From: "Katia M. Peltekian" <[email protected]>
Subject: ANKARA: Turkey lays out plans for Caucasian alliance

Hürriyet, Turkey
Aug 31 2008



Turkey lays out plans for Caucasian alliance as Georgian FM in
Istanbul

A Turkish delegation would visit Yerevan to hold meetings with their
Armenian counterparts to convey Turkey's proposal for a Caucasus
alliance, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Sunday after
meeting with his Georgian counterpart in Istanbul. (UPDATED)


Turkey's proposal was the country's latest effort to promote peace
between Georgia and Russia since they fought a war this month over
Georgia's separatist republic of South Ossetia.

Babacan hosted Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili, two days
before he is to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the
same city.

Georgia welcomed Turkey's proposal for a Caucasus alliance, Babacan
told a joint press conference with his Georgian counterpart
Tkeshelashvili. Georgian foreign minister, however, said her country
would only consider joining such a group after Russian forces leave
his country and fully apply the ceasefire.

Russian troops entered Georgia on August 8 to push back a Georgian
offensive to retake South Ossetia, which broke away from Tbilisi in
the 1990s with Moscow's backing.

Georgia and Russia accuse each other of having provoked the
conflict. Moscow has pulled out most troops after a French-mediated
ceasefire agreement but Tbilisi wants all Russian forces to leave the
country.

Babacan said Turkey supported its northeastern neighbor's territorial
integrity, and added the Caucasian countries had common futures.

He said Turkish-Georgian relations were grounded on a strong basis,
adding Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural
gas pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project are the natural
products of Turkey's strategic cooperation and neighborly relations in
South Caucasus.

"These projects, in fact, have linked the Caspian Sea with the
Mediterranean, Caspian basin with Anatolia and the Caspian Sea with
the Black Sea," he said.

Babacan also called on everyone to behave calmly after recent tension
and disagreements in the region.

"We all know from previous experiences that no one wins in such
tensions, and every one will lose something," he said.

Tkeshelashvili warned of a "domino effect" in the Caucasus region and
Ukraine after Russia moved troops into Georgia.

"Russia's military hostility against the small state of Georgia could
have a domino effect in other countries of the region like Ukraine,"
she said.

She accused Moscow of an "expansionist policy" and called on the
international community to back Georgia's territorial integrity.

GUL'S VISIT

The Turkish delegation would also discuss with Armenian officials
issues regarding a possible visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul to
Yerevan to watch a football match between Armenia and Turkey, Babacan
told the conference.

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has invited Gul to watch a football
match between the two countries' national teams on Sept. 6 to mark "a
new symbolic start in the countries' relations."

Turkish president said Saturday he is yet to make a decision on
accepting the invitation. However, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan said in the same day he wished Gul's visit would bring
positive results, hinting that Gul might have actually decided to
accept Sargsyan's invitation.

Erdogan also said Babacan would accompany the Turkish President during
the trip to discuss relations with Armenia.

Turkey is among the first countries that recognized Armenia when it
declared its independency. However there is no diplomatic relations
between two countries, as Armenia presses the international community
to admit the so-called "genocide" claims instead of accepting Turkey's
call to investigate the allegations, and its invasion of 20 percent of
Azerbaijani territory despite U.N. Security Council resolutions on the
issue.

A warming period had started between two neighboring countries after
the presidents exchanged letters after Sargsyan's election victory.