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Greek Military Acquisitions on the Rise

By Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

Greece and Turkey are historically known as traditional foes that accumulate vast military arsenals, preserving a delicate balance of power that breaks out occasionally with ‘hot’ incidents, inevitably involving the air force and the navy in the Eastern Aegean.

Over the recent period, Greece has proceeded in acquiring new weaponry from international producers, while Turkey continues to pressure Greece on a variety of issues. One item of note is the heightened role being played by France as an arms-producing nation in equipping the Greek armed forces for their next-generation needs.

The most recent reports out of Athens indicate that the incumbent government is going to procure some 40 4th generation fighter jets, with the Eurofighter Typhoon topping the list, and the French Rafale, manufactured by Dassault, also being looked at. Moreover, after 2012 Greece will order some 60 American Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) planes.

The total cost for the above is difficult to estimate due to the changing currency index and the variety of missiles and auxiliary systems that can be added; in total, however, costs should exceed 10 billion euro, a substantial amount that is more than the total defense budget of Greece for 2008.

Turkey, for its part, has already planned their procurement of 100 units of the superb F-35 Lighting II fighter jet from the US. This is in keeping with the strategic aim of the Turkish Air Force of becoming the strongest in the East Mediterranean region by 2020.

On the maritime front, the Greek Navy has ordered six frigates by autumn 2008, at a total cost of 2.8 billion euro. The French, according to all estimations, have gained the upper hand in offering the FREMM type vessel. The French are also likely to be commissioned for the modernization scheme of the Mirage-2000 fighter jets, costing probably in excess of 500 million euro, along with new weaponry such as precision guidance munitions and air-to-air missiles.

Greece already ordered 415 BMP-3 combat armored vehicles in early December 2007; they will be accompanied by another 81 as an offset, amounting to 1.3 billion euro. Most of these vehicles will arrive in Greece by early 2010. Moscow is also actively pursuing the sale to Greece of the BUK middle-range anti-aircraft system, at a cost of around 700 million euro. A decision on that is likely to be delayed until mid-2009, however.

An interesting aspect here is the willingness of the French to offer Greece the new Scalp-Naval surface-to-surface missiles with a maximum range of 1,000 kilometers, essentially a strategic weapon that will be deployed aboard the FREMM ships. In reality, this means that a Greek vessel could hit an enemy target in mainland Turkey while safely withdrawn in Southern Crete or even the Ionian Sea, far away from a potential theater of battle.

This particular weapon essentially replicates the abilities of the American-made Tomahawk missile, presently used only by the armed forces of the USA, UK and Israel. Already the Greek Air Force operates the Scalp Storm Shadow version with a 350km radius, which is classified as a sub-strategic weapon.

The main reason Paris is seeking to open up this export market, it seems, is the fierce antagonism between multiple high-tech weapons producers that have caused great losses to the French defense industry over the past decade. Greece, as a major European market, could assist the French into re-entering the market.

The French are also heavily promoting the Rafale fighter plane for export. Between the 12th and 16th of May, Greek and French pilots trained together with these fighters during the “Aegean Gust” exercise held in Greece. Five French planes faced five Greek F-16’s, engaging in battle simulation. The total French team sent to Greece numbered 45 personnel.

Officially, the exercise was a bilateral one conducted in order to further build bonds between the two nations; in reality, this was a high-level and high-cost marketing endeavor during which the Greek pilots and officers viewed under realistic conditions the real capabilities of the Rafale planes, and how they would operate under difficult circumstances against the American F-16’s, the main type of jet used by both Greeks and Turks at present.

In this light, it is not beyond the realm of speculation to conclude that, among other recent overtures, the French support for Greece during the controversial NATO Summit in April was meant to increase the likelihood of a sale that would be very lucrative for France.

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Ankara’s Growing Importance for Israel in the Post-American Middle East

By Mehmet Kalyoncu

Several developments are concurrently taking place in and around the Middle East, both national and regional ones, which are likely to have wider implications. First, the United States is reluctantly starting to realize that the mission “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is failing, and that fairly soon the withdrawal of troops from Iraq will be no longer an option, but a necessity.

Second, Turkey voted for its future with the parliamentary elections on July 22. The AK Party of PM Erdogan won a landslide victory, receiving 46.6 percent of the votes and thus becoming the only party in the past 57 years to increase its votes in the second term.[i] As such, the electoral victory has not only given the AK Party another five year in office, but also a strong popular mandate for its policy course in both domestic and foreign affairs. However, although Erdogan’s AK Party has indeed won the right to form the new government, questions remain over whether it will be able to govern.

Finally, despite all the international pressure and UN sanctions, Tehran is continuing its nuclear program. At the same time, its regional influence has grown, first through supporting the Shiite insurgents in Iraq and second through boosting its diplomatic relations with both Damascus and Riyadh.

What are the possible implications of these concurrent developments for Israel? One may be inclined to ask why for Israel but not for others. Certainly the same question may be raised for other states in the region, but what the implications will be for Israel is particularly important due to the particular position of Israel in the region. After all, the state of Israel has right to survive and to protect its citizens against potential threats. Yet it is not the only state which preserves those rights in the region. As such, with its unspecified but apparently immense military capabilities, Israel has a potential to trigger volatile events that are likely to affect both regional and international balance of power. Therefore, how would the outcome of the second development influence Israel, provided that the US withdraws from Iraq due to both its inability to maintain the costly war, and consequently is discouraged to confront Iran afterwards, and that Iran continues to become an ever more influential regional power as well as ever more antagonistic to Israel? These gradually materializing conditions put two options in front of Jerusalem to choose. It will have to either resort to military options against multiplied regional threats, or return back to its tradition of diplomacy, seeking to revitalize the old alliances, especially the one with Turkey.

