Turkish Security Models for South Caucasus Region

Turkish Security Models for South Caucasus Region

Introduction

The changes made in the political map of the world in the ‘90s of the 20th century resulted in independence of the South Caucasus states and increased the significance of the region in respect of transit. These processes were accompanied by the fight of the influential players for keeping their authority in the area, which affected the situation in the region and stirred up the conflicts, the roots of which were taken yet back in the times of the Soviet Union. One of the most important issues of the political or scientific communities of the region, and not only of it, is to have a dialogue around these issues and make every possible effort for their resolution. Respectively, the works are carried out in this regard as intensely as possible. In recent twenty or so years even several models have been developed for these purposes.

There have been developed the following security models since the ‘90s of the 20th century[1]: the initiative of the president of Republic of Turkey, Süleyman Demirel about the stability in Caucasus, “Caucasus Stability Platform” offered again by Turkey a bit later in 2008[2], the initiative of the former president of Georgia Ed. Shavardnadze “Peaceful Caucasus”[3] , the proposal of the president of Armenia R. Kocharyan, “A Stability Pact for the Caucasus” initiated by Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2000 and announced at the conference held by Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Geneva, authors of which are – Sergiu Celac, Michael Emerson and Natalie Tocci[4], the initiative of Foreign Minister of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier[5].

In recent two decades, Turkish Diplomacy has successfully worked on the mentioned issues and has offered to the international society and, above all, the states of the region, its own visions on how to resolve the issues of the South Caucasus regional security. Turkey was a reliable ally of the USA against the Soviet Union in the period of Cold War. However, in the ‘90s principles of Turkish foreign policy were reviewed and its approaches in regard to the region (and not only) were consequently changed. Turkey yet as a regional actor, tries to demonstrate its influence within the South Caucasus and even displays respective initiatives.

International system and a new political order is still in the process of formation, though one might say that yet in the ‘90s, even with the background of not so big analytical debates, it was clear that the South Caucasus was essential and strategic region for Russia and Turkey. However, the USA representing a superpower of the planet did not let its influence to be ignored in the region and the regional geopolitics started to be formed in accordance to its version of energy policy.

During this process, Turkey appeared to be in a favourable position as it had a long experience in strategic partnership with the USA and the United States owed a favour to it (when it allowed NATO armed forces to make a base in İncirlik while fighting against the Soviet Union). Consequently, politically and economically strengthened Turkey actively started to participate in the political games of the region.

Two Turkish Models

Turkey – one of the strongest political actors of the South Caucasus – is, of course, interested in the settlement of the situation in the region and seeking of the ways for their resolution is a puzzle for Turkish diplomacy too. Respectively, from the nineties of 20th century to date it has tried to create a regional security model twice.

The first one: On January 16 of 2000 the president of Turkey, SüleymanDemirel announced an initiative of “A Pact for the Caucasus Stability”. One year earlier, president of Georgia Ed. Shevardnadze initiated the similar idea at the summit of 1999 in Istanbul.[6] The idea of the Pact was approved by the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia as well. R. Kocharyan even offerred a formula of the Pact to the international community: 3+3+2 i.e. the participants of the Pact should be the three countries of the South Caucasus (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia), the three neighbouring countried of the South Caucasus (Russia, Turkey, Iran) and the European Union and the USA.

In 2000, the CEPS raised a similar version of “A Stability Pact for the Caucasus” in Brussels[7], which became a subject of active discussion, but despite the many years of talks, the Pact realization and joint effort to reach peace in the region failed due to well defined negative attitude of Russia. Russia neither wanted the world community and Turkey among them, to be actively intervened in its sphere of interests, nor did it seek for achievement of peace in Caucasus. Despite the existence of a quite promising idea of partnership, none of the country leaders talked about the specific Pact. Finally, the realization perspective of this idea completely vanished.

The second one: The existing regional security models of the South Caucasus looked obsolete and needed changes and development of new, more flexible models, adapted to regional interests as well as seeking of the ways of its realization by joint efforts. Indeed, during the war of August of 2008, the only country which raised the regional security project was Turkey again. And the name of the project was – “Caucasus Security Platform”.[8]

Turkey, having used its experience and having reckoned that wide format of partnership and involvement of world influencial players (the EU and the USA) together with the regional countries did not work, and that this format made the process of negotiations even somewhat inflexible, this time it proposed to the states of the South Caucasus and the world political community a new alternative of relatively small format partnership.

The Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first declared about this initiative on August 11 of 2008 in Moscow at the meeting with the president Medvedev.[9]It was followed by special visits to Baku and Tbilisi and consultations with the parties to get united around the alliance.[10]

According to the new plan initiated by Turkey, participants of the security platform meant to be five countries – Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – 3+2 i.e. “Five Format”. Presumably the first version of it really did not mean involvement of neither international community nor the USA. However, a bit later it has appeared that, as R. Erdoğan stated, UN also had to be involved in the negotiations held in Alliance Format.

“Five Format” of the platform did not involve one of the regional players – Iran. The EU was also excluded from the partnership format. This idea of security seek, with the formula 3+2, led to dissatisfaction of the countries excluded from the format and neither was it acceptable for the countries of the region and first of all for Georgia. An indication has immediately been given in Tbilisi stating that Georgian side would not sit around the table of negotiation with the occupant country, the country which occupied about 20% of its territories. It was also unacceptable for it to have a dialogue without participation of strategic ally. However, during the visit of Prime Minister Erdoğan in Georgia, the president M. Saakashvili appreciated Turkey’s attempt of creating general mechanisms of security and told Ankara to go on with these efforts. Not only Iran, but political elite of Armenia was also concerned about the exclusion of Iran from the Caucasus Security Format. On September 4 of 2008, ArmenRustamian, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Foreign Affairs, dedicated a special press-conference to this topic and mentioned in his statement that not involvement of Iran in this format of Caucasian Platform meant to have a time-bomb put in the region, which could explode the existing security system at any time.

