Relations with the Southern Caucasus Republics: The existance of the states who are independent, who have economical and political stability having in peace and harmony between themselves and providing political and economical support to these countries from the basic policies of Turkey for the Southern Caucasus Region. These are deep cultural and historical bonds with the region. On that sense, this region’s stability, peace and well being is particularly important for Turkey.
Within the scope of the EU General Affairs & External Relations Council Meeting held in Brussels on November 13th-14th, 2006, Cooperation Council meetings were held with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia and action plans within the frame of European Neighbour Policies were signed.
Together with the contribution of the regional cooperation projects, the relations and cooperations of Turkey with Azerbaijan and Georgia are increasing with high level respective visits.
Azerbaijan: Having developed a strong partnership with Azerbaijan since its independence, Turkey also avidly sup-ports Azerbaijan in its efforts to consolidate its independen-ce, preserve its territorial integrity, and to take its well de-served place in the international community and institutions.
Turkey wants a peaceful, lasting and just settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, which is the biggest problem for Azerbaijan, and is showing efforts for this purpose at bilateral level and within the frame of Minsk Group.
As well as the bilateral political relations established with Azerbaijan, bilateral commercial and economic relations are also developing very rapidly. Turkey is in the position of biggest investor in Azerbaijan, after the energy sector. Georgia: The relations between Turkey and Georgia are developing, on the basis of friendship and cooperation, within the frame of support and aid given to this country since the independence of Georgia. Multifaceted and comprehensive relations between the two countries have been developed, especially in the economic and commercial fields. It is aimed to increase the trade volume to 2 billion USD. Batum International Airport, which started to operate
on May 26th, 2007, is also used as a domestic airport by Turkey. Free Trade and Prevention of Double Taxing Agreements were signed in Tbilisi on November 21st, 2007.
Turkey believes that the political conflicts facing Georgia should be solved as soon as possible by peaceful means within the framework of the territorial integrity, political unity and sovereignty of Georgia. In this context, in order to diffuse the tension particularly in Abhazia and South Ossetia, Turkey has already expressed several times that she is ready to contribute to a peaceful settlement through dialogue. Turkey extends as much political and economic support as well as humane assistance as it can to Georgia. Turkey is also a staunch supporter of Georgia in international fora.
The projects of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Line (BTK), whose foundation was laid on November 21st, 2007, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum (BTE) and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Natural Gas Pipelines, which became operational, have made the region more attractive in terms of its strategic location.
Armenia: Turkey was among the first countries to recognize the independence of Armenia. Turkey also extended humanitarian aid to Armenia, who have faced economic problems, following its independence, showed efforts for Armenia’s integration with national institutions, the international community and western institutions. Within this frame, Armenia was invited to the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) by Turkey, as a founder member. But due to the attitude of Armenia which threatens regional stability and security, and which are totally against international law and good neighbourship, diplomatic relations were not established between the two countries.
So far, Turkey has started unilateral confidence building measures such as facilitating transit transportation and the realization of direct flights to Erivan.
Also, in 2005, a Mutual History Commission (MHC) to be established with the participation of the Armenian and Turkish historians was suggested, in order to investigate the 1915 events. But, because of the negative approach of Armenia, a solid development could not be achieved.
If possible, Turkey plans to establish MHC to investigate the 1915 events and to eliminate differences of interpretation, to undertake the mission of taking necessary measures for building confidence between the Turkish and Armenian nations, Turkey sees this as a useful mechanism to remove the hurdles between the two countries to develop bilateral relations.
Energy: Lying at the crossroads of various regions where three fourths of the world’s proven oil and gas resources are located, Turkey closely monitors the energy issues which occupy the top of the international agenda as a result of latest global developments in energy markets and pursues an active energy policy.
Forming an energy corridor between the countries with rich hydrocarbon resources and those with energyconsuming markets, Turkey’s general energy strategy is to become a transit state on both the East-West and the North-South axes as well as a trade center of energy. The other dimensions of Turkey’s energy strategy is to diversify energy sources in order to establish the security of energy supply and to utilize domestic resources in the most efficient way in order to reduce energy dependency abroad.