The bell tolls for American withdrawal, as Tehran becomes a regional leader

A growing number of Democrat, and even Republican senators want to set a date for the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq; their concerns have once again been ignored by the rejection of the Levin-Reed Amendment on US Policy on Iraq.[ii] However, the very fact that there is a demand for a phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq by the end of the year and growing public unrest over the failure of President Bush’s “new” strategy in Iraq, does suggest that the date for the withdrawal is soon, albeit not specified. The war in Iraq has cost the United States over 3,600 casualties, with an unspecified number of troops maimed or otherwise injured (believed to be around 30,000), and nearly $ 1 trillion in expenditures. This is expected to reach $2 trillion, provided troops remain in Iraq until 2010.[iii] Accepting the growing dissent over his Iraq policy, President Bush recently signaled “that he might be open to shifting toward a smaller, more limited mission in Iraq in the future.”[iv]

In the meantime, Iran has sought and to a great extent been successful in increasing its political influence in the region through supporting the Shiite insurgency in Iraq. Similarly, Palestine has provided a fertile ground for Tehran to boost its popularity among the Sunni Arabs as well. According to a recent ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency) report, Iran‘s foreign minister in a phone conversation with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al Faisal, discussed and talked about conditions in Lebanon, Palestine and bilateral ties. Minister Mottaki in this phone conversation stressed the importance of cooperation between all Islamic and Arab countries so as to aid the nation of Palestine and to free it from its current state.[v]

Similarly, Iran‘s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently paid a day-long visit to Syria in order to congratulate President Bashar al-Assad on the beginning of his second seven-year term as Syria‘s president, and to review expansion of Tehran-Damascus political and economic cooperation.[vi]

Tehran‘s engagement with the Arab governments in the region has started to yield tangible outcomes for its own ends. According to the ISNA report, President Ahmadinejad and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad issued a joint statement calling for unity in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.[vii] The report quotes the Iranian president, saying “cooperation between Tehran and Damascus is to the benefit of the region and both sides will stand strong against all regional enemies.” Drawing the international community’s attention to the effect and dangers of Israeli’s nuclear weapons on international and regional peace and security, notes the report, both sides asserted the necessity for swift steps to be taken in order to face this threat.

Further, the statement reportedly condemned the continued actions of the Israeli regime, perceived as aggressive. In addition, Sharkul Evsat newspaper reported that Iranian President Ahmedinejad offered his Syrian counterpart $1 billion in the form of military aid if the latter cuts off its recently developing relations with Israel, and if the latter considers using the aid for military purchases from Russia.[viii]

Reviving Ben-Gurion’s peripheral alliance in the new era

The course of regional and international developments makes it necessary for Jerusalem to reconsider, modify and re-implement the peripheral alliance initiative of Israel‘s first President, David Ben-Gurion. In order to break the isolation imposed onto it by the surrounding Arab states and to gain their respect, Israel sought to establish an alliance with the countries in the periphery of the Middle East, which also outnumbered the Arab population in the region. The alliance was so crucial to the Israeli interests, argues Ofra Bengio, that in order to secure US support for forming the alliance, Ben-Gurion portrayed it as if it was crucial to US interests in the region as well, “[Ben-Gurion] sought to use American involvement or support for the agreement as an incentive to the countries in question to join in. In other words, Israel sought to use the United States to galvanize the pact, and use the pact to consolidate U.S. support for itself.”[ix] The alliance ironically involved Sudan, Ethiopia, Iran, and Turkey.

Bengio further suggests that according to the CIA report captured by Iran [revolutionaries] in 1979 from the American Embassy in Tehran, at the end of 1958 Israel, Turkey, and Iran signed an agreement to form an organization called Trident, aiming to exchange intelligence information among the three’s respective intelligence services.[x] The immediate threats that necessitated the peripheral alliance in the late 1950s have not disappeared but multiplied over time.

The state of the alliance

Today out of those erstwhile allies, Iran has turned into a staunch enemy whose president-elect vowed to wipe Israel off of the map; similarly, upon one allegation after another on carrying out genocide in Darfur, Sudan is waiting to be invaded by the very mediator and guarantor of that alliance, while the United States has not only diminished its soft power and popularity to engage any government, but also is rapidly depleting its hard power capabilities to deter any government in the region. Once the United States withdraws from Iraq before fulfilling its goals, which seems to be inevitable, the withdrawal will, to the dismay of those who believe in the necessity of US leadership in global affairs, also shake the invincible image of the United States. From that point on, the dynamics of the power struggle are likely to change forever in the region.

What else remains from the old peripheral alliance? Turkey. Can Turkey play any constructive role in preventing a regional or international conflict which would dramatically risk the survival of Israel?

The answer is certainly not as long as the new government is unable to engage the Middle Eastern states. Even if the AK Party government would like to continue its multi-faceted diplomacy with regional powers such as Iran, Syria, and Israel, its ability to do so will be hindered by the domestic political instability likely to stem from, respectively, the debate over presidential election, the Kurdish issue, and cross-border operation into Iraq. The very fact that the new parliament will consist of deputies from the left-leaning CHP, the ultra-nationalistic, right-wing MHP, and ethnic-Kurdish independent deputies, promises no easy solution on either of those issues. In that case, it is nothing but unrealistic to expect politically unstable Ankara, even with the AK Party government’s apparently clear win, to play any effective role in the Middle East.

What kind of Ankara in the post-American Middle East?

Two possibilities lie ahead of Ankara in the second term of the AK Party government. Ankara will either continue its multi-faceted engagement with the Middle East, or it will be bogged down in a series of political turmoil, and as such will not only be alienated from the region where Tehran is rapidly gaining prominence, but also from the West falling short of fulfilling the EU accession requirements. The political atmosphere in Ankara in the AK Party’s second term will pretty much determine Turkey‘s diplomatic capabilities in the post-American Middle East as well.

Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has prophesized political instability in the aftermath of the July 22 parliamentary election.[xi] Based on his assumption that the public rallies in spring were indeed against the AK Party instead of its presidential nominee, Cagaptay argues that the lifestyle issues, more specifically headscarf issue, will mobilize masses against the AK Party after July 22.

In addition, he suggest, the new parliament’s failure to elect a new president in thirty days after July 22 will lead to its dissolution and open the way for new parliamentary elections. Given the fact that the AK Party avoided the hot-button issue of the headscarf and sought to embrace all ways of life in its first term, and promises to continue this course by not mentioning the headscarf issue even in its party program, it is unlikely to cause instability during the AK Party’s second term. However, the political faultlines, which Cagaptay implies are likely to emerge in the new parliament consisting of leftist, Turkish nationalist and Kurdish nationalist deputies, are likely to cause instability in the parliament unless the parties recognize the country’s interest in reconciliation over the presidential debate. The ensuing political instability would not only diminish Ankara‘s ability to continue reforms, but also its ability to be diplomatically as active in the regional affairs. Yet, the ongoing transformation in the regional balance of power and formation of new alliances necessitate Ankara to be even more active than before.

During the last four and a half years, the first-term AK Party government has proven to be the only one able to communicate with all the parties in the Middle East. While Ankara mediated talks between Damascus and Jerusalem, it also sought to use its influence on the Hamas leadership for moderation. In a geographical area where almost every Muslim individual grows up being taught that they should take revenge on Israel, which is perceived as far from credible in the quest for peace, the latter needs an ally capable of deflecting anti-Semitic frustration and articulating the view to Arabs that Israel has a right to survive.


[i] See


[ii] “Democrats Lack Support to Force Vote on Pullout”, New York Times (July 18, 2007) available at


[iii] “Report: Iraq war costs could top $2 trillion”, Christian Science Monitor (January 10, 2006), available at


[iv] “Bush Counters G.O.P. Dissent on Iraq Policy”, New York Times (July 11, 2007)


[v] “Iran-Saudi Arabia discuss Lebanon and Palestine“, ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency) (July 06, 2007)


[vi]Ahmadinejad to visit Syria“, IRNA (July 15, 2007)


[vii] “Tehran-Damascus call for regional unison”, ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency) (July 20, 2007) available at


[viii] “Israil ile iliskini kes”, Yeni Safak (July 22, 2007), available atˆšÃ‘¬ˆžsrail-ile-iliˆšÃ–¬ükini-kes


[ix] Ofra Bengio, The Turkish-Israeli Relationship: Changing Ties of Middle Eastern Outsiders, New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2004, pp. 40-1


[x] Ibid. pp. 44-5


[xi] Soner Cagaptay, H. Akin Unver “July 2007 Turkish Elections: Winners and Fault Lines”, Research Notes: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Number 14 (July 2007), pp. 8-9

Eastern Mediterranean Oil Politics: the Emerging Role of Cyprus

By Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

The issue of oil drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean Sea has emerged over the past few months, after the initiative enacted by the Cypriot government to proceed in handing out research and drilling rights for expected oil reserves deep under the sea, estimated to be worth some 450 billion USD at current prices (1).

Cyprus proceeded in cooperating with the other interested parties — due to geographical proximity- Egypt and Lebanon, whose exclusive economic zones might also be rich in oil. Furthermore, Israel and Cyprus are also cooperating, and it seems likely that they will also form a consensus on how to share the undersea wealth still to be found.

Naturally, longtime rival Turkey has viewed the developments that unfolded between January and March 2007 with increased attention and alarm, and has made threatening demands against the Cypriot Republic. On the 27th of January, the President of the non-recognized Turkish state of Northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali-Talat, stated that there is a chance of unexpected and violent developments due to Cypriot actions in relation to the oil issue (2).

Then, on the 30th of January, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported the demand by Ankara towards the Lebanese and Egyptian governments to withdraw their intention to research for oil in an area where Turkey has interests as well (3).

Moreover, the newspaper noted the willingness of the Turkish administration to react dynamically should its interests not taken into account.The accusations by Turkey that Cyprus does not represent the whole of the Island and the defense by Nicosia that it will continue with its project resulted in the circumnavigation of Cyprus by the Turkish Navy in a “tour de force” in early February (4). By that time the overall situation resulted in a multitude of press releases and op-eds in Turkey, Cyprus and Greece commenting on the possibility of a conflict with oil as the cause.

Even though the international media did not give analytical coverage to the above, it came to the attention of the industry’s decision-makers interested in exploiting the vast amounts of hydrocarbon that rests beneath the Cypriot Sea.

On the 6th of March, Ronald Schilcher, the USA Ambassador in Cyprus, addressed the public via CNNTurk TV and expressed the opinion that it is Cyprus’ sovereign right to decide whether it wishes to exploit oil that is found in its territorial or exclusive economic zone (5). This was a clear indication that the USA is very much interested in securing a strong percentage of influence in order to gain contracts for the extraction of oil in an era where energy security has become the catch phrase, and a political nightmare for many concerned power-brokers and corporations across the world.

Now, despite Turkish opposition, Cyprus has already begun the process of initiating a bidding procedure for the aforementioned oil fields. 11 areas off of southern Cyprus will be the first where the tests for oil will begin. The total surface area is around 70,000 sq. km, and there are also good indications of discovering natural gas as well. French consultants employed by the Cypriot government have already stated that at depths in excess of 3,000 meters there is also a high probability of discovering gas fields as well.

