04 November 2006

1205) Developments Changing Caucasus

Some states take advantage of the destabilization resource

Developments of recent six weeks have made some substantial changes in Caucasus.

It seemed that it was no longer possible to amaze somebody with any destructive idea in South Caucasus, a region abundant with conflicts and mutual hatred. . . It seemed it was impossible to make the situation tenser /excluding military operations resumption/. However, political developments show the opposite – there are plenty of resources here for escalating tension and destabilizing the situation. Some states started taking advantage from these resources.

To understand the logic of these developments, one should consider them in the context of conflicts or current problems.

The Bill Passed by French Parliament and Armenian-Turkish Relations

Armenian-Turkish relationship scheme is following: the two neighboring countries have no diplomatic ties, Turkey keeps Armenian-Turkish border closed, Turkey denies the fact of the Armenian Genocide committed by Ottoman Turks at the beginning of this century while Armenia remains steadfast in seeking international recognition of the genocide fact and Turkey is openly supporting Azerbaijan in Karabakh problem.

Let us consider French Parliament’s decision in this very context.
One of the European Union’s influential member countries puts in force the law, which states that all those denying the fact of Armenian Genocide will be prosecuted. This happened shortly before Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union and several months before France’s nationwide elections. That’s all.

The French lawmakers’ step fueled anti-French and anti-Armenian sentiments in Turkey and this country is expected to take certain return steps. Even if Turkey refrains from any return move, anti-Armenian sentiments are obviously running high.

International community placed it on record that almost all the EU influential figures made pro-Turkish statements calling Turkey friendly country and attached importance to dialogue with Turkey on its way to European Union.

Despite European analysts have repeatedly said that this was nothing more than France’s home policy problem, the bill passage in France gave a new impetus to nationalist movement in Turkey posing threat not only to European Union, but also to Turkey’s neighbors.

Unlike dialogue between Turkey and European Union, Armenian-Turkish dialogue became more difficult. Turkey will keep blockading Armenia and backing Azerbaijan. It means Armenia took no advantage from that step but psychological satisfaction with that moment.

Moreover - some high-ranking French confessed that French Parliament’s decision was an unfair move toward Armenians. Unfortunately, they made this revelation not publicly.
Instead, Armenian officials publicly expressed gratitude to French Parliament without admitting that this is a France’s internal affair.

Russian-Georgian Relations

Russia, taking advantage from arrests of Russian officers and from Georgia’s emotional rhetoric, launched vigorous anti-Georgian campaign. Russia declared total blockade of neighboring Georgia and started harassing businessmen of Georgian descent and ordinary Georgians. Russian authorities deported hundreds of Georgians from their country.

Russia used its propaganda machine in this anti-Georgian campaign, and the overwhelming majority of Russian political parties supported the authorities conduct.

How International Community Reacts to That?

The U.S. and European Union took Georgia’s side, UN Security Council adopted compromising resolution and Abkhazian Parliament addressed Russian lawmakers to put Abkhazia’s motion for joining Russia on the State Duma’s floor.

Armenian-Russian Relations

Russia’s blockade has the same impact also on Armenia. Before closing Upper Lars checkpoint, Russia even failed to warn Armenia, its “strategic ally”, about that and put the state, which is already blocked by two neighboring countries, in difficult situation. It means Russia can omit Armenia’s interests at any moment.

Russian MP Zatulin’s recent statements in Yerevan could cause interstate relations deterioration in other conditions. He blamed Yerevan for taking neutral stance on Russian-Georgian relations.

He said Armenia should join anti-Georgian campaign. Otherwise, Moscow will draw certain inferences from that. Zatulin also threatened that if Russian dominance weakens in South Caucasus, NATO and Turkey will play major part in Karabakh conflict. The hint is clear.

What Happens Then?

Comparison between acute and chronic conflicts forces us into concluding that the current situation won’t be long. It is clear that Russia can’t to keep Georgia blocked for log period or it won’t be permitted to continue the blockade. It is also clear that Russia can’t deport about one million Georgians and will limit the number of deportees to several hundreds, which has no “material” value. Obvious is that Russia won’t resort to force in making Abkhazia and Ossetia its part.

Later Russia will ease its pressure on Georgia. This will happen either as a result of considerable pressure from the outside or if Saakashvili’s rule is toppled. This can happen also in the event of Russian-Georgian dialogue brokered by international community. This dialogue’s approximate results are being outlined now – Georgian authorities curb their emotions against Russia while the latter is gradually lifting the blockade and mitigating its campaign against Georgians in Russia, NATO is delaying Georgia’s membership and Georgia is dragging its feet in launching offensives against Ossetia and Abkhazia.

It should be mentioned that the way of dialogue is the most acceptable, but the other two ways are likely as well.

Armenian-Turkish Relations

Taking into account current circumstances, we can say that Armenian-Turkish relations can long remain frozen. The key factors favorable for that are:
1. Turkey sees no reasons for opening its borders;
2. Armenia takes no rational steps for border opening;
3. International community puts no pressure on Turkey.

Other Relations

Recent month’s South Caucasian tension was among those rare periods, in which Karabakh conflict and Azerbaijan was absent. Karabakh and Azerbaijan were forgotten amid Russian-Georgian and Armenian-French-Turkish tensions.

It is clear that the conflict was forgotten temporarily and the problem remains on the agenda.

For this period, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey take practical steps for Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi railway construction. Azerbaijan intends to provide interest-free loan to Georgia for projects implementation.

An important and constructive program is being worked out now for these three countries. This program needs no great investments /only $450 million/. Completion of the railway construction will make Kars-Gyumri railway existence senseless and all Armenia-related issues will transform from practical into moral.

Amid tension between Russia and Georgia, many don’t rule out that the day will come when Russia imposes similar sanctions on Armenia. Today a part of these sanctions is indirectly applied. It isn’t ruled out that one day Russian roads and markets will be closed before Armenian cargoes or gas supply will be ceased.

Russia is becoming an unpredictable state whose strength depends on oil prices.

29.10.2006
Copyright © www.newneighbors.am
by Hayk Karapetyan

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