Pakistan Daily, Pakistan
Sept 1 2008

Turkey tries to promote peace in Caucasus region

Monday, 01 September 2008 01:08

Turkey has proposed forming a regional cooperation group to stabilise
the Caucasus region following the war between Russia and Georgia.

The group would include Turkey and four nearby Caucasus nations -
Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia - Turkish Foreign Minister Ali
Babacan said on Sunday.

Babacan detailed the proposal during a visit to Turkey by Georgian
Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili. She said Georgia would only
consider joining such a group after Russian forces leave her
country. `It is hard for us to consider cooperation without the
cease-fire being fully implemented,'' said Tkeshelashvili.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy crafted a cease-fire agreement
between Russia and Georgia after the war broke out on Aug 7 over
Georgia's separatist republic of South Ossetia. Georgia and some other
European nations say Russia has ignored the agreement's requirement to
return all forces to pre war positions. `We are waiting for Russia to
keep its promise first. We won't take part in cooperation before we
know Russia can be a reliable partner,'' Tkeshelashvili said.

The so-called Caucasia Cooperation and Stability Platform would also
include Armenia and Turkey's Muslim ally Azerbaijan, two South
Caucasus nations that are locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh,
Babacan said.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces
since a six-year conflict that erupted in the waning days of the
Soviet Union. Some 30,000 people were killed and about 1 million
driven from their homes before a cease-fire was reached in 1994.

Persistent gunfire along the Azerbaijan-Armenian border and in regions
near Nagorno-Karabakh has raised fears of a new war. Turkey has no
diplomatic ties with Armenia and the Turkish-Armenian border has been
closed for years. Turkey objects to Armenian forces' occupation of
Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia insists the deaths of about 1.5 million
ethnic Armenians in the early 20th century should be recognized as
genocide. Turkey says the number is inflated and that killings were
result of civil war. Babacan said he had discussed the cooperation
group with his Azeri counterpart, and that a Turkish delegation would
visit Armenia this week for talks about the proposed pact. Russian
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will also visit Turkey on Tuesday to
discuss Turkey's proposal, Babacan said.