Cyprus has already stated that it will issue three types of permit in relation to the oil fields. The first will be for tests covering a one-year time-frame, the second for three years and lastly a 25-year development license according to which the companies will be able to produce and process oil and gas. As part of its marketing endeavors, from now until mid-July (when the first permits are set to be issued), the Cypriot government plans to organize trips across the major oil capitals of the world in order to market the new riches of the island to prospective investors.

The recent developments regarding Cypriot oil treasure are also related with previous Turkish-Israeli initiatives that started back in 2001, when the Geophysical Institute of Israel, an Israeli research team and the TRAO Company (Turkish Petroleum) conducted explorations in the Alexandretta Gulf close to the Turkish–Syrian border.

The head of the Israeli group, Ephraim Levi, stated in the Turkish press that there are large amounts of gas as well in the wider area and the results from the initial research were positive and satisfactory. However, over the past few years the cooling of Turkish-Israeli relations has put a hold on their joint exploration project, though it has not been abandoned.

The most recent development in energy relations between the two states was the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehoud Olmert to Ankara in late February, when the plan for constructing an underwater oil pipeline from the Ceyhan Turkish port to the Israeli one of Aschalon. It is important to note that the first port mentioned is the major oil terminal for the Eastern Mediterranean region and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline transferring Caspian oil ends there (6).

Therefore, the oil politics in this periphery are related with the wider geo-economic structure created since the end of the Cold War, and of course it has attracted the interest of all global powers and energy related entities.

Another notable development is the agreement reached between Libya and Turkey in late 2004, concerning the exploitation of probable oil reservoir basins off the coast of the former. The investment by the Turkish companies was estimated at 2 billion USD. However, there is no current information regarding whether the research findings were satisfactory to proceed in commercial exploitation (7).

For the time being, the issue of Cypriot oil is gathering importance and all interested parties are trying to place themselves in a position of advantage. Large oil companies from the USA, Russia, the UK, China, Norway, France and Germany seem to be interested in investing for the assumed hydrocarbon reservoirs off the coast of Cyprus. For their part the government and business officials in Nicosia are touring the world’s oil capitals like London, Houston, New York and Moscow in order to muster support for the plans and advertise their deep sea wealth.

As can be easily understood, the importance of energy has as an effect the culmination of various diplomatic and geopolitical schemes. The US administration, which has traditionally gravitated towards a pro-Turkish stance on the perennial Cypriot issue, has moved a bit towards healing the sensitivities of the Greek Cypriots and the relations between the two states can be considered as excellent for the time being.

The US Ambassador to Cyprus said in April that his country continues to value Cyprus as a close partner in the joint effort to combat terrorism, proliferation of WMD and organized crime (8). Addressing a ceremony for the donation of an underwater camera by the US Embassy and the US Customs to Cyprus’ Marine Police, Mr. Schlicher also said that he is pleased “the US and Cyprus continue to work closely together in many areas and that our co-operation with Cypriot law enforcement agencies continues to be excellent.”

Another parallel development is the enhanced French involvement in Cyprus and the wider Mediterranean region. Cyprus and France have signed an agreement for defense cooperation between the two countries in a bid to strengthen bilateral relations – a decision taken during Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos’ visit to France in November 2006. The agreement was signed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nicosia by Cypriot Minister of Foreign Affairs Yiorgos Lillikas and French Minister of Defense Michele Alliot-Marie.

In statements after the signing ceremony, Mr. Lillikas expressed his satisfaction and noted that it is a natural development of everything that was agreed during President Papadopoulos’ meeting with President Jacques Chirac. “France and Cyprus have always had excellent political relations, they have and share a common vision on international issues and now as EU partners have shown that with their approach they can contribute to peace in the Middle East,” Mr. Lillikas added.

“The crisis in Lebanon gave both countries the chance to cooperate in the military field with benefits not only for both countries but mainly for Middle East countries. I wish and hope that just as Cyprus proved to be a factor of stability in the Middle East region, the solution to the Cyprus problem and Cyprus’ reunification will prove that Cyprus can, reunited, with the cooperation of all partners such as France, help in peace and stability in the region,” he also said.

Ms. Alliot-Marie said that it was an agreement which allows relations to strengthen between the two ministries, and added: “It provides for greater exchange in training issues, on the level of joint maneuvers, when analyzing the geo-strategic situation. It is a continuation of the existing relations.” Already, both states train jointly regularly and French Special Operations Forces are backing up the Lebanon UN forces through the use of Cypriot bases, assorted with an aeronautical French team (9).

Recent information that surfaced in a Greek defense journal reveals that during the military parade on the 14th of July in Paris, a Cypriot unit will participate- the first time an EU Army corps has been invited for the French national day, a sure indication of the warming in relations between these countries (10).

Overall, the island of Cyprus has upgraded its political, economic and military value and apart from the three guarantee forces of the 1959 Zurich treaty (Greece, Turkey and the UK), the USA and France, as well as Russia and the surrounding Middle Eastern states, are entangled in the regional political developments that amongst other include energy security.

Cyprus is already a well-developed state and a recent report that was published by the European Commission last month describes future economic prospects as “excellent.” The production of hydrocarbon will further empower this island of 800,000 citizens to become the regional hub of Southeastern Europe, the East Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Middle East, thus reaching a market of around 1 billion people.

On the other hand, the delicate geopolitical balances should be taken into account since the turbulent recent history of the region has produced conflicts and quagmires mostly related to the control of energy routes and supplies. The aspirations of some of the strongest global interest groups will once dominate the fate of the Eastern Mediterranean centered on Cyprus and based on the “black gold” underneath.