By the way, on September 17 of 2008 representative of the Embassy of Iran in Armenia, Kamal Zarek, named this initiative as imperfect and very hastily worked out in one of the Armenian newspapers, since according to him, it is impossible not to notice Iran when talking about ensuring of powers balance in the region. Iran’s exclusion from the format has reinforced the diplomatic office of this country. The Minister of Foreign Affairs ManouchehrMottaki held talks in Baku, Erevan and Moscow, as well as in Berlin in order to support peace and stability in the South Caucasus.

About one year later from raising the platform some changes have occured in the attitudes of Turkish side towards Iran: in the aftermath of the visit of  Prime Minister of Turkey to Iran in early November of 2009, the positions of these countries have significantly tightened: “Turkey as well as Iran, both are interested in the stability in Caucasus. Therefore the problems should be solved through cooperation of countries in the region” – said Erdoğan.[11]

Raising of the platform in “Five Format” itself implied that Turkey and Russia were meant to be in the role of guarantors for ensuring security in the region, though it should be noted that Russia was exactly the one, that did inflict a huge strike to the platform of regional security of Turkey. It is noteworthy that initiative of Turkey relied on respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia as well as other countries of the region. But, on August 26 of 2008 Russia inflicted a strike to the main principles by recognizing Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence. It was stated in Moscow that “we are dealing with completely different Caucasus. There already exist five states in the region, we have diplomatic relations with the four of them, as for Georgia it is temporarily suspended”.[12]

The initiative of Turkey was received by Washington without enthusiasm; according to Matthew Bryza, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, the US side has not even been informed about it. At first glance, it is hard to believe that the United States had not been informed that Turkey was raising a regional alliance creation initiative, though it is also possible that Turkey had been playing an independent game. On August 18 of 2008 the President of Turkey A. Gül in the interview with “Guardian” declared that the conflict in Georgia made it clear that the USA can no longer define the global politics and should start to share power with other countries.[13]

Conclusion

Despite the great efforts of Turkey, neither “Pact for the Caucasus Stability” nor “Caucasus Security Platform” has become a subject of real discussion, as the strategy of Russia to protect its own interests in the South Caucasus using any form and method, has devalued the basic principles of the platform on the territorial integrity of the states, raised by Turkey. Russian Foreign office certainly “supported” and hoped for conflicts settlement would enter into resolution phase, but in fact Russia differently understands security in the South Caucasus and puts every effort not to allow any other power’sincrease of influence in its so called area of strategic interests; as we remember that Russia even blocked the United Nations Observer Mission (UNOMG) and the OSCE International Observer Missions’ operation in Georgia. Thus, Georgian diplomacy made great efforts in order to improve the situation relatively and to ensure international transparency.

Nowadays, resolution of regional conflicts, proceeds through the mediation of international community instead of regional format: dialogue between Georgia and Russia is running in “Geneva” format and between Turkey and Armenia with the help of Switzerland. One might say that so far these dialogues have not resulted in any tangible consequences, though it has no other alternative.Does a way out of the impasse really exist? Orif quoting former presidential advisor on security matters Hillary Clinton, just “strategic waiting” is left? It should be emphasized that attempt of Turkey as well as any other interested party to find a key to resolution and lead the regional problems to stability has to be acclaimed.

Despite the fact that it has not been possible to find a format within which the issues topical to the region could be resolved and the failure of the commencement of dialogue for peace within the frames of the developed model,the processes that take place in the South Caucasus and the interest of the world community towards these processes show that it is a significant part of the international security system and an active dialogue is being held in this regard.

From the point of view of Georgia, only support of the USA and European countries must be welcomed and the indications, that Georgia as well as neighboring countries Azerbaijan and Armenia should be meant as an unified state when forming a new security system in the world or South Caucasus, must be appreciated. In the existing reality, the only solution for a small state is to work deliberately based on the well-developed security priorities.

Maia Manchkhashvili, PhD Candidate of Political Science, Tbilisi State University, Georgia

Please cite this publication as follows:

Manchkhashvili M. (August, 2014), “Turkish Security Models for South Caucasus Region”, Vol. III, Issue 8, pp.21-29, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=6661)

Endnotes

[1] Almost all of them are the working papers. So, we can not discuss the details of the present covenant.

[2] Ankara’s Caucasus initiative to gain impetus this week, 2008.

[3]ა.გეგეშიძე, „მშვიდობიანიკავკასიის“ ინიციატივადამისირეალიზაციისპერსპექტივები, გეოპოლიტიკა, თბ., 1999.

[4] Celac, Emerson and Tocci, 2000.

[5] Steinmeier Calls for International Probe Into Georgia Conflict, 2008.

[6] OSCE, 1999.

7 Celac, Emerson and Tocci, 2000.

[8] Stuck in a tight spot, Ankara calls for Caucasus pact, 2008.

[9]  Kanpolat, 2012.

[10] Erdoğan backs Georgian sovereignty, Caucasus platform, 2008.

[11] Стапислав Тарасов: Турция вводит Иран в “кавказское уравнение”, 2009.

[12]Россия не желает вмешательства третьих стран в процессы на Кавказе: мнение, 2008.

[13] Kinzer, 2008.

References

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ა.გეგეშიძე, „მშვიდობიანიკავკასიის“ ინიციატივადამისირეალიზაციისპერსპექტივები, გეოპოლიტიკა, თბ., 1999.

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