Friday, 22 August 2008

Commentaries on aftermath of Russian-Georgian conflict

Caucasian pipelines

The dangers of the safe route
Aug 14th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Georgia’s pipelines to the West weren’t bombed but they remain vulnerable

IT’S not just the Russian-Georgian conflict that has made August such a rotten month for the West’s favourite oil pipeline. On August 5th a pumping station on the 1,100-mile (1,760km) Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in eastern Turkey was set ablaze. The PKK Kurdish separatists claimed responsibility. The entire route, which had been carrying 850,000 barrels of Caspian crude oil a day to Western markets, shut down and world oil prices, which had been falling, nudged up again. BP, which spent $4 billion on BTC and still manages it, put a brave face on things, saying that the disruption would be temporary. But the station was still burning when Georgia and Russia went to war two days later.

The company’s other oil pipeline, Baku-Supsa, carrying crude to Georgia’s Black Sea coast (now blockaded by Russian warships), had only recently re-opened but was also forced to shut down. On August 12th, even as the conflict was fading, BP stopped putting gas into the Baku-Erzurum gas pipeline. The only pipeline from Azerbaijan that was fully operational this week is the one running through Russian soil to the port of Novorossiisk.

For the past decade Georgia has been championed as a reliable country through which new pipelines, safely controlled by Western companies, could bypass both Russia and Iran. On the face of it, the past week has made a mockery of that claim. But not completely. Georgia will point out that its energy infrastructure survived the war unscathed: no pipeline was bombed. Russia, mindful of the need for good relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, has been careful to point out that this was not an oil war.

Yet the crisis—including the dangerously unresolved dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh—raises wider issues. South Caucasus is supposed to be the location for the next generation of so-called “fourth corridor” projects, by means of which Western strategists dream of ending Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and getting Caspian gas to European markets.

The jewel in this scheme, the Nabucco pipeline—designed to ship Caspian gas to Europe in 2013—is already in trouble for lack of unequivocal European support, a rival Russian scheme called South Stream and the fact that there is no major Western energy company based upstream in Turkmenistan to lobby for the deal. One of the first foreign-policy initiatives by Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, was to court Azerbaijani and Turkmen leaders in order to persuade them to sell their gas to his country. With an eye on events in Georgia, they must now decide how to respond to his friendly advice.

Yasemä°N Congar
Turkish Daily News
Aug 18 2008

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's proporsal of a Project for
Stability and Cooperation in the Caucasus is a blind shot. It is an
initiative easy to criticize for being an empty shell or destined
to remain as merely words when one looks to its foundations. There
might be some truth in these criticisms too, but I think these do not
diminish the importance of Ankara's offer. I do not count the hasty
and raw appearance of Erdogan's offer, which was presented to Russian
and Georgian presidents, and that will be shared with Azerbaijani
president next week, as a fatal weakness. Even being able to say
that "the initiative may spark a fresh and multilateral talk in the
region," saves Ankara's proposal from being futile, it even makes it
an intelligent one.

This plan must be strengthened with efforts to normalize relations
between Yerevan and Turkey. The time and ground are ripe for such
an attempt. The impression Ankara left on me is that President
Abdullah Gul will go to Yerevan on Sept. 6 to watch the 2010 World
Cup qualifying match between Turkey and Armenia. Armenia's decision
to exempt Turkish spectators from visa requirement between September
1 to 6 is an important gesture towards facilitating Gul's visit and
creating a better atmosphere for the trip. I think that Erdogan and
his close circle developed the Caucasus Project while bearing in
mind that Armenia must have a place in it and with a possibility of
opening the way for normalizing relations with Armenia in their heads.

If my opinion is right, Erdogan will go to Baku as a determined leader
to break de facto Azerbaijani blockade on Turkish foreign policy
decisions next week. While offering his "blind shot" to Aliyev, he
will emphasize the need to start a regional dialogue for solution
of problems in Nagorno Karabakh, just as in the North and South
Ossetia. It is imperative that the limited dialogue between Armenia
and Turkey give way to regular diplomatic ties for his conversation
to have a meaning.

Agence France Presse -- English
August 16, 2008 Saturday 3:38 PM GMT
Turkey 'no enemy' to Armenia: Gul
ANKARA, Aug 16 2008

President Abdullah Gul sent a reconciliatory message to neighbouring
Armenia on Saturday, saying Turkey is "no enemy" to any country in its
region, as he mulled a possible landmark trip to Yerevan.

The conflict between Georgia and Russia shows the need for "early
measures to resolve frozen problems in the region and... prevent
instability in the future," said Gul in televised remarks in the
central city of Nevsehir.

"This is our understanding on all problems. We are no enemy to anyone
in the region," he said, reiterating a Turkish proposal to set up a
regional forum for stability in the Caucasus.

Gul's conciliatory remark came in response to a question on whether he
would accept an invitation by Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian to go
to Yerevan in September to watch a World Cup qualifying match between
Turkey and Armenia.

He replied he was still evaluating the invitation.

Ankara has refused to establish diplomatic ties with Yerevan since the
former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991 because of Armenian
efforts to secure international recognition of Armenian massacres
under the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

In 1993 Turkey shut its border with Armenia in a show of solidarity
with its close ally Azerbaijan, then at war with Armenia, dealing a
heavy economic blow to the impoverished nation in the strategic
Caucasus region.

