Chinese influence may reduce Turkey's role in Caucasus - Armenian paper

Ayots Ashkhar, Yerevan
28 Sep 04

Text of Sarkis Gevorkyan report by Armenian newspaper Ayots Ashkhar
on 28 September headlined "How can we excite China's interest?"

If we speak about the current relations between Armenia and China
and the prospect of developing them, unreal ideas and programmes
emerge sometimes, calling into question specific and real problems
in bilateral relations. From this point of view, Armenian President
Robert Kocharyan's visit to China could greatly promote the clarity
of these ideas by carrying out more specific and at the same time,
promising programmes.

A number of complex and often contradictory external and internal
factors have limited the possibilities of Armenian-Chinese strategic
cooperation for many years. We have only cooperated on individual
economic programmes, training specialists in the military sphere
and so on. At present, when the prospect for a serious change in the
balance of forces in the whole South Caucasus-Central Asia region is
becoming evident: the deployment of US mobile forces in Azerbaijan,
the sharp expansion of opportunities to export Kazakh and Turkmen
energy reserves via Azerbaijan to the West, blockading Iran from
the north and forming a special Turkic axis by strengthening mutual
integration between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Central Asia, the prospects
of stepping up China's role in the region are becoming more realistic.

China's more active involvement in the processes taking place in the
South Caucasus, as well as in Kazakhstan and Central Asia promises
to widen the directions of exporting fuel from the region, and to
noticeably reduce the capacity of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline and thus
to reduce its economic profitability. This will directly affect the
Azerbaijani president's plans to earn billions from Baku-Ceyhan,
because our neighbour's own energy resources cannot ensure the
profitability of that pipeline.

The balance of forces which is taking shape in the region today is
creating pre-conditions for opening a direct corridor between Turkey,
[Azerbaijani exclave] Naxcivan and Azerbaijan and for implementing
pan-Turkic programmes. In such conditions, China cannot be indifferent
to the strengthening of the "Armenian wedge", as it feels the danger
that the Turkic factor is being supported on its territory by external
forces. To tackle these problems, China will undoubtedly try to enter
actively into Central Asia, as well as into the South Caucasus.

There are also numerous other options for expanding China's influence
on the processes in the South Caucasus and deepening Armenian-Chinese
cooperation. Naturally, today's tendency towards changes in the
regional balance of forces cannot but worry China, because after the
South Caucasus, Central Asia is in fact the last obstacle in the way
to its border.

In such conditions, the problem of weakening external pressure on
Armenia and increasing our country's ability to resist may become a
serious impetus for deepening Armenian-Chinese cooperation today. On
this basis, the two countries' economic cooperation can be noticeably
expanded today. The potential of the Chinese market is so great that
by stimulating export and implementing joint programmes, Armenia could
achieve success in the mining and chemistry industries, as well as
in agriculture.

All this shows that today is the most convenient moment to switch
to more general and deeper mutual cooperation and to "synchronize
clocks" for the joint implementation of certain and specific strategic
programmes.

The reason is evident: any change of balance in the world, including
in our region, makes unavoidable the appearance of an opposing force
for forming a new balance.