Presentations at METU Panel “International Relations and Area Studies” June 17 2015

Presentations at METU Panel “International Relations and Area Studies”

June 17 2015

– Introduction to the Panel Discussions

Seyfi Taşhan

In this panel we will be studying part of the efforts of the Foreign Policy Institute in the field of area studies. According to US academic circles area studies are a form of translation and particularize seeking through analysis  of conditions and developments in the cultures  ans policies of other countries through a multi-disciplinary lense. Indeed this description of area studies will be quites relevant for the academic and government needs of such globally importtant countries like the US for develeoping their policies. In the case of Turkey, there is a different outlook. The need for area studies has changed both according to international conjuncture as they affect Turkey and for foreign policy needs.

During the Cold War years, Turkey was a marginal country in the mids of continents and Turkey’s main concern was how to secure its indeefendence and and bounderies. While it was threatened by a global power, it succeeded to establish an alliance with Europe and US through memberships in Council of Europe and NATO. During this period academic area studies were not much needed as Turkey’s  need for development of policy relied on its diplomatic network and alternative sources were looked upon.

However, the end  of the Cold War highly increased Turkey’s need for knowledge in newly created former Soviet countries and renwed interest in the Middle East and the Balkans. Particularly with regard to new Turkic Republics who looked  upon thşis country for friendship, assistance and guidance, the need for knowledge was highly critical for policy function. All through the Cold War, the Foreign Policy Institute was the unique private think-tank engaged in policy and area studies. Following the end of the Cold War, many new centres became involved in strategic and area studies.

During the Cold War and immediately before,Turkey’s main concern was security. Turkey was encircled by hostile group of nations all around. That was the Soviet Bloc that had territorial aims on Turkey and Turkey had sought alliance links to balance the Soviet power and succeeded  through  cooperation with the U.S. and eventually  an alliance with NATO. So, during the  Cold War if we look at our immediate neighbourhood we have  Greece and Bulgaria in the West. Bulgaria was dominated by Soviet Union and Greece we had problems. In the East we had Iran with which we had correct, serious but not necessarily warm relationship that has come through history. Moreover, developments in its Southern neighborhood also necessitated  particular focus on them.Relevant states,  Iraq and Syria were dominated by other factors that prevented good relations with Turkey as Baath parties were conducting policies close to the Socialist camp. Baath nationalism was also an obstacle to develop friendly relations with Turkey. On the other hand, the everlasting conflict  in Cyprus had negative impli,cations   on our rwelations with Greece. Regional problems when they up now and than, we look them from a reginal perspective. We could deal with developments in Greece through contacts within the European security arrangements. Beyond this immediate neighbors we reach  Russia itself, and than Moldova,Ukraine and Romania and in the south, to Eastern Medittarrenean  and certainly to North Africa.

The rest was coceived within the European context covering mainly 2 groups. m One is The Council of Europe when we became members in 1949 it was only 12 members and then the start of Turkey’s EU membership process  when we signed  the Ankara treaty in 1963  there were only 6 members. It was such an area fairly hostile, fairly unknown and we did not know what to focus our studies on. Ambassador Oktay Aksoy will deal with area studies we have conducted at this region. But let me tell you, this neighborhood now  numbers  20 which is fairly large for Turkey’s capacity to handle  the know-how required at the time and what we can study in these areas. And I say from the academic point of view that there practicaly was no sufficient contact with most of those countries. Academically they were living in another world, we were living in another world. We were more pro-european, our education system was  pro-euro-oriented  and  our main sources of study originated from Western University and Western think-tanks. Well, under these conditions Turkey relied on knowledge from these sources. Fortunately, we have an excellent diplomatic service. This diplomatic service provided ambassodors  such as  Mr.Hazar who was part of this diplomatic service until recently. They both can tell you their experiences much better than I do and this diplomatic service provided the Foreign Ministry and also the policy makers of Turkey with detailed reports about countries, their economies, their policies, their cultures where ever they served, their daily living, their education systems and every area they covered and send reports to Turkey. One regretable situation is that these reports, by nature, were confidential and could not be reached by the academia. Moreover, high government officials did not colloborate with think-tanks, in fact during Cold War years there were practicaly no think-tanks except the Foreing Policy Institute which started to function in early 1970s and this situation changed after the end of the Cold War. When we look around we see at least 20 countries that were suddenly opened to us. And then opening of our economy to other parts of the world provided need for Turkey to obtain wide ranging  area studies.

Central Asia was included in addition to our immediate neighbourhood. Relations with European countries was carried through EU and Council of Europe which increased its membersip opening to new countries in the European copntinent and the Eurasian geography. Later on, we started to look at Africa and  even to Latin America and Far East Asia. There are other areas that we will discuss. Ambassador Hazar will speak today on the ECO countries.  Now we have think-tanks dealing with Africa, that deal individually with Europe. One regretable thing is that these studies do not rely themselves on the excellent reports of our diplomatic representations in many parts of the world.They study these reports as they interest the Turkish foreign policy. They are not communicating it to the academia, unlike the Americans who cooperate with the think-tanks. In the U.S. I see when we have a round table meeting focused on a certain area, on a certain subject we see a diplomat sitting in those discussions, member of the State Department or Defence Department as the case sitting there explaining what the official point of view is  and how they can help the think-tanks organize their studies. Unfortunately, in Turkey it is not habitual to  benefit from this valuable source of activity and compilation of information.Well, I do not want to delve into this any further. It is a short introduction to our panel discussions. But all I can say to you is, during the Cold War we have organized seminars over specific area subjects, we have done a lot. I will request  Ambassador Aksoy to tell us what the Foreign Policy Institute have been doing.

Area focused activities of Foreign Policy Institue

Oktay Aksoy

Curiosity is behind the urge to discover new lands, to find out the other peoples and to get hold of the riches others possess.The rulers of empires have sent envoys, encouraged and even financed travellers to other lands.You need to have strategic objectives or ambitions to go beyond your own limited borders.That is how Marco Polo was financed by the Venitian Doge to reach the lands of Kubilai Khan, ruler of the East at that time.That is why countries like Holland, England, France, Russia, Poland and Hungary have established Oriental Studies Centres. That is why King of Sweden was presented by the dragoman at the Swedish Embassy in Constantinople,  Mouradgea d’Ohsson (nee Muradcan Tosunian) who later became the Swedish Envoy to the Sublime Court with a two volume book, “Tableau General de l’Empire Othoman”  narrating in detail the state of the Ottoman Empire in late 18th century, the habits and social structure of the Turks.

You may call these as early attempts for area studies, even though in some of them  it may not be easy to distinguish myth and reality.It has become more of a multidisciplinary research and study effort with the US getting more and more involved with the rest of the world, becoming more of a global power after the Second World War. They must have realized their ignorance of the developments in other regions and other countries. With the establishment of international relations departments in many universities they were also preparing the cadres for their foreign service, for their intelligence institutions, sometimes even for the media trying to feed the hunger of the public in world affairs.

Contrary to this curiosity and strategic ambitions of the Western powers, rulers in the Orient were hardly interested to know what the rest of the world was doing or even to learn more about the vast geography they were ruling. They were content with their possessions envied by the others.Ottomans were no exception. They were interested to learn of the  designs of the other rulers threatening their security. But not so much about  the other countries beyond their reach. Rare incidents are in 16th and 17th centuries when we see Evliya Çelebi (1611-1682) with his “Seyahatname” (travel book) telling in detail the cities and peoples the Sultan ruled. There was a famous scholar, Katip Çelebi (1609-1659) with his “Cihannuma” (a geographical ensyclopedia) writing about the other countries. And of course,  Piri Reis (1465-1554) with his “Kitab-ı Bahriye” narrating the many ports and cities he had reached and also drawing a world map including the newly discovered Americas. Rumour is that when he presented this map to the Sultan, the Sultan tore the map into half and kept the part of the map of the lands he was ruling for himself and strangely the other half, including the Americas was discovered in the Topkapı Palace library only in 1929 by a foreign scholar (Paul Kahle). We also have reports of the envoys, “sefaretname”, but not sufficient to be called an early area study.

Turks had more or less isolated themselves from the rest of the world until restructuring  eventually as a republic.And even than Turkey was more interested with its immediate neighborhood – leading to the Balkan Pact and the Sadabad Pact. Soviet Union was also a main interest and concern.

During the Cold War years Turkish interest beyond its borders were limited. It relied more on the studies made by its allies to whom it depended for its defence and security.After the Second World War choosing the side of the adversary of the Soviet Union for understandable reasons, Turkey felt the comfort of being a NATO member and closely following the general line of politics of the Western Powers during the Cold War years to the extent of spoiling relations with Egypt, lacking understanding of their nationalistic fervor and also not showing sufficient solidarity with the Algerian and Tunisian peoples’ strugle for independence from a colonial power.

Some academics and concerened intellectuals (including Mr. Seyfi Taşhan) had been publishing the journal “Dış Politika-Foreign Policy”, at first in Turkish and English since 1971 to increase awareness for international developments. But in 1974 the Foreign Policy Institute was established in an attempt to bridging the world of the academia and the policy practioners in foreign and securities policy and strategic issues.

When established, the need for area studies was not a priority and that would have required enormous funds beyond the Instute’s means. The aim was not to start an ambitious area studies programme but more so  to provide information from Turkish perspective to those foreign institutes, politicians and media interested in developments in Turkey. However, over the years it has prepared works on its neighborhood, it has organized round table meetings on specific issues related with Turkish foreign policy and included articles in its journal on countries and regions Turkey needed to focus.

With the Turkish intervention in Cyprus to defend the rights of its ethnic kins and as a result of being confronted with an arms embargo from the US, its chief ally, Turkey realized the urgency to get into closer contact with other countries beyond its alliance partners and explain its differing policy priorities.

Even then, as Mr. Seyfi Taşhan just mentioned, it was not to start programmes to study these countries but to convey the message that Turkey should not be considered on the same line with its allies who had a colonial past and have a role in power politics.

End of the Cold War opened a vast geography for Turkey previously under Soviet rule – the immediate neighborhood to the East, the Caucasus and Central Asia.And the configuration in the global scene provided new vistas for Turkey as its industry had been developing and need to expand its trade was urgently felt.

Therefore, our Institute started to organize new meetings and made publications focusing on Turkey’s new interest areas. In the 35 th anniversary issue of our Journal we had a selection of articles we had consentrated over the years. During the Cold War years our relations with the US was most important. Developments within the Atlantic Community, as well as strengthening the political cohesion in the Atlantic Alliance was of priority interest. Also relations with the EEC, developments in the Middle East and as always relations with Greece, particularly with the dispute over the Aegean were highly valued subjects. On Cyprus we had articles by the late Nihat Erim who had been involved in the preparations of the Zürich and London Agreements reminisceing the early efforts to overcome the dispute, by the late Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş presenting his views on the conflict and by Prof. Haluk Ülman narrating the Geneva Conference proceedings after the Turkish intervention in the Island in 1974. During the final years of the Cold War we had articles focusing on the policy of detente aand future of the Atlantic Alliance, reflecting on Turkey’s international status changing from marginality to centrality and also proposing a federal solution for Cyprus. Post-Cold War years we see articles on effects of the ending of the Cold War on Turkey’s intertnational position, on Turkey’s military doctrine, on Turkey’s stand on the Gulf crisis, on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, on the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as on the effects of the progress in Cyprus-EU relations to the search for a solution. In a more recent period the articles are again on developments of Turkish-US relations, on the beginning of a new conjuncture after September 11, on the impact of globalization on Turkey’s security, on Turkey_EU relations, as well as the Middle East and of course Cyprus.