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A paper by the Jamestown Foundation discussing the Cyprus oil issue


Article by the Turkish Daily News newspaper concerning Ali-Talat’s statements


Article by the International Herald Tribune on the Turkish threats to Lebanon-Egypt

Report by the Strategy Page service on the Turkish Navy movements


Article by the Turkish Daily News on the statements by the US Ambassador in Cyprus


Paper by the Global Research organization on Turkish-Israeli joint energy projects

(7)Hellenic Defense Journal, Vol. 14, April 2007, P. 111


Press release by the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the US Ambassador’s statements


Press release by the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the signing of the Cyprus-France defense agreement

(10) Strategy Defense Journal, Vol. 152, June 2007, P. 25

Turkey’s Parliamentary Elections and the Long-Debated Cross Border Operation into Iraq

By Mehmet Kalyoncu

The timing of the Turkish army’s dramatic, though long expected, military move against the PKK across the Iraqi border has some suspecting that there is more than exigency behind the bold offensive. Considering that the pivotal Turkish parliamentary elections are due next month, is not the northern Iraq offensive really all about channeling the surging “patriotism’ of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) to erode votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of candidate and prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

Ever since the Turkish military’s digital intervention with the civilian administration on April 27th, there has been no shortage of political crises, each one causing the democratic process in the country to falter. The generals’ e-memorandum followed the halted parliamentary voting for president out of which the Republican People’s Party (CHP) managed to produce a regime threat. Then came the military’s insistence for an immediate cross-border operation against the Kurdish PKK camps in Northern Iraq, which is nowadays pronounced to possibly deal with the Barzani government as well.

At the same time, Turkey has gone into pre-election mode, and those parties who are bashing the AKP government for its alleged inability to deal with the most severe national security threat, most notably the MHP), now the main contender, have boosted their popular support. The phenomenon of politically expedient MHP nationalism has much less to do with the PKK or the so-called independent Kurdish state than it does with the parliamentary elections of July 22.

Secular vs. Islamist — OUT / Islamist vs. Nationalist — IN

For a long time, Turkish society was easily split and polarized along the lines of the secular-minded vs. the Islamists. However, the AK Party’s record over the last four and a half years has changed the whole equation, thereby making it less possible, if not impossible, to identify an Islamist counterpart or threat against the secular regime of the Republic.

This record has been noted by Western observers as well. “Mr. Erdogan’s government has been Turkey’s most successful in half a century,” argued the Economist in May. “After years of macroeconomic instability, growth has been steady and strong, inflation has been controlled and foreign investment has shot up. Even more impressive are the judicial and constitutional reforms that the AK government has pushed through. Corruption remains a blemish, but there is no sign of the government trying to overturn Turkey’s secular order. The record amply justifies Mr. Erdogan’s biggest achievement: to persuade the EU to open membership talks, over 40 years after a much less impressive Turkey first expressed its wish to join.”1

Nevertheless, ethnic Turkish vs. Kurdish nationalism fomented by the surge of PKK activities in the southeastern border of Turkey still provides fertile ground to polarize the country and evenly split the electoral vote. Given the hitherto conciliatory attitude of the mildly Islamist AK Party towards the secular establishment, its unprecedented economic and political successes, and finally its deliberate effort to avoid hot button issues such as the wearing of the head scarf depleted options for many in the ultra-secular circles to attack the AK Party.

Nevertheless, the PKK question and the possibility, perceived as a looming threat, of an independent Kurdish state have always been the weak spot of the AK Party, whose very legitimacy both at home and abroad is pretty much dependent on its continuous commitment to the EU and the United States- both of which seem profoundly allergic to any sort of cross-border military operation by the Turkish military. Therefore, the matter of dealing (or not dealing) with those two imminent threats is literally the only ground on which the AK Party government’s popular prestige could be undermined.

A less effective, but not totally ignorable, issue to be exploited is that of corruption. Yet given all the other parties’ records on corruption, it would be futile to attack the AK government with such allegations. It would in fact prove ineffective, especially so for the Nationalist Action Party, whose former minister has recently been sentenced with the highest corruption charges in the Republic’s history.

When it comes to exploiting popular sentiment over the Kurdish secessionist issue, however, the MHP has proven by far the most suitable contender against the AK Party. In his public rallies, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli frequently accuses the AKP government of being sluggish and dependent on the United States and the European Union to deal with the most severe national security threat, the PKK.2 Bahceli’s inflammatory and nationalistic speeches seem to be paying off. Recent polls about the upcoming parliamentary elections and the long debated cross-border military operation in Northern Iraq indicate that the new fault lines of “Islamists vs. nationalists” have already taken shape, rapidly closing the gap between the AKP and MHP constituencies.

The Polls: Changing Numbers

Two recent online polls, conducted by Turkish polling groups and asked the participants to identify which political party they would vote for in the upcoming July 22 parliamentary elections, indicating a sharp increase in the expected vote count for the MHP, a slight increase or decrease respectively in the AK Party votes and an absolute decline in the Republican People’s Party (CHP) votes.

According to the first poll, which surveyed some 159,897 people, the top-three ranking is as follows: the AK Party (39.19%), the MHP (24.6 %), and then the CHP (12.72%). Compared to the November 3rd 2002 election results, which brought the AK Party into office with a sweeping electoral majority (34.38%) while making the CHP have to be content with 19.39% and leaving the MHP outside the parliament with only 8.36% (below the 10 % threshold), the poll shows a plummeting in the CHP votes whereas a sharp, almost incomprehensible, surge in the MHP votes has been registered. The second poll, to which some 224,328 people responded, demonstrates the same pattern of change: the AK Party in the lead at 32%, followed by the MHP with 21%, and finally the CHP at 16%.

What can possibly explain this pattern? Why did not the decline in the CHP votes, the main rival to the AKP, reflect as an increase in votes for the latter? And what caused such a radical increase in the popularity the MHP, which today offers essentially nothing more than it ever has, and which could not even get into the parliament five years ago?

