Turkey: very active in the Caucasus region

Turkey
Center for European Studies / Middle East Technical University
 
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... (last access: 12 January 2009).