I will just point out at some of our important activities and publications during the last 15 years.

“Turkomans of Iraq as a Factor in Turkish Foreign Policy: Political and Demographic Perspectives” by Tarık Oğuzlu, when published in 2001 it was one of the first studies on our recent discovery of the Turkomans of Iraq. It was  published at a time of brewing turmoil in Iraq.

We organized a symposium on March 22-23, 2004 on what should the new Iraqi constitution contain with participants not only from Turkey but also from the US, England and Germany as well as academics from Iraq who undertook the many difficulties reaching Ankara partly by bus! The proceedings of the meeting was published as “Iraq on the way to its new constitution”. The Institute was also asked by the Foreign Ministry to prepare a draft constitution, which we did, emphasizing  a secular and cantonal structure to avoid dismemberment of the country but the US led politicians in Iraq came out with a religiously based constitution with  all its present day deficiencies.

Cyprus has always been of interest for us. One publication was “Cyprus and International Law” in 2002 tackling the conflict from different perspectives of international law and a booklet in Turkish “Cyprus: from Independence to Present Day – with documents” printed in 2010.

“Turkey and the European Union – 2004 and beyond” was a book we published in colloboration with the Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies in 2004.Another book published also in 2004 was “The Europeanization of Turkey’s Security Policy: Prospects and pitfalls”.

We had a special issue of our Journal on a EU related Conference we had organized in 2006.Another publication was “Turkey’s Neighborhood” we did in collaboration with the Polish Institute of International Relations in 2008. We focused on Ukraine, Bulgaria, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

“Caspian Energy Diplomacy since the end of the Cold War” by Tuncay Balanlı was printed in 2006.A book on “Transatlantic Relations: A Political Appraisal” by Gökhan Akşemsettinoğlu published in 2005 studied this important relationship at a time of crucial changes in international politics.

“Eastern Mediterranean” published in 2009 covering Israeli-Palestinean conflict, Cyprus, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Greece and Turkey’s maritime issues as well as contributions on US policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe and the Mediterranean and also Russia and Eastern Mediterranean.

NATO’s new strategic concept was thoroughly tackled in our special issue of 2010. And we had a special anniversary issue for Turkey’s 60 Years in NATO both  in English and Turkish.

Lately in our Journal we have had some articles on Turkey’s relations with Africa by different authors as the focus on that continent has increased.




– Growing interest of Turkey in ECO region

Numan Hazar

Turkey has always had a particular interest, throughout the Republican history,  in the regional peace and security. The Sadabat Pact signed in 1937 by Turkey, Iran,Irak and Afghanistan  is an example of this Turkish approach in its foreign policy.  The Sadabat Pact was a treaty of non-agression. It is meaningful that it was concluded at the time of Atatürk. We observe a continuity in Turkish approach when the Baghdat Pact was concluded in 1955. The Baghdad Pact was formed by Turkey,Iran and Irak due to security concerns at that time in view of a perceived threat from the Soviet Union. The United Kingdom joined the Organization at a later stage. The US did not participate as full member taking into consideration sensitivities of Arab countries in the region. It took its place in the organization,however,with observer status. The Baghdad Pact had its place in the chain of alliances namely NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organization) created by the West within the context of the containment policy against the Soviet threat.


The headquarters of the Baghdad Pact was in Irak. Nevertheless,  the Republic of Irak was withdrawn from the Pact  following a coup in 1958 against the royal régime. In 1959 the Pact changed its name to Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and its headquarters moved to Ankara.


Regional members of the CENTO, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, decided  to develop economic and technical relations and cooperation among themselves and they created in 1964 the Organization of  Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD). As a matter of fact, RCD realized some technical, economic  and cultural projects. During the Cold War period in the bipolar era, the leaders of these countries believed that historical,cultural, religious and geographical bonds will be enough to realize closer cooperation among the member countries to contribute to their efforts to ensure economic development and to raise their living standards. This plan was supported by the West in general and by the US in particular in order to prevent Soviet influence in a strategically important region.


Nevertheless, in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution in Iran all activities of the Organization were suspended. RCD was dissolved in 1980 and it ceased to exist as an international organization.

The member states of the RCD which have been aware of the significance of the organization taking into account great potentialities already existing in a number  of areas, decided to reactivate it. Thus,in 1985  the Organization was renamed  as Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) when the Treaty of İzmir was concluded. In 1992 the Organization was expanded to include Afghanistan,Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.[1] Since that time ECO has become an international organization with 10 member states and acquired international recognition and prestige.[2]


It is meaningful that Afghanistan and the new independent states joined the organization following the disintegration of the Soviet Union.


After this  historical introduction we can explain why the ECO is an important grouping by referring to various advantages the Organization has possessed. [3] We can summarize advantages of the ECO as a significant organization with great  potentialities and particular characteristics as follows:[4]


-The ECO comprises an area of 8 million square kilometers with a population of 450 million people. It is geographically  vast and also a contiguous territory.


-In addition  to human resources , it is a region rich in natural resources , for example  the existing oil and natural gas reserves.


-The ECO region is situated centrally among three continents of the Old World -Europe,Asia and Africa (collectively known as Afro-Eurasia)- and thus it has great strategic value , as put forth by the well known theorist of strategy Sir Halfort MacKinder, within the context of his view to dominate the world through the domination of pivotal area. As a matter of fact, it was an area of competition for big powers throughout history.


-The ECO also symbolizes a region functioning like a bridge between the East and the West: Asia and Europe.


-The possibility of having access to the Indian Ocean,the Persian Gulf,the Mediterranean Sea  and the Black Sea exists.


-Another significance of ECO is the proximity to big powers such as the European Union, Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.


-There are highways, maritime routes and railways linking one country to another.


-More important than all these factors, there is a historical and cultural affinity among member states.


As regards the cultural and historical particularity of the ECO member states as  a whole, it is possible to compare it with the European Union. This particular character of ECO has even drawn the attention of Samuel P.Huntington who put forth the thesis of the clash of civilizations.When he explained that countries with similar cultures were choosing the option of economic integration, he mentioned also the ECO as an example.Huntington refers to regional economic organizations as an indicator of civilizations’ strengthening against  nation-state and claims that precondition of economic integration is cultural affinity. He underlines the fact that ”the success of these efforts has depended overwhelmingly on the cultural homogeneity of  states involved.”[5]


Together with the cultural affinity and close cultural interaction among member states, historical ties are also significant. In the ECO region there exists thousands of common words even with those which are linguistically different. As Professor Halil İnalcık, the dean of living Turkish historians indicates, historical researches confirm the fact that cultural affinity between Turkey,Iran and Pakistan is much closer and stronger than cultural affinity of Turks with Arabs.[6] Obviously, when we take into consideration all member states of ECO this fact becomes more apparent. On the other hand, prominent Turkish historian Professor İlber Ortaylı underlines the influence of Iranian civilization on Turkey and Turks.[7]


After the recognition that ECO represents an organization based on cultural affinity, we must also underline that all these elements are indicative of an Organization which has  a significant infrastructure and important potential to deliver a successful performance.


At this point, however, I would like to emphasize that the ECO is a technical organization. In this respect it is different from the European Union. As is known, the EU had the purpose to reach political union at the final stage through economic integration at the beginning. Nevertheless, this particularity of the ECO does not constitute an obstacle for an exchange of views on actual political and global affairs during summit meetings or meetings of the Council of Ministers. On the contrary,an opportunity is always created for such  consultations.


Before entering into details of what ECO has been doing, I would like to provide some information about its organizational structure:


-Summit meetings which are held every two years (Heads of state or government).These meetings give opportunity for consultations and general guidelines at highest level.


-Council of Ministers is the highest policy and decision making body at the level of Foreign Ministers,


-Council of Permanent Representatives which is composed of diplomatic representatives of member states accredited in Tehran, headquarters of the Organization. It is responsible to carry out policies and to implement decisions of the Council of Ministers.


-Regional Planning Council which comprises heads of the Planning Organizations It evolves programmes of action along with a review of past programmes and evaluations of results achieved to be submitted to the Council of Ministers.


-Secretariat which is headed by the Secretary Gcneral and his staff.


-Specialized Agencies and Regional Institutions in specific fields of cooperation.The number,nature and objectives of the agencies and institutions are determined by the Council of Ministers such as Cultural Institute,  Science Foundation, Educational Institute, Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Trade and Development Bank, Reinsurance Company, Consultancy and Engineering Company etc.


-ECO also have expert committees in a host of areas: Economy and Trade, Agriculture,Transport and Communications, Science,Culture and Education etc. They summit reports to Regional Planning Council.


On the other hand ECO realized various agreements to promote economic cooperation and integration. ECO Trade Agreement is aimed at reducing tariffs among member states. Member states also concluded a Transit Transport Framework Agreement.There are also various agreements formulated by the ECO such as Encouraging and Protecting Investments, Cooperation among Cooperative Sectors, Establishment of ECO Smuggling and Customs Offences Data Bank etc.


Before trying to make an evaluation of ECO’s performance, we should go back to RCD, its predecessor. Despite the fact that RCD carried out some important projects, it is stated as root of its failure  in general  ”unwillingness of the member states to comprise their own individual interests as one of the requirements of the development of regional cooperation. This was the main obstacle for the implementation of RCD plans”. [8]


As far as ECO is concerned it is observed that it could not deliver a successful performance, despite already existing potentialities. There have always been painstaking efforts and various positive initiatives.Nevertheless, the Organization could not produce good results as compared to expectations.


In order to give an example, it could be indicated that there has always been an ambition to increase trade between the member states. In 2005, intra-trade was 6 per cent of all trade  and in 2010 it  increased to 7 per cent. This state of affairs could be characterized as a failure. As a matter of fact, in the ECO Vision 2015 document prepared by independent experts  of the member countries, the goal of internal trade for the year 2015 was indicated 20 per cent of all trade. When we take into consideration that the internal trade of the European Union is 65 per cent of all trade, we can see a low performance from the point of view of the ECO’s success. Undoubtedly, it will be useful to eliminate all existing obstacles in this area. Nevertheless, principally, it is important that all member countries first sign  the ECO Trade Agreement and implement  it.


There are also several structural or institutional difficulties which prevent the ECO to become a well-functioning international organization.


