Statement Delivered at the Conference "Turkey’s South Caucasus Agenda: Roles of State and Non-State Actors"

Levent Murat Burhan 02.03.2012
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my distinct pleasure to join you today at this significant and timely conference on the South Caucasus and Turkey’s role in this important region. Before proceeding with my remarks on regional issues and Turkey’s directions and priorities vis-a-vis the region, I would like to thank the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) and their partner in Georgia, Eurasia Partnership Foundation, for organizing such an event in Tbilisi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Being at the crossroads between East and West as well as North and South for centuries, home to a multitude of different peoples, ethnicities, languages and religions and an ancient scene for perpetual struggle of power, South Caucasus is one of the most intriguing and challenging regions of the global political landscape.

The region, with its resources and strategic location between Asia and Europe has a huge potential. Unfortunately, this huge potential could not be fully utilized until now, mainly due to the conflicts between and within regional countries and the shortcomings in terms of political, economic and social development.

Persisting conflicts in the Southern Caucasus are elements of instability. These conflicts are deep rooted and are fed by ethnic and religious tensions, territorial disputes and lack of mutual confidence. As a result, they hinder genuine regional cooperation. The August 2008 conflict showed once again the danger posed by these “persisting conflicts”. Therefore, the present status quo is neither desirable nor sustainable in the long-term.

Today, having an enhanced strategic importance, where peace, stability and regional cooperation are most needed, South Caucasus constitutes a priority area in Turkey’s quest for peace, security and prosperity in its entire neighbourhood. This is so not only because we enjoy significant historical, cultural similarities and humanitarian bonds with the peoples of the Caucasus, but also because this small region, regrettably, continues to be destabilized and weakened by three major conflicts of the greater OSCE area, all of which remain unsolved for almost two decades.

Distinguished guests,

Turkey’s policy towards the South Caucasus aims to strengthen the sovereignty and independence of the countries in the region and facilitate peaceful solutions to the ongoing conflicts. In this sense, our priorities towards South Caucasus remain:

• Maintain regional stability and security,
• Explore means to find a just, viable and lasting solution through peaceful means to the current conflicts,
• Support independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the South Caucasus countries,
• Sustain and support their efforts towards democratization, developing free market economies and to pursue political reform including human rights,
• Encourage their vocation to integrate with European and Euro-Atlantic structures and international organizations,
• Promote regional and intra-regional cooperation,
• Establish and promote the parameters for bilateral and regional economic integration,
• Assist them to benefit unimpededly from their energy resources,
• Create the responsibility of regional ownership.

I would like to give some examples of our general approach towards the region, in terms of supporting security and stability and creating a climate of regional cooperation.

The first example is the normalization process with Armenia. I must emphasize clearly that Turkey remains committed to the normalization process with Armenia. We believe the normalization process is a unique historical opportunity to establish peace and stability in the Southern Caucasus.

The Protocols signed in Zurich on 10 October 2009 were rapidly forwarded to the Turkish Parliament for ratification. However, it should be borne in mind that the Turkish-Armenian normalization process and the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict are related and affect each other. The stalemate in the Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) conflict affects both regional dynamics and the Turkish-Armenian normalization process negatively.

To be sure; the Turkey-Armenia track and the Armenia-Azerbaijan track (NK) are to be negotiated separately. Each has its own dynamics. At the same time, as I mentioned, there is an undeniable interaction between the two tracks. We can make use of the fact that the two tracks are mutually reinforcing; a positive move in one track will facilitate progress in the other.

In expressing this idea we are not introducing pre-conditions for ratifying the Protocols. We are merely voicing an idea that the realities of the region put before us; an idea which is also in line with our positive vision for the region.

