Gul Calls for Caucasus Union, Says ‘Essential’ for Peace in Region

ANKARA (Hurriyet)–Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul Tuesday echoed calls by his Prime Minister for the creation of a Caucasian Union, which he said would be essential for preventing the outbreak of future conflicts in the region.

Gul’s remarks come as Georgia is embroiled in an intense conflict with Russia that began after Georgian forces launched a surprise offensive in the breakaway territory of South Ossetia last Friday. The Georgian attack has resulted in the deaths of at least 1,600 people, most of whom were Russian citizens. It also attack triggered a Russian response that culminated in Russian forces seizing several key towns and a military bases deep in western Georgia on Monday.

"I believe it is important to form a Caucasian stability forum in the middle term," Gul told a press conference in Ankara after he was briefed by Turkish officials on the Russia-Georgia conflict.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s proposed on Monday that Turke immediately move to establish the union and include Russia as a member.

This proposal is seen as the latest step in Turkey’s intensified efforts to expand its influence in the region. Syria and Israel have been holding indirect talks under Turkey’s auspices. Ankara has also signaled that it is willing to work with Iran toward the resolution of an international row over Iran’s nuclear works.

Gul also said Turkey would continue its initiatives for the restoration of peace and stability in Georgia, adding his country attached high importance to Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

"I see as a positive development in the news that Russia has decided to halt its military operation in Georgia," he told the press conference.

"I hope this will swiftly develop into a ceasefire confirmed by both sides," he added.
He also said Turkey supported initiatives of the European Union, OSCE and U.N. Secretary General for the restoration of peace.

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