Turkey has always attached particular importance to a well-functioning, efficient and dynamic ECO. In the eyes of Turkey, a successful and more active ECO would best serve  interests of all member states.


In light of this evaluation, during the Summit Meeting  held in Istanbul in 2010 where Turkey assumed the task of Chairman in Office of the Organizaiton, the then President of the Republic of Turkey, Abdullah Gül proposed the establishment of an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to provide recommendations to enhance the dynamism, efficiency and visibility of the Organization. This proposal, approved by Heads of State or Government, was included in the Final Declaration of the Summit Meeting. [9]


The Eminent Persons Group (EPG) was established in-mid 2011 and it started its works towards the end of the year. The EPG was composed of ten independent experts from each member states. It was assisted in their works by the Secretary General and his staff.


This EPG was the third EPG created up to now by the ECO, The Second EPG prepared ”2015 Vision Document for the ECO” and proposed a host of measures in this context. This Document was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2005. In this Document Foreign Ministers declared that they wish to adopt a vision of ECO taking into account opportunities and challenges of the globalization process, the rapid social,economic,political and technological developments in the world and prospects in the decades ahead which need to be addressed adequately through a common and collective approach. With these aims, Foreign Ministers agreed on many commitments for a better functioning organization. [10]


The Third EPG  carried out intensively its works in 2012. According to its terms of reference, the EPG, was given the task to examine all documents  and the 2015 Vision Document in order to  propose amendments to basic agreements, to  interview the staff of the Secretariat, Specialized Agencies and Regional Institutions in order to submit its recommendations contained in a Report  to the Council of Ministers. It was decided that the EPG would remain, if need be, in contact with the Council of Permanent Representatives (CPR) composed of  Ambassadors of member countries in Tehran. The Secretariat would be providing facilities and services for EPG meetings for its well functioning. [11]


The EPG accomplished its mission in 2012 and the Chairman of the EPG presented the Report of the EPG to the Council of Ministers  on the occasion of the ECO Summit Meeting held in October 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The EPG Report which contained in detail several recommendations including  the strengthening of the Secretariat, selection of the staff on the basis of merit, increase in the budget, amendment in the decision-making mechanism which created some difficulties in the past for well functioning  of the Organization.


Turkey did not only propose the establishment of the EPG, but also provided the necessary financing.


The submission of the EPG Report  has a particular significance, due to the fact that in 2015 ECO Vision Document prepared by the Second EPG should be revised and a new Vision Document for  the next Decade 2016-2025 is to be worked out. In this regard, the EPG Report is very much timely as a guide. The results of the works of  EPG, as of 2013, would furnish basic elements of a new Vision Document. This new document was also expected to be prepared by the  EPG .


As it is referred  above, according to the decisions of the 20th Council of Ministers’s Meeting held in Baku in 2012, the Ministers, asked the Secretary General to prepare a roadmap for the implementation of the EPG Report, and to submit it to the Council of Permanent Representatives. The Paragraph, in the decisions of the Council of Ministers, related to the EPG’s Report is as follows:

‘’  20) The Council appreciated the Report of the 3rd Eminent Persons Group (EPG), established pursuant to the Istanbul Declaration 2010 (Istanbul, 23 December 2010) and the decisions of the 19th Council of Ministers Meeting (Istanbul, 22 December 2010) to study  and review the work of the Organization  including the ECO Vision 2015, and asked the Secretary General to prepare a roadmap for implementation of the  recommendations of the EPG and submit to CPR for consideration. The Council also authorized the CPR to take action on behalf of the COM in this regard. ‘’

Right after the Meeting of the Council of Ministers the Final Communiqué of the Summit Meeting of Heads of State and Government held on 16 October 2012 included the following Paragraph on the EPG Report:


‘’ 31. Appreciated the work done by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) established on the initiative of the Republic of Turkey, which undertook performance appraisal of the Organization, identified major challenges and recommended ways to improve ECO’s efficiency, dynamism and visibility.’’


The EPG, proposed in its Report, the organization of  national conferences in each member state  with the participation of government and private sectors representatives, members of the media, think tanks and academicians. In these conferences, views, assessments and expectations of the member countries would be presented . The results of these conferences would be reviewed in a meeting of the EPG and at the end its evaluation will be considered in the preparation of the new ECO Vision Document for 2016-2025.


As unequivocally indicated by the instructions of the Council of Ministers, some of the recommendations of the EPG are to be implemented by the Council of Permanent Representatives on behalf of the Council of Ministers. It means that these recommendations do not need the approval of the Council of Ministers. Some others, by their very nature  require the approval of the Council of Ministers. Certain recommendations can be implemented in short term. Some others have inevitably a long term perspective.


As identified by the EPG Report main impediments and shortcomings are as follows:

-Lack of efficient decision-making mechanism,

-Minimal participation by Member States in the activities of the Organization.

-Non-implementation of the decisions adopted by the decision-making bodies.

-Lack of financial resources and insufficient budget.

-Inadequate capacity of the Secretariat due to existing recruitment measures.


Turkey, supported all recommendations made by the EPG to overcome these impediments.


On the other hand, the Communiqué of the Tehran Ministerial Council held in November 2013 referred to the reform process of the ECO on the basis of EPG’s Report in the following terms:

‘’ ( Foreign Ministers and Heads of Delegations ) Building on the two decades of experience, decided to take forward the reform process of ECO on the basis of recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) and instructed the ECO Secretary General to arrange, in cooperation with the Member States, the timely conclusion of  the said process for enhancing the dynamism, efficiency and visibility of the Organization. The Council instructed the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) to finalize and approve the roadmap for the implementation of the recommendations of the EPG by August 2014 with a view to its earliest implementation. ‘’


They also agreed that the reform process shall address, inter alia, the regulatory, institutional, budgetary and other requirements of the organization putting in place a reliable and durable cooperation framework for ECO region.


Despite the fact that  three years already passed, the Organization has not yet unfortunately been able to realize the implementation of some recommendations. It is now three years that the Third EPG completed its works. As a matter of fact, Third EPG’s Report containing recommendations aimed at enhancing dynamism,efficiency and visibility of the Organization was presented to the Council of Ministers in 2012.


As explained above, the Council of Ministers gave instructions to the Committee of Permanent Representatives to take action on its behalf concerning the recommendations of the EPG. The Summit Meeting, the highest body of the Organization has approved the decision of the Ministers. Nevertheless,  works of the Committee of Permanent Representatives for the implementation of the EPG’s recommendations, have not yet been completed.


On the other hand, interestingly, a new rhetoric started to the effect that the Organization needed a more comprehensive reform process. Apparently, it may be an effort aimed at  diluting EPG’s recommendations.


At this point, we must also once again draw the attention to the fact that every effort made to enhance the dynamism, efficiency and visibility of the Organization will only serve best interests of all member states.


The Secretary General and the Secretariat of ECO are making sincere and painstaking efforts in order to start the process for the implementation of the EPG’s recommendations. Within this context an in-depth analysis of the EPG’s recommendations has already been realized by the Secretariat.


The Council of Permanent Representatives of the ECO is also involved in expediting the finalization of efforts aimed at the implementation of the EPG’s Report.


It is hoped that a substantial progress concerning the implementation of EPG’s Report could be made before the next Meeting of the Committee of Ministers as well as the Summit Meeting.


The EPG Report underlined that all member states should have a high level political will in order to adopt necessary dispositions aimed at ensuring the ECO to become a well functioning international organization. It seems, at present, a strong political will is still needed to have a well functioning ECO.


In the Millenium Goals of the World Summit held in 2005, a special importance was attached to regional organizations. This is something that may encourage all member countries to demonstrate the necessary political will aimed at realizing a well functioning ECO.


[1] Economic Cooperation Organization, ECO at  a Glance, ECO Secretariat, Tehran, 2012 p.5 .

[2] Elaheh Koolaee and Hormoz Dawarpanah, The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Achievements and Prospects, University of Tehran, Tehran, 2010,  pp.2-8.

[3] Numan Hazar,  The Future of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), ECO will have a bright future when it gains dynamism, visibility and efficiency, Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM), Report No. 108, February 2012, Ankara, pp. 8-10.

[4] Numan Hazar,  ”ECO: a significant regional organization for economic development and integration”, Today’s Zaman, 27.01.2013.

[5] Samuel P.Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the New World, Simon&Schuster UK Ltd, London,1996,p.351.

[6] Halil İnalcık, Rönesans Avrupası Türkiye’nin Batı Medeniyeti ile Özdeşleşme Süreci Renaissance Europe and the Process of Identification of Turkey with Western Civilization), Türkiye İş Bankası Yayınları, Istanbul,2011, p. 351.

[7] İlber Ortaylı, Türklerin Tarihi (History of Turks),TİMAŞ Yayınları Istanbul, 2015, pp. 91-97.

[8] Elaheh Koolaee and Hormoz Dawarpanah, The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) Achievements and Prospects, pp. 10-11.

[9] Numan Hazar,Economic Cooperation Organizaton (ECO) and Eminent Persons Group (EPG),  Uluslararası Ekonomik Sorunlar Dergisi (Review of International Economic Issues-an unofficial publication of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), July 2012 Year 12, No.44,Ankara, pp.11-20.

[10] Economic Cooperation Organization Treaty of Izmir ECO Vision 2015, Tehran 2009,pp. 21-32.

[11] Numan Hazar,Economic Cooperation Organizaton (ECO) and Reform Process,  Uluslararası Ekonomik Sorunlar Dergisi (Review of International Economic Issues-an unofficial publication of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), August  2014 Year 14, No.47,Ankara, pp.25-32..

Visits: 157

EuroMeSCo General Assembly and Annual Conference held in Brussels


EuroMeSCo General Assembly
and Annual Conference held in Brussels


EuroMeSCo General Assembly was held in Brussels at the Egmont Palace on April 13 th, 2016. The participating members were informed that with arrangements finalized with the European Commission, the network would augment research and dialogue activities with partners which would be co-financed by the IEMed. The topics of the Working Packages to be developed in 2017-2018 will be defined by the Academic Secretariat upon proposals from members. The General Assembly also discussed applications from different countries to become full members or observers and among other applicant think-tanks, ORSAM  (Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies)  from Turkey was admitted as full member to the network.

During the next 2 days, April 14th and 15th,2016, the Annual Conference of EuroMeSCo was held with the title “Towards A Security Architecture for the Mediterranean: A Challenge for Euro-Mediterranean Relations” which was aimed to contribute to the preparation of the EU Global Strategy  expected to be released in June. Mapping the security threats in the Mediterranean and current security framework in the Mediterranean were discussed at the plenary session, and parallel working  groups discussed the papers prepared on “terrorist threat in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, “Migration and Refugees: Impact and Future Policies. Case studies of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Greece”, “Youth Activism in the South and East Mediterranean Countries since the Arab Uprisings: Challenges and Policy Options”. During the debate on the paper prepared on “Terrorist Threat in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, FPI Board Member Oktay  Aksoy  emphasized  that the paper was focused solely on the ISIL threat and ignored the fact that Turkey was fighting 3 kinds of terrorist  groups, one ethnic (PKK-PYD),  the other sectarian (ISIL) and yet another,  the so-called ideological (DHKP-C) and all these had spillover effects on the whole region. But since the EU preferred to be focused on the ISIL which had been targeting the EU member countries as well, the other threat groups had been ignored, whereas that also needed to be sufficiently diagnosed.