From the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) crude oil pipeline, the first component of the East-West Energy corridor, the first tanker was filled on July 4th, 2006 in Ceyhan. On June 16th, 2006, Kazakhistan also joined the BTC project officially. As of February 1st, 2008, a total of 288,5 million barrels of crude oil has been loaded into 363 tankers, officially.
The Baku-Tblisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline, the second largest project in the East-West axis also became operational on July 3rd, 2007.
With the activation of the Turkey-Greece-Italy Inter- Connector on November 18th, 2007, transportation of Azeri gas to Europe has started. With the completion of the Greece-Italy connection in 2011, Azeri natural gas will reach all the way to Italy, over Turkey. Works regarding the Nabucco natural gas pipeline projects are also continuing. The Samsun-Ceyhan (Trans-Anatolian) crude oil pipeline which will transport Caspian and Russian oil directly to the Eastern Mediterranean is among the projects that Turkey attaches high priority to. The Caspian Pass Natural Gas Pipeline has a great impor-tance in transporting the Turkmen gas to the global markets through alternative routes and there have been important achievements in this project within 2007. Turkey is also working on transporting the Iranian and Iraqi natural gas to the international markets. Also, it is foreseen to transport the Egyptian natural gas to Turkey and from here to Europe, over the Arabic Natural Gas pipe line, which is planned to become operational in 2009. With these projects, Turkey aims to become the fourth main artery in Europe for the natural gas, following Russia, Norway and Algeria. With the opening of the Turkey-Greece inter-connection network, a positive step has been taken in this direction.
Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC): The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) was established by an agreement signed in İstanbul on June 25th, 1992 and it is entirely the product of a Turkish initiative. The members of this organization are Turkey, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia and the Ukraine. The BSEC Charter signed by Heads of State and Government in Yalta on June 5th, 1998 came into force on May 1st, 1999 and BSEC formally became a regional economic cooperation organization. The fundamental aim of the BSEC is to develop commercial, economic, scientific and technological cooperation among member states by utilizing their geographic proximity and the complementary nature of their economies. The only decision-making body of the BSEC is the Council of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs (CMFA), which gathers twice a year and makes its decisions unanimously. The main duty of the Sessional Officials Meeting, representing foreign ministers of member states and acting on their behalf, is to implement the resolutions and recommendations of the CMFA and submit proposals to the CMFA. The founding stones of developing cooperation within the framework of the BSEC are the Working Groups of Experts. Working Groups, established with CMFA decision, submit recommendations as well as reports about their activities to the CMFA. Currently, 16 Working Groups are active particularly in the fields of transportation, energy, com-munication, science and technology. The Permanent International Secretariat of the BSEC is headquartered in İstanbul. The BSEC has four affiliated institutions: the Parliamentary Assembly of the BSEC, Business Council, Trade and Development Bank, and the International Center for Black Sea Studies. Furthermore, the Coordination Center for Exchange of Statistical Data and Economic Information, which was set up in the State Institute of Statistics in Ankara, collects and publishes statistical information about BSEC countries. Increasing cooperation within the framework of the BSEC has recently gained new dimensions. “The Economic Agenda for the Future” approved in 2001 constituted a roadmap which determines the priorities of the BSEC. In this context, a Project Development Fund has become operational with the aim of funding the feasibility studies of common projects produced by the BSEC countries. Furthermore the areas of activity of the Organization has been extended to encompass “soft security measures” such as combating organized crime, cooperation in combating natural disasters, and environmental protection.
One of the important items lately on the BSEC agenda is to form the institutional basis of a fruitful cooperation with the European Union which would yield concrete results. With this objective, in order to start a solid cooperation between the BSEC and the EU on a project basis, a “Black Sea region and EU Foreign Affairs Ministers Black Sea Synergy Meeting” was held in Kiev on February 14th, 2008.
The Term President directs the BSEC activities. Member states assume term presidency in alphabetical order for a period of six months. Turkey was the Term President for the period of May 1st-October 31st 2007 and launched new solid project proposals to develop cooperation within the BSEC
framework during its presidency. Turkey organized a summit in İstanbul on June 25th, 2007, on the 15th anniversary of the BSEC.