A second example which is complementary to the first one is our efforts to achieve a comprehensive stability environment in the Caucasus as a whole. We believe that unsolved conflicts in the South Caucasus are the main obstacles before peace and stability in the region. Immediately following the Georgian-Russian conflict in August 2008, we introduced an initiative within the context of the regional ownership and bring together regional countries of OSCE members. We have launched the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform (CSCP) initiative immediately after the outbreak of hostilities in August 2008. We believe that the CSCP is the right platform to address all regional problems.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While we have a holistic approach to the region, as the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Georgia for 2,5 years, I would like to say a few words on exemplary relations between Turkey and Georgia.

Our countries have special bonds of friendship, based on a common geography, history and culture. Georgia has been a reliable partner for Turkey both in the Caucasus and the Black Sea region. In fact, good-neighbourly relations we have developed so far are an example for other countries in the region and beyond. Moreover, our cooperation is a factor of stability and prosperity in our neighbourhood.

We are very pleased with the level of our bilateral relations and we wish to develop them even further in every field. When I say the level of our relations, I mean BTC, BTE (energy projects of strategic nature), BTK, in economic field FTA, one window model at the customs to be introduced soon, Batumi/Hopa joint airport, and recently crossing the border without passports, etc. These examples show the high level of mutual trust existing between our countries.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to reiterate Turkey’s support to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I would also like to underline our support to Georgia’s political, economic and social reforms as well her efforts towards integration with the Euro-Atlantic structures.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have strong brotherly ties with Azerbaijan and share common values, culture, language and history. Political, economic, social and cultural relations are at an excellent level between our friendly and brotherly countries. The "Agreement on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Assistance", signed on the occasion of the visit of the President of Turkey H.E. Mr. Abdullah Gül to Azerbaijan on 16-17 August 2010, reinforces the framework of multifaceted relations- political, military, economic, cultural, humanitarian, between the two countries based on a broader perspective for the future. The “High Level Strategic Co-operation Council” established on 15 September 2010, serves the aim of further widening the scope and network of bilateral relations.

We are engaged in massive regional cooperation projects like BTC oil pipeline, BTE gas pipeline and BTK railway project of which Georgia constitutes an integral and indispensable part.

Dear guests,

Before concluding my remarks, I would like to stress that in this region, Western and Turkish interests largely overlap. European security cannot be evaluated separately from the stability in South Caucasus. Turkey’s efforts to enhance regional cooperation and dialogue, thus promoting security and stability in the region, contribute at the same time to European security.

Distinguished guests,

The basis of Turkey’s vision towards the South Caucasus is enlightened by her dedication on the establishment of long-lasting and durable peace and stability in the whole region. We regard it a prerequisite for building a secure and prosperous future in the region first and foremost for the peoples of the South Caucasus.

I am confident that this conference will contribute to this aim by enhancing the mutual understanding between regional experts, bureaucrats, civil society representatives, diplomats and academics. In this regard, I would once again like to thank the organizers of this event. We appreciate the non-state actors efforts and encourage civil society involvement in the regional conflict resolution process.

I am sure we will have a constructive, thought provoking and mind stimulating fruitful debate today.

Thank you very much.

Pazartesi - Cuma

09:00 - 18:00

Konsolosluk Şubesi Vatandaş Kabul Saatleri: 09:30 - 13:00
1.1.2017 2.1.2017 Yılbaşı
3.1.2017 Anneler Günü
7.1.2017 Noel
19.1.2017 Vaftiz Günü
8.3.2017 Uluslararası Kadınlar Günü
9.4.2017 Şehitleri Anma Günü
14.4.2017 17.4.2017 Paskalya Bayramı
9.5.2017 Zafer Bayramı
12.5.2017 Aziz Andrea Yortusu
26.5.2017 Milli Gün
25.6.2017 Ramazan Bayramı
28.8.2017 Meryem Ana Günü
1.9.2017 Kurban Bayramı
14.10.2017 Svetitskhoveli Kilisesi Bayramı
29.10.2017 Cumhuriyet Bayramı
23.11.2017 Aziz Giorgi Yortusu