The recent presidential election process, which was eventually aborted and delayed until after the parliamentary elections, has in fact been a political showdown between the AK Party and the CHP. The latter’s extreme tactics, such as invoking military intervention to halt the AKP majority parliament voting for the president, and making it a matter of regime threat have alienated a substantial number of its own constituency. These tactics have in fact also resulted in the resignation of some of the party’s deputies. They have publicly stated that the reason for their resignation was their party’s anti-democratic attitude toward the presidential elections. The public opinion polls were at the same time hinting that a growing number of people from center left and center right parties were gravitating toward the AK Party, thereby hinting that a second reactionary vote explosion would almost double the AKP votes.

However, that old standard-bearer of nationalism, the MHP, has instead emerged as a main contender to the incumbent AK Party, thanks to leader Bahceli’s inflammatory speeches. They have played on wounded pride among the Turkish people over the Iraq invasion and resulting deterioration of the security situation in the border area, and so fueled popular unrest against the AK Party government. Essentially, the MHP leader is accusing the government of being a mere puppet in the hands of the United States and the European Union, unable or unwilling to assert itself to safeguard national security against Kurdish insurrectionists.

An example of this rhetoric manifested in a recent rally speech in the eastern Anatolian town of Erzurum, a place well known for the strength of its nationalist sentiment. Bahceli urged PM Erdogan to unleash the army in order to erect the Turkish flag at the top of Mount Qandil, where the PKK terrorists are based in Northern Iraq.3

According to another poll carried out by the website, to which some 10,211 people responded, 72.12% of Turks support military intervention in Northern Iraq, while 13.42% oppose it outright, A slightly higher figure (14.46%) prefer a diplomatic solution. Simultaneous developments such as the confrontation between Ankara and Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani, the AKP Government’s hopeless wait for action from the United States against the PKK, and the surge in the MHP votes, show that fanning the nationalistic sentiments against the AKP government who seem sluggish to deal with the most imminent national security threat is the best strategy to garner popular support nowadays.

It is hardly difficult to realize that neither can the Nationalist Action Party win the elections simply by bashing the AK Party for its failure to deal with the PKK, nor can the Republican People’s Party (CHP) prevent the AK Party from retaining office by portraying it as a major threat to the secular regime.

However, their concerted effort before the elections and in a future parliamentary coalition after the election will dramatically curb the AK Party’s ability to govern. The result will likely manifest itself not only in a slowdown in the EU accession process, but also in a more consistently aggressive attitude toward the Kurds of Northern Iraq. In this equation the Turkmen minority of that region, whose rights Turkey claims to be protecting, will also assume greater importance.

What is at Stake for the AKP, the US and the EU?

Unless the United States and the European Union change their course against the PKK and provide substantial assistance to the AKP government to tackle the terrorist organization, Turkish democracy, which has so far managed avoiding a repeat of the lively old tradition of the military coup, will be exposed to a civilian one. That is, the AK government will simply be punished by a sizeable moderately nationalist vote at the ballot box, just because of its compliance with the United States and the European Union, and its seemingly sluggish approach to the national security threat.

No matter what will be considered as the reason for the AK Party losing its mandate and Turkey returning back to the chronically ineffective coalition governments that preceded this government, for majority mainstream voters in Turkey and for the moderate majority in the broader Muslim world, the reason for the democratic failure will be simple: the United States and the European Union, whose support for democratic change in the Muslim world is perceived simply as shallow rhetoric. Jamal Khashoggi, editor of Saudi Arabia’s al-Watan newspaper, says the Turkish experience has broader implications: “If that experience fails,” he writes, “it will be a setback for modern Islamist movements and it will be a disaster for the western dream of encouraging a secular form of Islam.”4

Certainly, there are and will be interest groups in both Washington and Brussels whose primary objective is not to make sure a sustainable democracy takes root in Turkey but to secure a government in Ankara that would be more compliant with their narrow interests than the AKP government has been. However, policy makers in both capitals should act according to their respective country’s and Union’s long-term interests. In his 1997 tome, The Grand Chessboard, the veteran American diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski provided a definitive account of how the United States’ and the European Union’s long-term interests are tightly intertwined with sustainable stability in Turkey: “Turkey’s evolution and orientation are likely to be especially decisive for the Caucasian states. If Turkey sustains its path to Europe — and if Europe does not close its doors to Turkey — the states of the Caucasus are also likely to gravitate into the European orbit, a prospect they fervently desire. But if Turkey’s Europeanization grinds to a halt, for either internal or external reasons, then Georgia and Armenia will have no choice but to adapt to Russia’s inclinations.”5

Recent developments prove that Azerbaijan could also face a similar fate. In complete disregard for what Baku has to say about it, Russian President Vladimir Putin counter-proposed his American counterpart George W. Bush’s proposal to install a European missile defense shield in a facility in Azerbaijan, which was built during Soviet times, and is still available for Russia’s use under a continuing agreement between Russia and Azerbaijan.6 Paralyzed with its own chronic problems and likely to experience major blunders over its EU accession with France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, Ankara is far from recognizing the possible political and security implications of Moscow’s growing influence in the region, let alone somehow being able to counter it.