Moreover, parallel working sessions were held on “Hard Security Challenges in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, “Socio-Political Challenges in the Euro-Mediterranean Region”, “Energy and Environmental Challenges and Geopolitics in the Mediterranean”. The last day, parallel meetings were held to kick off the subjects to be handled until the next Conference in 2017 which were identified as “Future of Syria”, “Transformation in Tunisia: the First Five Years” and “Mapping Migration Challenges in the EU Transit and Destination Countries”.

The Conference was concluded with a plenary session on the role of EU for the new security architecture for the Mediterranean which was chaired by the former Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Angel Moratinos. At that session,  Pierre Vimont, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Europe pointed out that in the early 2000 the issue of security was dealt with hesitation and reluctance when it was brought up informally by the then French President and later at the Valetta Summit last year the issue was dealt very differently with the Sahel countries more interested but North African countries not much enthusiastic and the Europeans thought that they could go ahead on their own. So far the issue had been tackled piecemeal. Therefore, the problem was how to define a shared vision of what is needed for security and where it would fit in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership framework, what would be the geographical limits, what would the priorities be, where to place the terrorist threats, the radical groups, even a more broader perspective to include proliferation of WMDs, even further the support to provide for nation states like Libya to overcome their disintegration . He concluded that for a possible framework arrangement the Union for the Mediterranean was an economic organization, the African Union needed more time to gain sufficient experience, for the League of Arab States  it was a difficult issue, the success of the coalition fighting pirates at the Horn of Africa may not always be repeated and the Helsinki process which had brought nations to cooperate in the Cold War atmosphere. Therefore, partners in the network needed more time to discuss the issue.

On the other hand, at the end of the session, the former Spanish Foreign Minister Mr. Moratinos summed up that there was need for a political strategy, many countries were prepared to discuss security cooperation, would it be met piecemeal or would  a holistic approach be more suitable, should there be a prioritization of the threats posed, in assessing security arrangements taking into  consideration of a wider geography was a necessity, a global approach and a more comprehensive security system may be discussed and that soft security issues, economic elements, etc. may be utilized to foster peace in the region and that Europe should be a more visual player in the resolution of conflicts in the region.

As one of the founding members of EuroMeSCo, the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute participates at the meetings of the General Assembly and the annual Conferences. This year Amb. (R) Oktay Aksoy, Board Member of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute (FPI) participated. Other participants from Turkey were Prof. Mensur Akgün, Director of Global Political Trends Center (GPoT), Dr. Sylvia Tiryaki, Deputy Director of GPoT, Assoc. Prof. Şükrü Erdem, Akdeniz University Center for Economic Research on Mediterranean Countries (CREM), Prof. Ahmet Evin, Senior Scholar at Istanbul Policy Center (IPC), Prof. Başak Kale, METU Center for European Studies and also Prof. Şaban Kardaş, President of Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM).

Visits: 174

FPI Panel at METU Conference June 12-14, 2013

12 th annual METU Conference on International Relations was held on 12-14 June 2013 encompassing discussions on “Turkey in the World”. Turkish Foreign Policy Institute organized on June 12 th a roundtable entitled “International and Domestic Developments and Their Impact on Turkish Foreign Policy”.

Panelists were Mr. Seyfi Taşhan, President of the Institute, who analysed the defining factors in the formation of Turkish foreign policy, Mr. Reşat Arım, Ambassador (Rt.) and Board Member of the Institute, discussed effects of international conjuncture giving examples on changes in Turkish policy on Cyprus, Mr. Oktay Aksoy, Ambassador (Rt.) and also Board Member of the Institute, focused on the security factor, and Prof. Dr. Ali Engin Oba, Head of International Relations Department of Çağ University and also an Ambassador (Rt.) analysed impact of Turkey’s European identity on its foreign policy.

Visits: 26

DIPLOMATIC DISCUSSION GROUP MEETING October 17, 2012 “The War in Syria – its impact on the future of the Middle East”

Turkish Foreign Policy Institute organized a Diplomatic Discussion Group meeting on October 17, 2012 to debate “The War in Syria – its impact on the future of the Middle East”.

Seyfi Taşhan

We have been organizing these Diplomatic Discussion Group meetings for the past 20 years to enlighten the foreign diplomats in Ankara of tyhe positions taken by Turkey at international events andhow they are evaluated from the Turkish perspective. For the past few months developments in Syria have been of grave concern for us and we want to discuss how it has affected Turkish foreign policy. On similar occasions we have invited Professor Meliha Altunışık of METU and journalist friend Semih İdiz of the daily Milliyet to comment to us on the latest events and how they see the future, how they feel the Middle East where it will go. As the international conditions and the Middle East keep changing, from time to time we have to visit the Middle East. So, first speaker for this afternoon is Professor Meliha Aktunışık who has written extensively on the developments in the region, most of you know her already.

Proffesor Meliha Altunışık

Thank you very much Mr. Taşhan. I am happy to be here. Last time it was almost a year ago, right? We were again discussing Turkish foreign policy within the context of the Arab Spring. In one way lots have changed since then, but in another way not much has changed. There are still important challenges to the region and to the Turkish foreign policy as well.

Challanges of Arab Spring for Turkish foreign policy

Let me start by saying that I don’t have magical analysis on what is going on in terms of Turkish Foreign Policy I am trying to understand actually, as other scholars do, the evolution of Turkish foreign policy and I will share with you some of my thinking on this topic with particular focus as you can imagine on the Syrian Crisis and Turkish foreign policy. As you all know the Arab Uprising put Turkey’s new Middle East Policy of the current AKP government was implementing into a test. In fact what we have seen since the beginning of the Arab Uprising is that Turkey has difficulty developing a long term policy and strategy to deal with the Arab Uprising. This is very suprising because right after the beginning of the uprising and because of previous Turkish engagements with the region, the expectation in Turkey and elsewhere was that Turkey is very well placed to turn this into something that benefits Turkish regional power status. The fact that Turkey was not able to effectively turn this into its benefit is of course interesting and in fact when you look at the Turkish foreign policy since the beginning of the Arab Uprising there has been some attemps to develop consistent elements of new policy in response to what is happening in the region but also there were ups and downs in terms of Turkish response.

Turkish Support for the Arab Spring is a Constant

I think Turkey is the most consistent from the very beginning to support the uprising. I mean even when you can find some initial hesitancy particularly in the case of Libya, overall we can say that this has become a consistent of the Turkish Foreign Policy response to the Arab Uprising. The second element that has been more or less consistent within the context, I will say, is Turkey’s attempt to act in coalitions engaging in post Arab Spring in Middle East and here Turkish traditional coalition partners have been important, like US, because one of the consequences of the Arab Spring has been improvement of relations between US and Turkey. The two countries had problems right before the Arab Uprising. Relations even with the EU and some EU countries like Great Britain, like France, even under Sarkozy there were more cooperation. Look at France, they had many meeting on Syria. Also Turkey tried to have coalitions in the Arab world and here realitons with Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been particularly important but also with Egypt. This has been a consistent future I would say of the new policy as well. But beyond that there has been important changes in Turkey’s responses to the Arab Spring. For instance, initially there was a lot of emphasis on what is called peaceful transtions. I mean Turkey emphasizes peaceful transiion to prevent instability and Turkey was openly against external intervention, that there should not be external intervention in the Arab Uprising countries.

Emphasis to object external intervention changes with Syria

This position was changed in the case of Syria. Turning point was the living crisis. In the Syrian crisis there has been a clear position of the Turkish Govenment in support of some kind of intervention. In fact the Syrian Crisis has been the most complicated challenge to the Arab Spring and also to Turkish foreign policy, because it has been a challenge to the Arab Spring, because it changed the context of the Arab Spring.

Syrian Crisis changes the context of Arab Spring

You may say that Bahrain is also important in that respect but in Syria it became very clear because of domestic division in Syria both political and social division and as well as because of the presence of significant external support to the regime, the Syrian Crisis changed the context of the Arab Spring. And the regime has been succesful to frame the Syrian Crisis as a Civil War between two sides rather than the continuation of the Arab Uprising and even to a certain extent a conflict between Turkey and Syria and Qatar and Saudi Arabia, so I think the regime has been succesfully defining this change of context in Syria. What about Turkey’s response? I would say that Turkey’s response has been a major shift in Turkish foreign policy and even in AKP Government foreign policy. I mean this is expected, of course, circle, importance of Syria to Turkish foreign policy. It is a direct neighbor, a neighboring country with almost a thousand miles border. This partly explains the reason for our engagement. Morever, Syria had become a corner stone of AKP’s Middle East policy and it was a very important partner. So, I mean, it was expected that when the uprising started in Syria this would be different for Turkey. But this only partly explains the shifting in Turkish foreign policy.

Call for Regime Change and Support for Opposition

When you look at it, Turkey has been calling openly for a regime change. It has been actively supporting the opposition, particularly Syrian National Council, Turkey gave logistical support to the Free Syrian Army, talked about humanitarian coridors, buffer zones etc. This is quiet new in Turkish foreign policy, when you look at it traditionally. When you look at AKP foreign policy for intance, compare AKP’s response to 2003 Iraq War and how they were critical of the Bush Administration policy at that time which was calling for regime change, which was calling for humanitarian asistance and supporting the opposition, etc. This is really a major shift.

Lack of Public Support

What makes it all interesting is absence of a public support for such a policy. Because we have had several public opinion polls both by the Turkish think-thanks and international think-thanks. All show that there is no support for AKP’s Syrian policy. Generally, it is found that the support is about %30, which means that even an important group among AKP supporters do not support AKP’s Syria policy. Also you can tell not only in terms of lacking public support but many look at opinion makers that are close to the AKP Government usually you find them increasing critical of the Syrian Policy and AKP is a party from the beginning that has been very sensetive to public opinion polls. I mean it is said that they have regular public opinion polls to really shape their policy. It is really interesting that such a party is not really very responsive in this case to public opinion. This requires an explanation. We, as academics, would like to look at everything and examine them. But I would try to sort of come up with several explanations. Probably all of this have something to do with AKP policy. Of course one explanation which is generally experienced is miscalculation that after taking time in responding to Arab Uprising, particularly isolation in Libya the government did not want to wait this time and basicly expected a similar form of regime change in a short time. Of course related to that sort of argument that once you get in it is hard to get out of it once you have taken a very clear position initially like that.