Diplomats from Turkey and Armenia met secretly in Switzerland in July
in a fresh effort to normalise ties following three rounds of talks in
2005 and 2006. No progress is so far publicly known.

Turkish and Armenian leaders have meanwhile met on the sidelines of
international gatherings, including a Black Sea regional summit in
Istanbul last year.

Armenians claim up to 1.5 million of their kin were killed in
orchestrated massacres during World War I as the Ottoman Empire,
Turkey's predecessor, was falling apart.

Turkey rejects the genocide label and argues that 300,000 Armenians
and at least as many Turks died in civil strife when Armenians took up
arms for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with invading
Russian troops.

Haykakan Zhamanak , Armenia
Aug 12 2008
The conflict is defrozen

The dramatic developments in neighbouring Georgia in recent days and
the hostilities which claimed thousands of human lives are bound to
cause serious concern and analysis in other countries of the South

In fact, we witnessed how one of the frozen conflicts in the region
exploded in a few hours and this will affect settlement of other
conflicts. As the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict was almost equated to the
South Ossetian, Abkhaz and Dniester conflicts from the point of view
of international perception and presentation during the last years,
the events that took place in South Ossetia are crucial for Nagornyy
Karabakh and Armenia in this regard. Analysts believe that the
practice of military settlement of the regional conflicts after a
ceasefire that lasted for years is causing concern.

Comments by Azerbaijani, Armenian analysts

Meanwhile, there are opinions that irrespective of the outcome of the
events in Georgia, they have already created a precedent, successful
or not, and can influence to some extent the further policies of the
states involved in the regional conflicts. We have already reported
that that during the first hours of the hostilities a certain
inspiration and activity could be seen in Azerbaijan, statements were
made from there that Azerbaijan should also follow Georgia's example
- to restore its territorial integrity. Yesterday [11 August]
Azerbaijani political analysts and experts discussed this topic
again. In particular, an Azerbaijani political analyst Ilgar
Mammadov, called upon the Azerbaijani government to provide support
to Georgia, as "Georgia's success is important for Azerbaijan". He
said that "Azerbaijan should provide full support to Georgia, and
military support, if necessary. Only in that case we will manage to
oust Russia from the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan can have an advantage
in the Nagornyy Karabakh conflict and carry out hostilities - to
settle the conflict only after it ousts the Russian Federation."

An Azerbaijani military expert, Yasar Cafarli, said that Azerbaijan's
economic strengthening irritates Russia, and while choosing its
actions, Azerbaijan should take into account that Russia can at any
moment attack Azerbaijan as well. "The Kremlin understands that if it
yields South Ossetia to Georgia, then a number of defeats will follow
this, separatists will be destroyed in Abkhazia, in Nagornyy Karabakh
and Dniester," Azerbaijani expert Akbar Hasanov wrote yesterday

The reaction to what goes on is, naturally, much more reserved in
Armenia. A political expert, Aghasi Yenokyan, believes that it cannot
be ruled out that as a result of the events in Georgia we will see
some change in Azerbaijan's policy; what is important is that the war
has brought about a few tendencies. The first one is the tendency of
military settlement of territorial disputes, the second one - creating
an updated and changed notion of sovereignty of the states in the
region. "Russia did not take into account any sovereignty, and we mean
not just that of South Ossetia, but the hostilities carried out beyond
its territory [in Georgia proper]," Yenokyan says, adding that
Azerbaijan might act like Georgia.

Official reaction

However, although opinions of political scientists and experts are
very important in such cases as they create a general understanding of
the sentiments in a specific country, official statements made by
governments are much more important. The Armenian and Azerbaijani
foreign ministries made corresponding statements on Friday [8
August]. Azerbaijan backed Georgia's territorial integrity and
announced that the South Ossetian issue should be settled based on the
principle of territorial integrity. The Azerbaijani government also
announced that they back the actions of the Georgian government in
South Ossetia and find those lawful and in compliance with
international law norms. The Armenian Foreign Ministry expressed
concern over what happened in Georgia and voiced hope that the issue
will be settled in a peaceful way.

[Passage omitted: The statement of the breakaway Nagornyy Karabakh
republic which calls to stop bloodshed and says that military
settlements of such issues has no future]

The head of the Nagornyy Karabakh's parliamentary committee for
foreign relations, Vahram Atanesyan, said yesterday [11 August] at a
news conference that Georgia's attempt to return South Ossetia has
failed. Atanesyan described Georgia's steps as an adventure, and
Russia's reaction as an equivalent. Atanesyan did not rule out that
the NKR government can provide humanitarian assistance to South
Ossetia, and also stressed that that the events showed that attempts
of military settlement of conflicts are doomed [to fail].

The most important one is the statement made yesterday [11 August ] by
the spokesman for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry [Xazar Ibrahim]
about continuing the negotiations on settling the Nagornyy Karabakh
conflict in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group. Accordingly,
Azerbaijan is not going to review the issue of Russia's chairmanship
in the OSCE Minsk Group due to the position of the Russian government
in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. However, what complicates the
situation is that the positions of countries can change at any time.


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