Finally, Ofra Bengio’s reminder about the background of the rising National Action Party (MHP), whose supporters were active recently to publish and distribute Metal Firtina, the fiction prophesying a major war between Turkey and the United States, hints at what we can expect regarding the possible changes in the Turkish public opinion: “[m]ost of the parties or groupings had in their background anti-Semitic tendencies. This was especially true of the Republican Peasants’ and National Party (Cumhuriyetci Koylu Millet Partisi, CKMP), which later became the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), headed by Alpaslan Turkes. In the 1930s the Turkish ultranationalists were strongly influenced by Nazi propaganda, and anti-Semitism became one of their trademarks…  Hitler’s Mein Kampf was published and extensively distributed by Turkish nationalists.”7

1 “Turkey: The Battle for Turkey’s Soul”, The Economist May 3rd 2007 available at (accessed on June 6, 2007)

2 “Bahceli, AK Parti’ye yuklendi”, Zaman available at (accessed on June 5, 2007)

3 “Bahceli, AK Parti’ye yuklendi”, Zaman available at (accessed on June 5, 2007)

4 “Arab Islamists view Turkey crisis as test for democracy”, Financial Times May 15 2007

5 Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Basic Books 1997, p.149

6 “Russian President Putin proposes Azerbaijan for US missile defense shield”, Today’s Zaman June 8 2007

7 Ofra Bengio, The Turkish-Israeli Relationship: Changing Ties of Middle Eastern Outsiders, New York: Palgrave MacMillan, May 2004, p.76

The Strategic Significance of Greek Thrace: Current Dynamics and Emerging Factors

By Ioannis Michaletos and Christopher Deliso

Strategic Geography: an Overview

Greece‘s northeastern province of Thrace has historically played a very significant strategic role in terms of economy and defense. The great Roman trade route, the Via Egnatia, spanning the southern Balkans from east to west, passed across it; for the Byzantines and later the Ottomans, Thrace was the gateway to Constantinople, to be defended at all costs. The extensive and fertile Thracian plains, most of which are now concentrated in Turkish Thrace, were known as “the breadbasket of Constantinople’ for the grains crops they supplied to the capital.

From the perspective of modern Greece, looking from the other direction of course, Thrace is strategically significant as the only land route through which Turkey could attack with infantry in the case of an invasion. During Communism, Greece also had to keep a wary eye on Bulgaria, which lies to the north and also possesses a portion of the geographical region of Thrace. However, with the end of the Soviet threat and the absorption of Bulgaria into the European Union, that threat has evaporated and Greece no longer has to look to secure its northern flank (save for possible infiltration from human traffickers and so on).

In some ways, this strategic geography of Greek Thrace makes it easier to defend, since forces are now concentrated on the eastern front at the long Turkish border, which generally hugs the River Evros. To the north, the rolling Rhodope Mountains make up most of the natural border with Bulgaria. To the south is the north Aegean Sea; south and southwest in this sea lie the strategic islands of Samothraki, Thasos and, further on, Limnos, which has a major military presence. In the west Thrace borders on the Greek province of Macedonia.

Thus while command-and-control and military intelligence operations are staggered throughout western, central and eastern Thrace, the largest concentration of Greek land forces and military equipment are located in the Evros prefecture. Along with the Evros river system and the Arda River, running southwest through Kastanies, and the Erythropotamos, 39 km south and running southwest through the major military town of Didymoteihon. The landscape of Evros consists of rolling hills and plains, much like the Turkish side, and is complemented by a vast swamp — the Evros River Delta — that is a protected environmental refuge for birds, as well as a buffer with Turkey, east of Alexandroupolisand south of Feres. An appreciation of this geography helps to understand the factors at play in any future military confrontation between the two Balkan rivals.

Tensions Rising

At the moment, the perennial tensions between Greece and Turkey have been rising over Turkish opposition to offshore oil drilling in the divided island of Cyprus, a major ally of Greece. In April, reported that the Greek military was preparing for possible Turkish provocations in the eastern Aegean, most probably involving the violation of what Greece perceives to be its airspace, by Turkish fighter jets. The projections then indicated a likely timeframe of May 20-July 20 for such incidents to occur.

New information recently received from Greek sources also attests that the Greek services, particularly signals intelligence, have been working “round the clock to predict the Turkish military’s next move. While much of the government’s attention is obviously being focused on the eastern Aegean islands bordering Anatolia, troops in Thrace have gone on “high alert,” with the usual 30,000-strong troop number having been buttressed by as many as 30,000 additional soldiers, according to one high-level source.

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South European Gas Ring Project: The Role of Turkey and Greece

By Mehmet Efe Biresselioglu

Today, Europe is a net importer of gas. Natural gas accounts for 25% of the European Union’s total energy consumption. The Union currently imports more then 40% of its natural gas needs, with the major suppliers being Russia, Norway and Algeria. It is expected by the European Commission that the EU’s dependency will rapidly increase in the coming decades. This import dependency will rise from 40% to 55% in 2010, to 67% in 2020, and to 81% in 2030, according to the Europe Energy Outlook 2020.i

The European Union is currently in need of diversifying its import dependency. Russia has the biggest stake in the imported natural gas consumption of Europe. Currently, however, Russia is not a reliable source for import as it has difficulties of various sorts with several former Soviet countries, as well as a rapidly growing domestic need for natural gas. Nevertheless, Russia will remain the prime supplier of the European Union as it has already existing deals and pipeline connections with the EUii, even though it faces difficulties in export due to the constraints in the region.

Norway is the second major supplier for the European Union. It produces natural gas from indigenous North Sea resources, but the gradual exhaustion of these resources means that Europe is increasingly looking for alternative ways to import natural gas.

Algeria is the third major supplier of natural gas to the European Union. Natural gas which is imported from Algeria is in LNG format. The North African country is one of the major supplies for the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast of Europe. The LNG format of natural gas from Algeria is currently lacking markets in Central and Eastern Europe, however. It is also expensive to export LNG format due to the transportation costs for vessels, and its transformation process. It has relatively high costs when compared with piped gas.

The most popular perspective in the modern energy sector considers diversification of the sources and the security of supply. According to the new policies that the European Union is implementing, this perspective would be the benchmark for the future natural gas balance of Europe.

