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Crossroads visits South Caucasus

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 13
On August 16, Turkish president Abdullah Gul will visit Baku; on 19-20 August Russian President Dimitry Medvedev will visit Yerevan. These two countries – Turkey and Russia have become rather active in the south Caucasus following 08/08/08. Seemingly they behave like partners, yet analysts assert there are serious problems between them which will become increasingly evident as time passes. There is the opinion that the almost simultaneous visit of the Russian and Turkish leaders to the capital cities of their strategic partners shows a demonstration of support for, rather than an attempt to resolve the Karabakh conflict. Russian analysts suggest that Turkish activation of its policy in the South Caucasus is aimed at gaining leadership, which will inevitably lead to confrontation between Turkey and Russia. So far Turkish efforts in this direction have been rather successful. Russian political analyst Federov Lukianov thinks that while Turkish claims for leadership in the region are quite understandable, they mean that at some point it will confront Russia, although not in the near future.

Meanwhile Turkey should develop its relations with all participants in the region including Armenia. However here Turkey faces the Karabakh issue; Ankara cannot afford to lose its strategic partner Azerbaijan and under these circumstances it is very difficult to have good relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia simultaneously.

Today Baku has become a very important player in the energy sphere, bringing a serious stake to the table. The only thing which Turkey has managed to achieve is that it initiated the game on its own field, in its region. Both Presidents have multiple goals for their visits. It is likely that during President Gul's visit to Baku, abolishing the visa regime between two countries will be discussed. Presumably further cooperation in the energy sector and regional issues will be touched upon, while of course the Karabakh conflict will be the main issue.

During his visit to Armenia, the Russian president will inspect the 102nd military base in Gyumri, which according to a recent agreement between two countries will now be securing Armenia’s safety. Medvedev will also participate in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation summit which will be held on August 21. The major obstacle to establishing peace between the two countries, Armenia and Azerbaijan is Karabakh; neither side wants to make concessions and neither of their strategic allies is going to force them to do so. Thus the same issue appears to be the most important subject of discord between not only Azerbaijan and Armenia but now Russia and Turkey.

Viktor Yakubin, analyst on the Caucasus region is confident that a confrontation in the region between Russia and Turkey is an historic inevitability.

Meanwhile, what is Tbilisi’s position? Azerbaijan has its protector – Turkey, and Armenia has its mentor who has officially declared that it will defend Armenia militarily if needed. We in Georgia know what that means and our question is, 'Who will protect Georgia?' August 2008 showed the answer to be nobody, despite Georgia’s western orientation and its devotion to western values – the real reasons for the Kremlin’s punishments against Tbilisi. Thus it seems everyone in the region has managed to find a niche in which to harbour itself, apart from Georgia. Naive Georgians ask that if Russia is officially claiming to protect Armenia’s safety, then why can't Georgia find a worthy and capable protector?