Frustration with Lack of Reforms

There are second group of explanations, which point to personal reasons, particularly disappointment of Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu despite all their arguments for years of the importance of engagement with Syria. And therefore having a leverage on Syria they failed to convince Bashar regime to change course, to initiate reforms. Davutoğlu himself said that initially we try to convice Bashar regime that they should start reforming and Davutoğlu personally said Esad “if you do that you will be a hero, that you should start reforming.” But they found out that they did not have that leverage over the Bashar regime. After all that was personal frustration, I would say for the AKP Government.

Protecting Turkish Interests in the Region

Our third group explanation is related to interest, I mean, Turkey wants to protect its interests, Syria is important, it is important because of the possible implications for the Kurdish Issue, because it is a neighbor, it is important to act in such a crisis to protect Turkish regional power status. And this is to be able to shape the future events. I think here the lessons of the Iraq War were important because after taking the decision not to get involved in the Iraq War, Turkey was cut for a long time from Iraq and did not have much influance in Iraq, did not have any contacts with the opposition that came to power. So you may argue that in order to be able to continue its status as a regional power and also to be able to contuine to use Turkey’s relations with Middle East as an asset in its relations with the US and extend to the EU, Turkey wanted to be engaged from the beginning. I mean, Davutoğlu himself said “Turkey wants to live the movement of change, we want to be the owner, leader, servant of this change” and clearly Syria was seen as providing challenges but also the oppurtunity for Turkey to protect its interests both in Syria and beyond.

Moral Approach to the Crisis

The final group of explanation is one that generally Foreign Minister uses this, which I call, idealization of factors, references to ethics and morality and the fact that people are dying in Syria and this is how Foreign Minister responds to the criticsims; “what should we do?” Catastrophe that is happening, so we should do something about it. And in fact within this context, there is this argument, debating Turkey’s attention between values and interest but the problem of this kind of explanation is that it is not clear whether the policy that Turkey has been persuading is upholding values and interests. There are significant challenges to both of this positions as you probably know in terms of values. OK these are important but at the same time critics point to other examples of AKP foreign policy that do not necessarly take values into consideration, particularly. the Sudan policy. And in the context of the Arab Uprising, Turkey’s less interest in Bahrein Uprising and how it was crashed by Saudi Arabia?

Complexity of the Crisis

In terms of interest again there can be arguments that can be put forward because clearly lots of that is happening against Turkey’s interests, at least in the short run the PKK Issue,chaos and the civil war in Syria, economic interests are hurt, so there are issues of stability and security threats and economic challenges as well. And furthermore, as I said, it goes against the domestic interests argument because at least there is no public support. On this complexity, I think the fact that there are no clear interests argument, this has led to ups and downs in Turkish foreign policy between different responses and I would say that just before the mortar attack at Akçakale forces there were signs that AKP was trying to downplay the Syrian Crisis to some extent because of mounting criticisims, for instance, they asked the Free Syrian Army Headquarters to leave Turkey which was a major criticism before. But then of course right after that there has been an escalation. It is hard to know what does this mean, is it because there is an escalation because some how this is out of control of Turkey and Turkey has been draged back into this again or is this di-escalation is due to the realisation that continuation of this conflict as such will be more detrimental for Turkey’s interests. So, therefore, by di-escalation Turkey hopes to end this crisis and there could be more cooporation with allies and there are signs of that as well.

Transition of the Regime from Within

Of course it is not clear, this may mean to resolve this issue through some kind of maybe use of limited military force or is it transition within the regime, convincing the leaders to leave but then keeping most of the state intact with additional new members from the opposition. This is the scenario that is most attractive but clearly most difficult to achieve and when you look at the transition literature, I mean this is how more peaceful transitions are achieved, than somehow a group from the regime decides that it is in their interest to change side and to be part of the transition. We will see whether this scenario could be implemented but clearly, especially the Syrian crisis is very critical for Turkey’s future role because for Turkey’s status in the Middle East it is essential for its interest. This has been the cornerstone of AKP’s Policy because inter-ethnic and inter-secterial conflict in Syria and beyond have consequences for Turkey and we have already seen these consequences. This could be distabilising for Turkey as well. Plus for Turkey’s policy of expending economical relations with the region which again has been a corner stone of AKP’s policy due to also domestic reasons because that stability in the region is very important so therefore what happens in Syria whether and if this transtion occurs and how this transition occurs will be crucial for Turkey’s role.

Seyfi Taşhan

May I ask Mr. Semih İdiz, columnist in the daily Milliyet to comment on how he sees the developments in our immediate neighborhood.

Semih İdiz

Let me start by mentioning what Donald Rumsfeld said that we are going through a process where Turkey is basically learning what it is and what it isn’t. It is more than what something it is but it is less than what others think it is and yet it is something because it has gained a critical mass to extend. It is very much in the international eye and what happens in Turkey on a number of levels is attractive increasing attention. Of course there is economic side of it which is very important and increases the critical mass aspect but the political dimension is once again proving to be what we always know about Turkey mainly that Turkey is in a strategic place geographically. This probably goes back in history and again it is in the middle of events that are of global proportions or of global implications but they all are around its own geography. Thankfully now the Balkans and Caucasus are relatively stable but the Middle East has irrupted in a way that was really not foreseen as a factor by Turkey or this government at all. Traditionally Turkey has distanced itself when it has looked to the Middle East and this has been the subject of criticism among this because it was assumed that was because Turkey was rejecting the Islamic World. But it is more because it has been cautious. Actually Turkey has been more oriented towards the West, looking in that direction. When you see the events that is unfolding now and when you consider that it is not clear when all this is going to settle, you tend to understand why especially during the Republican times the diplomacy in the Middle East was put on the backburner. Because once you touch on things relating to the region, you touch on such sensetive areas that Turkey is bound to be influenced by these for one or another reason,because while many Turks somehow don’t consider this fact,but we too have an imperial baggage that has its reflection in the Middle East, apart from the Balkans or whatever.

Expectations from Imperial Baggage

Of course our Prime Minister based on this imperial baggages tried to convert this into a positive thing. Davutoğlu came out with a policy that was actually in coordination with the Prime Minister . We must not think that this is purely Davutoğlu’s line of thought. That highlighted the facts that Turkey’s past gave it some kind of a special role in the Middle East in terms of guiding, stabilising, mediating and other positive factors like this. Nothing was really wrong in all this, except that it didn’t really fit into with the reality that existing in the region. The number one factor that was not helpful was this notion that the region was not really prepared for some kind of paternalistic Turkey with imperial background trying to direct the region.Never the less, what did make Turkey attractive despite this almost rejecting position was the fact that an Islamic government was on the rise in Turkey and this was an Islamıc government that was appearing from the Arab side to be dismantling the institutions of secularism which were considered to be anti-religion in the Middle East. There was an ambivalence while this approach about references to the past and the Ottoman period, all these are not going down very well, especially when its started becoming subject of international media with talk about neo-ottomanism. On the other hand, there was an interest and in fact that Islamic government was operating in a democratic enviroment and flexing its muscles in a way against the established order in Turkey, in ways that have not been seen before. This approach was to create a sympathy for itself in the region. The streets were very much proud ofErdoğan and Turkey was looked on by the masses as possibly the new light of the Islamic world.

Arab Spring Upsets Expectations

Except that the Arab Spring exploded in a such a way that upset for everthing in the end because the real Middle East, the true dynamics of the Middle East was really starting to emerge. Now what we are facing today is the product of these dynamics. One thing we can say about our foreign policy is, it might be a change over the past two years, in particular that we have moved from proactive situation. Turkey was in the role of leader, of mediator, stabiliser and now Turkey is not leading anything in the Middle East but trying to protect the fall out. Coming back to the critical mass factor, as I said before, Turkey obviously, undoubtly gained this critical mass but appears not to know how to use this in a way that can be beneficial.

Back to Traditional Allies

Not only does this government perhaps not know how to manage this critical mass but it is also ending up in the ironic situation that having opened up to the Islamic World after coming to power in a way that many people interpreted as an Islamization of Turkey, even though they rejected it, now it is being forced back to the traditional corner of acting together with the traditional allies, especially along military matters but not only acting along with these traditional allies, the most traditional being America of course, rather than Europe, but also being somehow dependent on the support that they can get from these countries. When you look at this from the perspective of its leadership role in the Islamıc world, this has been questioned on a number of levels especially by the elites in the Arab world. I must say that pleased us, we were for the Arabs calling for democracy. The sociological reality of these countries should have told us that ultimately the elites will somehow retain the situation even if they transform from one kind of elite to another. We have elites in Iran, Iraq and so forth, who are running those countries and of course elite which is frightened for itself in Syria but it is, never the less, still there, it is still a member of the United Nations. These elites are now hostile towards Turkey and people that they represent along sectarian lies are also gradually becoming hostile towards Turkey.

Secterian Influences

Because what has happened in the further stage of islamization of foreign policy is that it has been sectarianized. You do see very tangible preferences along sectarian lines, in who Turkey likes the most, who the government likes to be supporting and this was very apparent in AKP’s Congress just a few weeks ago. AKP has been trying to play to this world but conditions have made it such that it is reconsidering policies that the reality of the world are emposing, forcing them into traditional realliances in terms of military and security issues.

Syria – from examplary relations to frustration

Syria is the number one issue now and poses a major dilemma for Turkey because this is where their act hit the rock bottom. Turkey started in terms of these great expectations on the part of the government opening up to the Middle East and the Islamıc World. What perhaps makes the government nervous most and hurts more is the fact that they used Syria as the prime example how they were approaching to this world. Two years ago when Erdoğan and Mr Esad were so close that they were enjoying friendship, enjoying holidays in Bodrum together, they were getting together along family lines. And Erdoğan was doing this almost as if he was defying the West which did not like this and was saying “what are you doing with these people?” He used to reply that “this is not islamization, we are opening up to our neighborhood, increasing our options”. From that position having to come to this position, that is an incredible turn about 180 degrees. That in itself shows whatever was invested in Syria politicly by this government went to waste. Not only went to waste but now it has opened up a mess because the expectation was so wrong. The expectation as we said was very simple, like Mubarek, like Kaddafi, Esad also has to go. He will go, then Turkey being the friendly soft power in the region with the historicial ties, the political and economic benefits which had already started coming anyway because visa restrictions had been lifted, there was a lot of interaction between people coming like shopers to Gaziantep. Those expectations really were exagarated because despite the claim to know the region, because of our imperial past nobody ever thought about the very complicated sociological set up of Syria. I only know of this because there used to be a Dutch Ambassador in Ankara called Nicolaos Van Dam who had written his doctoral thesis on Syria and I translated this into Turkish. I think it is still being sold and it was only then I realized how deep the sectarian and regional and tribal divisions in this country were. Artificial as it may be, as a set up that emerge if you pull one thing out it was bound to create somekind of ripples across the Middle East in a way that neither Egypt nor Tunisia nor Libya could make. The sitıuation as it has emerged now, not just in terms of the Sunni and Shia, Alawi divide but also in terms of Christian and Muslim secular people, religious people divide. Especially all of these are now in a state of combat in Syria. It is not clear what is going to emerge out of this, what is not going to emerge clearly at this stageies may be what our government initially wanted, which was a democratic transition, elections, parlamentary system and all that. Those expectations have now been transformed into what our President calls “worst case senario expectation”. So we are in fact waiting the worst from Syria at the moment in term of refugees, PKK and Kurdish fall out in terms of sectarian divisions. We have had sensetive moments in recent Turkish history along sectarian lines. Considering this negative situation emerging I think the inner Turkish instinct of the government has now started kicking in slowly.

