Armenia Takes Part in Istanbul Talks on Turkey’s Caucasus Platform

BAKU (Combined Sources)–Representatives from Armenia were in Istanbul Monday for talks on the creation of a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform, proposed by Turkey to manage relations in the volatile region, the Azeri Press Agency reported.

The conference, hosted by Turkey, was also attended by representatives from the foreign ministries of Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Representatives from the five countries met around this issue for the first time on December 4 on the sidelines of an annual OSCE Ministerial meeting in Helsinki.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Tigran Balayan told reporters in early January that a draft agreement on the platform had been prepared for discussion at the meeting.

With Turkey’s attempt to gain entry into the European Union effectively blocked, Ankara has been turning its attention to its near abroad, working diplomatically to bolster its position in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. Turkey’s push to create the regional platform to manage and mend relations in the Caucasus comes also as Turkey works to position itself as “Europe’s new energy corridor,” Voice of America reported on January 23.

Turkey is located between “Europe and approximately 70 percent of the proven oil and natural gas supplies in the world,” Ankara based energy analyst, Haluk Direskeneli told Voice of America earlier in January. But Turkey’s current plan to become a supply hub depends on the 7.9 billion euro Nabucco pipeline project. The pipeline aims to carry 30 billion cubic meters of gas from the Middle East and Caspian to Europe, via Turkey, each year.

The pipeline would need to traverse the volatile South Caucasus. The region is currently teetering on the brink of renewed conflict with tensions still high between Russia and Georgia while Armenia and Azerbaijan remain at a standstill over finding a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Monday’s meeting was set to focus on bringing the countries of the region closer together in a stability and cooperation platform touted by Turkey as a solution for securing the long-term stability of the South Caucasus.

Official Ankara announced plans to create the regional mechanism in August following Russia’s short but devastating war with Georgia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia. The month-long conflict caused the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline to temporarily shutdown, disrupting the flow of oil from the Caspian and threatening Turkey’s viability as a long-term solution to Europe’s energy needs. Turkey’s announcement of its ambitious platform coincided with Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Yerevan for talks with President Serzh Sarkisian during a soccer match in September. The meeting sparked unprecedented diplomatic activity between the two countries, raising possibilities that normal relations may soon follow.

The step up in Turkish diplomacy in the Caucasus comes as Armenia may be eyed as a transit route for energy pipelines shipping oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, Reuter’s said earlier in January. Relations between Armenia and Turkey as well as Azerbaijan and Armeni could be normalized this year, Reuters said, quoting Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan as saying. "It’s not a dream, it’s a realistic estimate to see the normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as Turkey and Armenia," he said..

It is hoped that a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, stability in Georgia, and the lifting of the Turko-Azeri blockade against Armenia will open up the safest, cheapest and quickest route for gas from the Caspian Sea, helping make Turkey a key energy hub in the region.


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