Hurriyet Daily News
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The new natural gas deal signed between Turkey and Azerbaijan on June 7 necessitated the new stage of the relations between the two brotherly countries not only from an economic aspect, but also in terms of political and regional cooperation.
By undertaking the commitment to send gas to Turkey more than needed, Azerbaijan turned on the green light to selling the gas to Greece and Italy, and thus made Ankara not only the buyer, but also the seller of the gas market.
The deal has given the support to make Turkey the significant actor of the region in the field of regional cooperation. The visit of Vladimir Putin to Istanbul when the Turkey-Azerbaijan gas deal was signed should be assessed in this context. Because when the opening of Turkey-Armenia border was on the agenda in spring in 2009 and the relations with Azerbaijan became cooler, Russian President Medvedev came to Baku early in July and signed a 500 million-cubic meter gas deal. Though most of the political observers regarded the Russia-Azerbaijan deal as “Turkey’s absolute failure,” President İlham Aliyev said with restraint the 500 million-cubic meter gas deal was the “realization of Azerbaijan’s demand for forming market conditions.”
Both Azerbaijan’s restraint behavior and Turkey’s “stipulation on release of Karabakh from occupation” in the opening of Turkey-Armenia border made Turkey and Azerbaijan sit for talks again with self-confidence inherited from the genetic codes of the Baku-Ankara brotherhood. The deal that brought Turkey and Azerbaijan closer on the economic and political aspect will make Russia seriously take into account the Turkey-Azerbaijan factor in its policy in the South Caucasus.
The point reached makes the beginning of one of the most important stages in the relations of Azerbaijan, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Turkey. To date Turkey and Russia have twice demonstrated “good will” on the cooperation in the Caucasus. Though when Armenia occupied Azerbaijan’s territories in summer 1993, Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, in order to reduce the dose of the support for the aggressor, said, “We are viewing the Caucasus from the same window,” it appeared that serious economic and political causes were not formed so that Moscow and Ankara can “view the Caucasus from the same window.”
Later, the interest in the Caucasus by Turkey, which left OSCE Minsk Group, took roots from former President Süleyman Demirel’s personal “friendship and brotherhood” pathos and the relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan especially could not be institutionalized. The only project that should be excluded here is the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, in which the late President Heydar Aliyev played a great role by overcoming all obstacles.
Turkey made the second attempt for cooperation with Russia in the Caucasus on Sept. 12, 2008. Though Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sept. 2, at the press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan that “The ‘Platform of Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus’ consists of only one idea,” he noted that “technical discussions” concerning the proposal might start.
But Lavrov’s serious accusations against Georgia reduced hope for the “technical discussions.” Turkey hosted the “technical discussions” in November, but Armenia’s refusal to give up its aggressive position brought the process to the deadlock. At present it is difficult to get satisfactory information about the stage of the discussions around the “Platform of Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus.”
While approaching the recent gas deal signed between Azerbaijan and Turkey from this aspect, the importance of the process has become obvious. After the signing of Azerbaijan-Turkey gas deal, the ambition of power observed in the cooperation proposals of the countries of the South Caucasus and the interested states, and full support for Armenia can and should give its place to the intentions of real cooperation.
This agreement made Azerbaijan an important seller of the gas market of the region and offered Turkey opportunity to have a say in the further processes in the South Caucasus. According to the opinion of the Turkish experts we have contacted with, Azerbaijan and Turkey have become key players for Nabucco project after this agreement.
The dynamism of the June 7 deal should not give its place to being static: taking this opportunity Baku and Ankara should immediately conclude agreements on visa-free travel, free trade and security.
We respect Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s words citing Mehmet Akif Ersoy, the author of Independence March, “The Arab is the right eye, the right hand of the Turk; the Turk can not live without the Arab.”
However, if the Honorable Erdoğan looks more attentively at the Turkic world, especially Azerbaijan and the relations between the two fraternal countries are supported by strong agreements, then Mr. Erdoğan will see that the “Turk is Turk.”
* Vusala Mahirgizi is the general-director of the Azerbaijan Press Agency, or APA.