Putting on the Breaks

Because we see rolling back some of there inital positions and putting on the break. We see this in terms of being much more carefull about admitting refugees. For example I think it was three days ago that one of the leaders of the international refugee agency was accusing Turkey of violating human rights because it was not allowing ten thousand refugees piling at its door. Secondly, they are going around the country and picking up the Syrians and telling them number one item to register, make it clear where they are living and who they were with or move to the camps. Thirdly, who is coming in and out of Turkey and going into Syria because clearly jihad is using this as a means for their international jihad and this has been disturbing especially for the people of Hatay province. Hatay province in Turkey is not only multi-ethnic in Turkey but it has always traditionally been one of the more cosmopolitian and tolerant part of Turkey and anybody who has been in Antakya or around they probably know this. You know the local social implications of the Syrian situation has made the government think twice and put on the breaks.

Transition from Within

Now Turkey is playing with the idea of perhaps somebody from the regime can be the transtion person. Six, seven mounths ago this was out of question. You did not talk to this regime, it was bad regime it was killing its people. Now the notion of talking transitional acceptable name has emerged. By accepting Mr Farouk Al Shaara as a possible transitional figure Turkey has already taken diplomatic step back significantly. Secondly, we had I think it was yesterday coming out of Baku, where it is all over the papers in the words of our Prime Minister, we recommended a triple mechanism: Turkey, Russia and Iran to deal with the Syrian Crysis. I doubt very much that Turkey has decided to put forward this idea because this idea has been floating around as soon as Russia pulled out of the official contact group on Syria. But, never the less, our Prime Minister is pronouncing establisment of triple mechanism. He is completly backing from earlier position Syria goes to show that Turkey is now trying to find a way out of the situation as its position which way in accordance with its initial calculations.

External Interferance – Sensitive Issue for Turkey

Turkey is the one country in the world, Mr Tashan confirmed, the state has been religiously concerned about national sovereignty and against external interference and whatever it has been Turkey now has taken a different line. We are talking about regime changing in another country, we are talking about arming what other people might call terorist groups or whatever and this is an irony that has been played on very much in Turkey by the opposition, by people, myself included, because it has to be highlighted. The government has one out of every two votes. But sooner or later, I think, if the situation turns into a hot confrontation situation over Syria that goes out of hand and we start getting body bags from Syria, not just from the PKK situation, then I can see a certain situation emerging where Mr Davutoğlu becomes an obstacle for Mr Erdoğan, at a time when he is trying to direct the country in terms of a grand vision toward 2023.dissgroup

Visits: 77

“Insoluble Disputes” Foreign Policy Institute Panel At the 11th METU Conference on International Relations: The World in Crisis (June 13-15, 2012) The Panelists Seyfi Taşhan – Introduction to Case Studies Reşat Arım – Cyprus and the Aegean Ömer Lütem – Azerbaijan and Armenia Oktay Aksoy – Caucasus and Russia

SEYFİ TAŞHAN: Dear friends,

Our focus today is subjects and case studies on insoluble international disputes. If we turn into the past, we’ll find that the creation of nation states after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, we have the subjects of international relations because states were being set up firstly and then elsewhere and these international relations began with new states and national character.

So what has the new states brought together?

First of all, let’s not forget that all these new states were formed in the major part, in Europe.  They are influenced with the creation of these states and also what you may call problem solving for these new states, brought together with national sovereignty concept. With the national sovereignty concept the competition among new states and territorial problems increased. Look at the European map in the 19th and 20th Centuries. We see a lot of disputes arising out of this nation state creation. Wars found the solution for a certain period, because with these wars solutions could be found to problems between Empires. There was little else avenue to solving them. Yes of course, there was exchange of land, giving land and even using royal marriages to arrange for greater part, for solving problems among them. But now that European concept of sovereignty established after creation of Western nation states and those nation states particularly became under control in famous Vienna Conference in 19th Century. Then we have 2 major problems. One is the rise of Germany, a very powerful state in Europe. Austria-Hungarian Empire was brought to an end with the First World War, the division of Ottoman Empire has been arranged by the victors of First World War. They divided the boundaries of new states among themselves, victors sharing territory, particularly Middle East was taken from Ottoman Empire. French and British were instrumental the borderlines being arranged by them, especially the Sykes-Picot agreement. So we have all these new areas and new problems. Now we have moved from there to First World War. Then major parties tried to have an international organization that would solve problems, that was League of Nations, it would had a miserable performance and could not to do anything and could not prevent the Second World War. Only one Empire  survived, that is the Russian Empire, which miraculously changed its character to a Bolshevik Empire, Soviet Socialist, even though the nations within had problems with each other. And if we move to Africa, after Second World War there were colonial borders which became state borders under UN and Pan African Treaty. They promised not to change borders, but of course they are changed. But there are tribal zones on the one side of the border, same tribe exists on the other side of the border. This created and still creates lots of problems in Africa. If we look at disputes in general, I am just moving little behind nation states disputes; during important period we have particularly with Enlightenment or before let’s see during middle Ages we had major religious difference. The Ottoman Empire calmed it down, where Christians and Muslims could live together in Europe. With the oncoming period, we have Great Wars between Enlightenment Protestants and Catholics. This continued a long time. As I said at the end of Thirty Years War only Westphalia Treaty could be made but even on national scale the fight between Protestants and Catholics continued and now nations had to find eventually an agreement with Catholic System and Pope and they had officially signed what you may call “concordats”. These concordats defined where religion would act and where states would act. These concordats, last one were signed by France in 1905 and this brought in separation of state and religion. In Protestant areas probably this was not necessary but particularly in Catholic areas this was absolutely necessary. If we look at Muslim map there was one major country that was the Ottoman Empire. In the Ottoman Empire, somehow it was possible to live together with Christians, Muslims, Jews and all different types. With the division of the Ottoman Empire the nation states where under 2 basic impacts. One was internal regime; particularly in some of the countries of North Africa and Middle East they preferred socialism and nationalism. Of course that was one of the most important of socialism and with the breakdown of Soviet Union then came the issue of socialism to be replaced by what? Socialism was attractive but there was another factor in the Middle East that was the creation of the state of Israel as promised by Britain with Balfour Declaration in 1917. Now what type of disputes we have? We have territorial disputes between nations. We have disputes on ethnicity problems that can be both internal in a state or you may share it between different states across the borders with another state or several other states. Then you have the problem of regimes. From the point of view of regime, we used to have from Europe and other countries that we have the regime questions? Dictatorship and democracy and certain countries we have hybrid democracy and in certain others we have Islamic regimes. The basic problem is: Can Islam and democracy survive together? This is the problem of today. With the new Arab Spring, we call it spring but I don’t know if it is.  I think it is religious uprising in the Arab world which shows itself in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and partly in Libya as well and we have these problems still continuing in Algeria and others, somehow resolved in Morocco and we still have big fights in Yemen which has calmed down a little bit and the disputes going on in Gulf States. Iraq is not settled at all. This problem democracy, ethnicity, religion what I might call contradicting each other on many places. We are lucky that this problem has been solved in Turkey as with Great Ataturk. We have adopted European type of regime and so on, but people are thinking, was it good for us or should we change the regime or that more Islamic visibility or shall we move ourselves from Europe to Middle East or what a global power or can we become a global power or shall we stay a regional power? These are all subjects of debate in addition to ethnic problem in our country. So, now we are coming to dispute. How can the disputes be settled? During the period of power concept in Europe,  resolution of disputes were in the hands of major powers which were then France, Britain, Germany and Italy. We were accepted to the Concert of Europe in 1856 but that meant nothing, particularly because our system was not European system at that time. So conflicts would be settled by these major power depending who was close to it. Let’s look at Greek Turkish relations, problems were resolved by Great Powers usually to the benefit of Greece. On the other hand, some of their own problems between themselves could resist the solution and they continued during several wars. For example Franco-German dispute for Alsace Loraine which continued to friction point. There are intra state problems such as the one in Belgium, the one in Northern Ireland and some of those that let into division of nations like Czechs and Slovaks and then we have division of Yugoslavia so there are imperial division and these problems are not yet settled and theoretically with the creation of Kosovo as a state and several countries having recognized its independence including Turkey. Many people think Kosovo solution is done with, but still there is a dispute between Serbia and Kosovo that is not yet finished. There is also dispute between Croatia, Serbia and Muslim Republic of Bosnia. So these problems still persist even though they are silent at the moment. Can they be solved? How can they be solved? Solution in Bosnia Herzegovina, yes if you ask the people there this does not solve the problem. Everyone said “No”, it is not yet solved. That is again major power in position of solution there are other problems that currently exist. Look at Palestine issue. The Palestine problem at the moment is the cause of major calamities in the Arab World and that continued to be solved and resolution of this dispute depends on finding a solution between Palestine and Israel. Israel does not have a border. Now occupied border but they don’t accept as they have borders because Israel state is dominated by Zionism. Zionism and promised land go together and they cannot give up promised land which far extends beyond Palestine. If you ask Israeli professor “What is your ultimate boundaries?” The answer you’ll get will not be positive answer. Negotiations are blocked because of continuing settlement building in Palestine territory and that’s going on. They continue building when they continue negotiating. The Palestine- Jerusalem area is being surrounded by more and more settlements. This question is one of the insoluble questions at the moment because US stands behind Israel and Europe is shy for several reasons including what you may call great trauma during Second World War, genocide and if Europeans there and Arabs do not have enough power and not means they have try to fight with Israel, they have been beaten so they are unable to do anything so there is the problem living and nothing can be solved. There are other problems in many part of the world in Africa, Asia and in Latin America. Everywhere there are problems. Those are of difficult characters to resolve. Now today in this pakee discussion of our neighborhood, we will take 3 case studies. One of them will be very close to our heart, that is Cyprus, the others are inter Caucasus, one of them Azerbaijan-Armenia problem and the other one today still alive insoluble question, the question of Georgia and Russia so we will try to analyze these during the conference and take your question afterward. First I would like to invite Ambassador Reşat Arım to give his views on Cyprus dispute and Aegean.

