are some indications that Georgia-Russia war led to the softening of rhetoric in Ankara and Baku. Moreover, as Turkish Daily News reports, “Turkey has prioritized Armenia's involvement in the regional cooperation mechanism.” (Perhaps, a sign of admission that their policy of imposing transport blockade to Armenia failed.) Whether this will remain a declaration or will get transformed into something more substantial remains to be seen. In any case, there are some “positive gestures” on the table, for now at least.

Turkey's proposal to create a stability pact in the Caucasus is helping improve Turkish-Armenian ties amid low-profile diplomatic contacts that have commenced between the two neighbors.

As questions linger over the fate of the Turkish-led proposal, due to conflicts between the potential members, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to communicate Turkey's proposal for a Caucasus stability pact with Armenia after a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, this week.

On another front, the deputy undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Ünal Çeviköz, is expected to hold talks with his Armenian counterparts regarding the Caucasus plan. Çeviköz was one of the Turkish diplomats who held secret talks with Armenian officials in Switzerland.

Turkey has prioritized Armenia's involvement in the regional cooperation mechanism. Diplomatic sources earlier told the Turkish Daily News that it was Armenia that was most negatively affected by the Georgian-Russian war in the region and highlighted the importance of Yerevan joining the platform. […]

Turkey continues practice to ease airspace quota

Ankara's move to relax its airspace quota for Armenia is also considered another positive gesture toward Yerevan, in addition to considerations of aid to civilians.

Turkey decided to loosen its airspace quota for Armenia to allow easier access for humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia. The most visible aim is to contribute to aid efforts by facilitating the transfer of material via Armenia and to help civilians leave Georgia by using Yerevan as an alternative to Baku, which is already overcrowded.

European countries mostly used Georgian and Russian air space before the war. Charter flights from Istanbul and Trabzon to Yerevan were already available; now all planes flying to and from Yerevan are granted flight permission. The TDN learned that the practice is still ongoing and this liberal air space quota may be kept in place while progress in the betterment of Turkish-Armenian ties gets clearer in the upcoming period.


artmika said...

The Economist has relevant article:
Turkey and the Caucasus
Waiting and watching

artmika said...

Today's Zaman reports that intensive diplomacy re 'Caucasian Union' continues, and Russian foreign minister Lavrov will visit Istanbul next week, earlier than expected. Turkey doesn't seem shattered by Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In fact, Turkish press seems to me more critical to Georgia, and neutral to positive to Russia. Anyway, back to Today's Zaman reports:

"[...] As a result of these talks between Çeviköz and Titov, Lavrov decided to hold detailed talks with Babacan earlier than expected, Russian sources told Today's Zaman. Lavrov will arrive in İstanbul on Monday evening and have talks with Babacan on Tuesday, the same sources said, noting that Lavrov would depart from İstanbul following a joint press conference with Babacan. The concrete proposals were first briefly explained by Babacan to Lavrov on Friday when the former initiated a telephone conversation with the latter.

Ankara had already announced that officials from the Turkish and Russian foreign ministries would meet this week to work on the proposals and that Babacan and Lavrov will also meet in early September to review progress in the technical talks. Yet, both Russian and Turkish officials are still tightlipped concerning the content of Ankara's proposals, apparently due to the delicacy of the issue given the conjuncture in the region as well as the conflict between Georgia and Russia, which has led to global tension.

Ankara's proposal for the platform -- which is supposed to bring Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey around the same table -- came after a regional crisis erupted following a Georgian military offensive in its Russian-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia earlier this month. In the first half of August, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid successive visits to Moscow and Tbilisi and traveled to Baku last week to promote and gain support for the proposed platform. Both Georgian and Russian leaders said they would welcome the idea, while a joint statement released by Erdoğan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said Baku had approached the proposal "positively."

[...] Erdoğan disclosed Ankara's eagerness for Armenia's participation in a "Caucasus alliance," as he said it would greatly increase regional stability. He said the form of talks with Armenia would be set following Babacan's consultations with Lavrov. In an initial reaction, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said Yerevan welcomed the Turkish initiative."