ANKARA (Hurriyet)–A report launched late Wednesday by an Ankara-based think tank urged the Turkish government to engage in relations with the Georgian breakaway republic of Abkhazia.
“The aim of this report is to question isolation policy and promote engagement by looking to the region as an economic entity,” said Burcu Gültekin Punsmann, the lead author of the report “Abkhazia for the Integration of the Black Sea,” which was drafted by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV).
Economic sanctions are policy tools used by governments to constrain business activity across borders with intended policy outcomes, according to the report, which underlined that cooperation was the key factor in ensuring success.
“Maximum amount of harm was inflicted on the population of Abkhazia during the period of the Russian Federation’s full cooperation with the embargo decision. Attempts of Turkish businessmen from the Black Sea coast to infringe the sanctions, either guided by profit or moral concerns, could bring a relative degree of relief,” it read.
In 1996, Abkhazia was virtually cut off from the outside world. The dire situation of the war-ruined economy was further exacerbated by the Russian-Georgian maritime and land blockade, which caused economic and social disruption.
Turkey responded positively to the call to impose economic sanctions on Abkhazia and canceled direct cruises between the ports of Trabzon and Sukhum in 1996. Today, the maritime link between Turkey and Abkhazia is officially closed. Turkey is justifying its compliance with the isolation regime as respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia.
“Turkey can become an important actor to end the isolation of Abkhazia,” said Punsmann, stressing the fact that Turkey was as important for Abkhazia as Russia in terms of foreign economic relations.
“It is time for both the Turkish and Georgian governments to find practical ways to open up to Abkhazia and promote more active, more pro-engagement policy toward Abkhazia,” she said.
Abkhazia, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, declared independence in the wake of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, but is recognized only by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru and by South Ossetia and Transnistria. The latter two republics are also unrecognized.. Georgia considers Abkhazia to be part of its own territory.
“We have no other choice but re-integration,” said Güven Sak, managing director of TEPAV. He underlined TEPAV was not taking a position toward political problems, but instead offering economic opportunities that could prepare the ground for a settlement to political disputes at the end of the day.
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