Cyprus and  the Aegean

REŞAT ARIM: These 2 problems are Cyprus and the Aegean. Of course they are inter-connected they concern two countries, 2 neighbors. When the Cyprus dispute came to the fore, Turkey and Greece it was in a period where Cold War did not really start in 1950s, when 2 countries in a most friendly atmosphere. So the officials of 2 countries got together, they discussed the matter and after having the problem at the United Nations Security Council, at the United Nations General Assembly etc.. They understood that they could not be resolved by strong measures and they decided to come to an agreement and they made solid agreement. They decided Cyprus to be an independent state so they prepared the Treaty of Establishment. They thought that Cyprus should be defended by the contingents of 2 countries and there was Treaty of Alliance. They established headquarters and in those headquarters there would be 950 Greek troops and 650 Turkish. They also prepared Treaty of Guarantee which has foreseen the independence, territorial integrity and security of Republic of Cyprus. The independent state would be safeguarded by the Guarantor of powers: Turkey, Greece and UK are guaranteeing Powers. They also prepared a Constitution in 1959; they have prepared drafts in 1960. The treaties were formally put on the table and signed by the interested parties. Constitution was made for this independent state. There would be a Greek Cypriot President and Vice President would be Turkish Cypriot. In the government there would be 7 Greek Cypriot Ministers and 3 Turkish Cypriot Minister. There would be House of Representatives in which 35 members would be from Greek Cypriots community and 15 Turkish Cypriots community. These agreements, these solemn treaties entered by 2 parties and Britain. They were upset in 1963 only 3 years after, treaties were signed. Because there was No Alignment movement, wind blowing across the continent and especially in colonized world. Then we know the story. The matter was taken into Security Council There would be mediation effort and inter communal talks would be held between 2 communities so this is the Cyprus case shows us that 2 countries they have and have not to find the solution to the dispute but then somehow the arrangement come to nothing.

 The Aegean Sea is a semi-enclosed sea and as far as international law is concerned in semi enclosed seas, there should be formula found by 2 parties sitting across the sea. Turkey and Greece would find formula. Up till now they could not find it. Of course the basic thing was territorial waters. Territorial waters of course affect continental shelf and other sea related problems. When we look at the territorial sea and territorial waters problem we find that Turkish territorial waters were extended to 3 miles for a long time following the signing of Treaty of Lausanne between 2 countries. However in 1936, the 2 countries extended the limits of territorial waters to 6 miles. As we know there are more than 3000 Greek islands in the Aegean. Many of them quite close to Turkish coast so this 6 mile limit make maritime passage diffiever from the Aegean to Mediterranean. Of course there have been many developments in the law of the sea. There was Law of Sea Conferences in 1982, the Law of the Sea Convention was adopted and Law of the Sea Convention talks about 12 miles limit. The Greek Parliament ratified Convention, also said that the Greek government could have the authority to extend territorial waters to 12 miles. Turkish government responded and said that this would not be acceptable for Turkish Party and that Turkish government would be given all powers including military ones if need to protect the vital interest. In such an eventuality of course Turkish Parliament did not speak of casus belli, literally to say. “If Greek territorial waters would be extended to 12 miles, there would be act of war.” The Turkish Parliament acted in a very friendly way but the texts adopted signify there would be a very tense situation if 12 miles limit would be accepted by Greece. So much for territorial waters. Greece did not extend territorial waters to 12 miles but this possibility still hangs in the balance. The serious problem connected with Aegean Sea is the continental shelf which has created more anxiety in the 2 countries. First Greece permitted for exploration of oil in the    continental shelf of islands. The position of 2 countries is the following the Turkish position is that continental shelf in the Aegean Sea is the prolongation of the Anatolian peninsula. It goes into Aegean Sea quite a long way. The position of Greece is that all the islands have continental shelves. Of course all 3000 islands, many of them very close to the Turkish coast if they have continental shelves then there would be Turkish ship sailing always on the continental shelf of Greece. The real crisis came because of continental shelf situation. Turkey has embarked on seismic research on the continental shelf of Aegean Sea. You will remember that there was the ship Seismic 1 and there was a sharp exchange of notes between 2 countries Greece took the matter to the International Court of Justice but could not get any result there. Greece also complains at the Security Council, UN Security Council debated the issue and finally said that 2 countries should negotiate a position to find a formula to this dispute and no formula is found.

The real negotiations between the 2 parties were in 1976 at Bern in Switzerland the negotiators came together and they almost frozen the conflict. They said that neither party would take action that would prejudice the negotiations. That’s to say no party would take action independently.

Cyprus problem as we see at the beginning started very nicely would 2 countries come together and signed treaties and in one of the documents they have accepted apart from the treaties, they said that Cyprus could only become a member of a union in which both Turkey and Greece are members. But for many reasons the European Union countries by passed this provision of agreement by 2 parties and they have accepted Greek Cypriots as member. So this has prevented any solution in Cyprus dispute. As far as Aegean is concerned the 2 parties are still far away from finding formula that could be acceptable 2 sides. This is the situation insoluble disputes.

SEYFİ TAŞHAN: Yes, now Azerbaijan-Armenia dispute.

Azerbaijan – Armenia

ÖMER LÜTEM: Azerbaijan-Armenia dispute is an old one. When Russians invaded South Caucasus in the 19th Century they found there a Christian minority. They thought that they can use this minority for the future because they had plans against the Ottoman Empire. But the question is that this minority was a real minority; it never constituted a majority in any of the places. So, they tried to constitute a majority where there is a town called Revan, a Persian town which later became an Azerbaijani town, 20 km away, from that town is the seat of the  big Armenian Patriarchate Etchmiaddzin. So, they chose that place and they began to oust, sometimes gently, sometimes by force the Azerbaijanis from that part so they could build sovereignty with the Armenian majority. It didn’t happen in a short period of time, rather a long period of time. It took about 40 years or, something like that. And this place near Revan they called it Erivan, they formed an Armenian province. Naturally this creates problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan. More or less the same thing happened in Karabag, 200 km away from the borders not in Karabagh, in the mountainous part of it. It has some value, strategic value. They did the same thing. They ousted Azerbaijanis and put in their place Armenians. In Erivan and Karabagh there still was some number of Azerbaijanis. The ratio was 7 to 3 but it creates a big problem naturally when you lose your home and you are obliged to exile yourself in another country. You know that people ousted from Karabagh and Erivan, some of them are still in Turkey but all these happened 150 years ago. The big problem is that Great Armenia which gained some importance after the Berlin Treaty. Armenians tried to create bigger Armenia which existed in their opinion nearly 20 centuries ago. It is something like that. Just a dream. But under this framework they asked naturally from the Ottoman Empire, the biggest part of the lands in the East and from Azerbaijan they asked Nahcivan, etc. Naturally Greater Armenia was never realized, a part of it was given by the Treaty of Sevres to Armenia but as you know the Treaty of Sevres was never ratified and therefore was never implemented. Following the First World War, Armenia was being incorporated into the Soviet Union and Karabagh was incorporated as an autonomous region into Azerbaijan. Karabagh is completely surrounded by Azerbaijani lands. Armenia  never accepted this. They tried to object to Moscow but they have not been successful at all. This problem lasted nearly 70 years during the Soviet Union. After the desolation of the Soviet Union, naturally this question emerged suddenly because Armenians of Karabagh were prepared for this and in February 1988, 3 years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Assembly of Karabagh decided that they should join Armenia as a country but USSR Central Committee of the Communist Party rejected it. After some time, 2 years later, another referendum was organized by the Armenians of Karabagh. This time they decided that the country will be independent. Few days later Azerbaijan had its own referendum. Now the situation was like this from the legal point of view. They said that “as the referendum for the independence of Karabagh was before the referendum of independence of Azerbaijan, we have nothing to do with Azerbaijan.”  Yes, there is absolutely not much sense because the law at that time or the law of the Soviet Union, if not the law of Azerbaijan, there is no law regulating a region which has some autonomy. Fights began between Karabag Armenians and Azerbaijani forces but Armenians beat the Azerbaijani forces. You all remember the Hocalı Massacre, the Azerbaijanis in Karabagh and the region there were forced to  leave the country because if not they could be killed. There are more or less 1 million Azerbaijani refugees all coming from 7 provinces which surrounds Karabagh. Naturally at the end Armenia was victorious at the end of this war which lasted about 3 years- from 1991 to1994, Russia as the only country that has military forces on the spot, didn’t pursue a stable policy. At the beginning there have been more tendencies to defend a little bit more maybe the Azerbaijanis but in the second part of it they were rather pro-Armenian. This was probably because at that time in Moscow there was no stable government, either. But now they can play an important role. That is extremely important.  Today some of the EU countries also play an important role. As for Turkey it is a little bit different. Turkey recognized Armenia when they declared independence. Turkish government had in mind that it was time to open a new page in relations with Armenia. They said that we have so much trouble, problems in the past so let’s have a fresh start but it was not possible. With this idea as a native Turkish the government of 1991-92 tried to play a mediator role between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It was not a very successful one. To show to Armenia good will, they gave Armenia electricity and facilitataed delivery of Eu promised wheat assistance because the economic situation of Armenia was very bad. During all that time Armenia continued to occupy Azerbaijani territories. Turkey on the other hand tried to secure ceasefire and evacuation of Azerbaijani territories Turkey played a major role for the adoption of Security Council resolution asking that the ceasefire to be established and the occupied lands evacuated. This resolution emphasizes territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. All these at a time Armenian forces were occupying Azerbaijani lands, on the side of Karabagh and hoping that they can stop this. Turkey closed its land borders with Armenia, this was in June 1993 and airspace at the same time. They opened the airspace 2 years later but land border is still closed. The main reason for Azerbaijani defeat is firstly interior turmoil and they never agreed among each other and they applied always different policies. During all that time, Armenians had just one president and Azerbaijanis 3 Presidents and their behaviors and policies were quite different. First president Muttalibov was pro- Russian and pro-Soviet one but it didn’t help him to have some success at all. The second Elçibey, rather pro Turkish, let’s say pan-Turkic but it didn’t help him much. Turks like him very much but they were not able to help him. Third one is Haydar Aliyev, Soviet made man, has become member of Politburo and the only Azerbaijani to come to very high places. He was ousted by Gorbachev, who was his rival and so on. He applied different policies. First he made Azerbaijan a member of Commonwealth of Independent States. He was thinking that there were several members to help him and then he gave to the British Petrolium Company, the rights for exploration in its rich oil fields. As far as Karabagh, Armenians always wanted Karabagh to be an independent state. Naturally rating becomes a factor when one becomes an independent state. If you are independent you are free to organize a referendum in order to annex the country to Armenia. It is so simple. As to the Azerbaijan, they always defended that Karabagh should be an autonomous region within Azerbaijan but having very large rights. Yes there is a ceasefire, naturally this is since May of 1994 and immediately followed by the formation of a mediation group within the OSCE which is mixed group composed of 10 countries including Turkey. This is called the Minsk Group. But as tenth countries were not able to function as an effective group, is carried by important big countries, USA, France and Russia are continuing the negotiations both side. It is about 18 years now. Nothing has come forte yet.

SEYFİ TAŞHAN: That is another insoluble dispute.

ÖMER LÜTEM: Yes exactly. They are at the beginning of where they started, they didn’t go one pace further I will not go into details of the proposals during the 18 years but I will tell you the last proposals which have been declared many times. When I said last proposal, you think that they are new proposals. There is nothing now but I will tell you briefly. Armenia should return 7 Azeri rayon surrounding Karabagh to Azerbaijani control. Rayon is the “ilçe” or “kaza” in Turkish, something like that. This return will not be done at once but in stages. Armenia didn’t accept this. Armenia may be willing to give 5 of the rayons try to keep one or two provinces for themselves. Karabagh will be linked to Armenia with a land corridor the famous Laçin corridor. Azerbaijani refugees will return to former places of residence. Two stage settlement for the Karabagh region itself. First stage as an interim status. In this stage Karabagh will continue to govern itself. Its security will be guaranteed and then second stage will take place. It is the determination of the final legal status of Karabagh. This will be done as I quote “through legally binding expression of will” but first the meaning of this: It is a kind of referendum. Azerbaijanis don’t like the utilization of the word referendum, so they found this “legally binding expression” and then international security guarantees, including peacekeeping force, etc. This proposal draws mainly, the objection of Azerbaijan for a very simple reason. In an unknown date this “legally binding expression of will” shall occur. Which is a referendum and you know the result of referendum. Today there is practically no Azerbaijani in Karabagh. If the former presidents of Azeri region return even at that moment, they are not more than 30%. So Karabagh referandum result we know from today and this is the main obstacle to find a solution. Russian President Medvedev during the last 18 month period had several meetings with Presidents Aliyev and Sarkisyan. No results. I will tell you another thing, Turkish position. As you know, 2 protocols were signed between Armenia and Turkey. For ratification our PM said that first the occupied territory by Armenia in Karabagh and other region should be terminated and they should be evacuated. So most probably someone told him that “Mr. PM the evacuation of all these lands will require many years.” So little changed at that time. New formulation is that Turkey will ratify the protocol if there will be major positive developments in the Karabagh question. What are major positive developments?  From our Minister of Foreign Affairs we learn that they said to the Armenia just 1 or 2 of 7 regions. It will be enough for us to ratify the protocol but Armenians didn’t accept this. So we are done. Yes Karabagh is an indeed and insoluble dispute. This dispute is the major obstacle to South Caucasus stability and cooperation. If you don’t solve this question, don’t expect that there will be stability and cooperation in the Caucasus. There is another consequence for Turkey, too. For Turkey it became the main elements. In Turkey-Armenia conflict it became one of the elements after 2 years. The main element of Turkey-Armenian dispute is the allegation of Armenian genocide and the recognition of Turkey- Armenian borders. To these two main problems, now we have a third. Thank you.

SEYFİ TAŞHAN: Last part is about the dispute between Georgia-Russia.

Russia – Georgia

OKTAY AKSOY :  The disputes you have listened about are between more or less comparable size countries. But now I want to talk about one between a big power and a considerably smaller party – between Georgia and the Russian Federation.

In such cases where the disparity between the parties to a conflict is huge, one can take either of the two courses. One, taken by the Finns and even by the Japanese confronting the Soviets (or Russians to be clear). And the other taken by the Georgians. The first does not satisfy you but you can survive the circumstances and even try to take advantage of the situation. The other keeps you frustrated.

Two courses to take in disputes with incomparable sized parties

Case of the Finns

In fact, the dispute can be comparable with the territorial dispute the Finns had after their independence from the Russian Empire. The Soviets attacked Finland at the start of the Second World War. The Finns fought a long, courageous war but inevitably lost. They had to abandon Karelia evacuating all the Finns there and also leaving the strategically important port of Murmansk on the Barents Sea in the North, strategically important because it is navigable throughout the year, not frozen. During all the years they fought the Soviet troops no substantial assistance from neighbors or beyond was received except from the Germans also fighting the Soviets. But, as the result, they were treated after the Second World War as an ally of Nazi Germany, only country in Europe to pay war indemnities, accept restrictions on their military and industry. The Finns realizing that they could be left on their own facing a powerful enemy chose to follow a policy accepting their frailty and took advantage of neighboring the Soviet Union.

Case of the Japanese

Another similar case could be the Japanese loss of the Kuril Islands to the Soviet Union after the Second World War. The Japanese have not abandoned their claims over the islands, any time they have high level official meetings, they make a point of their position, this does not disrupt their relations as both want to take advantage of the other. I am sure that Japan is prepared to pay a big sum for those islands. But Russians don’t even think about bargaining for them. It is a war booty for the victorious Russians over the Japanese, not only for the crimes and  atrocities committed during the Second World War but also for their victory over the Russian navy earlier in history. They have to be humiliated. These are the facts of life!! The Russians are known to be proudly exhibiting the art works confiscated from the Germans, including the remains from Troy!!

Case in the Caucasus

In the Caucasus where different ethnicities have intermingled throughout centuries, somehow the people try not to forget, carry their grudge over years and try to take revenge and do not mind the immediate losses they may encounter.

In the case of Russian-Georgian disputes, one party cannot abandon its past greatness; it carries the burden of history. The other, smaller party, thinks that it can receive the support of allies in distance. The result is frustration.

Georgia has historically either blocked or facilitated passage to the Russian plains and to Sothern Caucasus. It is consisted of many tribes, the remnants of which can be traced even in today’s grievances. Tribal union was achieved in the 13th century. They had adopted Christianity as early as 4th century. Persia had occasional control of the region and by late 7 th century one witness’s Arab conquest with the aim of spreading Islam. The Seljuk conquest was in the 11th century. But Georgia has basically remained as a Christian enclave surrounded by Turco-Iranian-Arabic Muslims, resulting in an additional fragmentation of the peoples of the region on sectarian grounds. In 1555 the Ottomans and Safavid Persians partitioned the region.

Than came the Russians. They annexed it to their Empire in 1801 after a long and difficult war with the tribes of the Caucasus. And the expansion of the Russian Empire in the 19th century to the Caucasus has made the Caucasus a part of the Great Game aiming at dominance of the peoples of Central Asia rivaling the British Empire. During this period many Circassia’s, Chechen, Abkhaz and others have been relocated first to the Balkans, than to other parts of the Ottoman Empire with the advance of Russians not only in the East but also in the Balkans. The sufferings of these people were enormous. By the way, nobody questions this relocation but that of the Armenians is made an issue and exploited as expulsion from their traditional lands.

After the First World War a short lived Democratic Republic of  Georgia was established from 1918 until 1922. Then it became a part of the Transcaucasia Socialist Federative Republic consisting of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia from 1922 to 1936 and then from 1936 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 it was one of the Soviet Socialist Republics, privileged because of Stalin’s Georgian origins.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union

The collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1991 brought back the possibility of its gaining independence. But unrest in the region had already started earlier as the Communist Party candidates had lost in the elections in 1989. After independence, Russian support of the autonomous status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia has been the main reason for the tensions between the still powerful Russia and the small Georgia.

Georgian President Saakashvili having come to power after the Rose revolution had bet that Georgia could become a NATO member and thus ensure its independence. He tried his bid in August 2008 with an attempt to take back Southern Ossetia. The Russians immediately responded as protectors of both Abkhazia and Ossetia. The war has prompted EU to endorse a more visible security role and upgrade its policies towards the Eastern neighborhood with the launch of Eastern Partnership. However, Georgia has realized its limitations and that depending solely on the US was not sufficient to maintain its territorial integrity and independence. I must call your attention to the size of the populations of these two contested territories.  It is evident that there are more people of Abkhaz or Osset descent in Turkey. Therefore, Turkey follows developments there not only as a neighboring country.

Problems in Abkhazia

Abkhazia had an autonomous status during the Soviet period; it was the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic within the Georgian SSR. So it was, in a way, easier to claim independence. The conflict in Abkhazia occurred even before the Soviet collapse in 1991 where the Abkhaz formed only 17 percent of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic while the Georgians accounted for 45 percent, Armenians 14 percent and Russians 12 percent. Now there are around 240 thousand people in Abkhazia. Ethnic clashes in the capital city Sukhumi left a dozen dead. After the collapse of the Soviet Union nationalistic fervor of the Georgians increased the tension. The Georgians attacked and occupied Sukhumi in 1993, the Abkhaz counter attacked and virtually all Georgians living in Abkhazia were evicted. An unstable ceasefire has been held ever since. With the earlier skirmishes the UN sent an Observer’s Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) where Turkey was also a member to verify compliance with the ceasefire agreed. However, this mission came to an end on June 2009 due to lack of consensus among UN Security Council members on expansion of its mandate. So was the OSCE observer’s mission ending in 2005 When the Georgian Government asked EU to take over the Mission, EU chose to send a small team of 3 border support advisers not to antagonize Russia.

Problems in Southern Ossetia

Ethnic Ossetia’s formed a majority, over two thirds of the population of the autonomous region, 67 thousand out of a population of only 98 thousand. They wanted to join their ethnic brethren in the North Caucasus in the Autonomous Republic of Northern Ossetia, part of the Russian Federation. Ever since there is this constant tension and with the Georgian attempt to take over the small territory a war wit Russia started on 8 August 2008.

To bring to an end this short lived war efforts by the then President of France who was also the term President of EU , as well as by the  Prime Minister of  Turkey were helpful to reduce the tension and to realize the withdrawal of  the  Russian troops from Georgia. All the same, Russia recognized both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, in response to recognition of Kosovo’s independence by Western powers. In addition to Russia some others recognized their independence :  Venezuela , Nicaragua, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as 3 others whose independence are disputable: South Ossetia, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabagh.

Meanwhile, NATO even at its declaration issued after its last summit in Chicago on May 20th, 2012 pays lip service to the territorial integrity of Georgia:  Article 30 states: “We reiterate our continued support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia within its Internationally recognized borders….We welcome Georgia’s commitment not to use force and call on Russia to reciprocate….”

The problem of having a dispute with a big power is that an ally or friends beyond in a distance have limitations to send assistance. A dispute in which one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council is involved is even more than difficult to resolve. In the case of Georgia the distance of some countries which may have helped was a factor. Moreover, very few countries could risk their relations with Russia to assist Georgia. Another point which was also important was the restrictions imposed by the Montreux Treaty to allow passage to the Black Sea through the Turkish Straits. Therefore, it is a fact that this may remain as an insoluble dispute for many years to come.

Visits: 92

FPI organized Panel entitled “Human Rights in IR: Theory and Practice” at the 10 th METU Conference on International Relations “Rethinking International Relations: Theory and Practice”

Foreign Policy Institute with participation of some members of its Administrative Board has organized a panel on June 17 th, 2011 at the 10th METU Conference on International Relations entitled “Theory and Practice: Human Rights in International Relations.” Prof. Ersin Onulduran moderated the panel where Seyfi Taşhan, Director of the Institute, discussed the practices within the Council of Europe context, as well as practices in the Islamic countries. Amb. (Rt.) Oktay Aksoy, Board Member, summerized the evolution of human rights within the United Nations system and Amb.(Rt.) Reşat Arım, Board Member, related the developments in the Americas, in Africa and in Asia …

Visits: 34