The construction of new pipelines utilizing the same sources has nothing to do with the perspective of diversification of sources. For example, currently a Russia-Germany natural gas pipeline is under construction (via Ukraine and Poland). The pipeline will run from Babayevo to the Russian coast at Vyborg, before going under the Baltic Sea to the town of Greifswald in north-eastern Germany. It is basically the construction of a pipeline from a usual source, Russia. It does not particularly help the European Union’s policy of diversification of resources, however, even though Alexey Miller, the chairman of Russian giant GazProm stated that “we have launched a great European project… This is a new export route that will increase Europe’s energy security”iii.

Currently, the problem in the EU is the lack of common energy policies. When it comes to energy, member countries cannot implement the same policies, as they tend to regard energy narrowly as a problem of national interest first and foremost. Therefore, new pipelines and routes from different sources should be taken into account in order to capture the real spirit of Europe-wide security of supply and diversification of sources.

One of the major alternatives for the European Union is to import gas from the Central Asian and Caspian Sea Region countries. The vast energy potential of these regions has refocused the EU’s attention. The demise of the Soviet Union has also increased the number of countries through which pipeline must transit.

In order to import natural gas from these regions, The EU has two choices. The first one is to increase the import dependency on Russia, by importing the regions’ natural gas via the Russian pipeline system. The second and more effective choice would be through the new route from the Caucasus and Turkey. With this second option, the EU could have the possibility of importing natural gas from Turkey via Greece.

A new South Caucasus gas pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, will be operational soon in order to connect the vast natural gas resources of the regions to the Turkish natural gas pipeline network.

The EU is currently taking a number of efforts to strengthen its diversification of natural gas need. Creating trans-European energy networks is the major policy for the EU. It is focusing on regional formations, such as the South European Gas Ring involving Turkey and Greece- thus bringing Caspian and Central Asian natural gas West via an alternate route.

Turkey’s Role as a Supplier

Turkey is currently transforming itself from a transit country to a major energy supplier and an energy hub. It has a major role in the East-West energy corridor, according to current trends in world energy consumption and production. Turkey is the major conduit for primary markets like the EU from production regions such as Central Asia and the Caspian. Currently, there are no physical natural gas pipeline connections between Europe and Turkey. It thus becomes important to connect the European continent to Turkey in order for the former to import natural gas from Caspian and Central Asian Region via an alternative and reliable route.

The first step for the European Union to benefit from existing Turkish pipeline networks is the Turkey-Greece interconnector. The regional framework for this connection is the South European Gas Ring. Turkish-Greek collaboration is strongly supported by the EU in order to realize this project. The feasibility of the project is supported by funds from the Trans-European Networksiv. With the financial support of the EU, the construction of a Turkey-Greece interconnector started in July 2005 and is expected to finish in the first half of 2007. This is only the first part of the project, however. The second part will be to connect Greece to Italy via an undersea pipeline between northwestern Greece and Otranto, Italy.

The first part of the project comprises the construction of a 286 km pipeline between Karacabey, Turkey and Komotini, Greece. It will begin by carrying 0.75 bcm/y and will reach its potential to 11 bcm/y in 2011v. It will carry the natural gas of Azerbaijan to Europe, via the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline. Turkey and Azerbaijan have already signed an agreement on the sale of gas to Turkey with a clause on re-sale option. Kazakhstan is currently trying to break the Russian dominance on its natural gas export, and in the future it can export its natural gas via the BTE natural gas pipeline through Turkey, and thereafter the European Union.

Also, with the possible Trans-Caspian pipeline, Turkmenistan would be in a position to export its vast natural gas resources to Europe via Turkey. This is one of the first steps for Turkey to become a major supplier for Europe’s natural gas needs, besides the projected Nabucco Pipeline and the existing Turkey-Tabriz Pipeline. Turkey is more likely to become a “fourth artery” of European natural gas imports with the pipelines which have been constructed, those which are under construction or are projected for the future.

Greece’s Role as a Transit Route

The major project which will connect the Caspian/Central Asian regions to the EU is starting with the South-European Gas project. Greece has a major role here, as this project is turning Greece into one of the major transit country for Caspian and Central Asian gas exported via Turkey.

Greece is in the process of transformation in the field of energy, just as Turkey is. With the developments of new pipeline networks, Greece will shift from energy consumer market to energy transport hub and an energy producer, with possible side deals for a re-sale option. Greece has already finished most of its interconnections of natural gas framework.

The South-European Gas Ring project is one of the major alternative for the EU for becoming less dependent on Russian gas. This process is starting with a pipeline which will connect Turkey’s domestic natural gas infrastructure with Greece. Turkey and Greece have already made agreements with Azerbaijan and Iran for the future sale to the EU. This is the first step in creating a southern gas route to the EU from the Caspian.

This connector has further significance for Turkey and Greece. This could be an important symbol for Turkish and Greek collaboration for the future. As Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis put it, “this pipeline is connecting two countries and two” Thw project is also strongly supported by the US and the EU for the future of the eliminating the perennial Aegean rivalry between the two old adversaries.

The second step of this project is to connect Greece with Italy by a pipeline from northwestern Greece to Ontranto. It will comprise a 212km undersea stretch and its connection to the Turkey-Greece pipeline which will complete sometime in 2007. The Italy-Greece project can also be seen as a demonstration of the European Union’s will to reduce its Russian dependency.

Greece will import up to 11 bcm of natural gas via the new pipeline, of which it will export more then 8 bcm to Italy. The remainder will be for regional and domestic use. Greece has one advantage in this case. Natural gas accounts for only 10% of Greece’s energy consumptionvii. This means that Greece will be able to export a significant amount of natural gas to Western Europe.

Greece also has strong aspirations in the Balkans in the field of energy. It currently envisions exports to Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria, including all the signatories of the 2005 Energy Community treaty for Southeastern Europe, and all Russian clients.

In conclusions, the South European Gas Ring project is a real alternative for the European Union to diversify its natural gas supply. It is a positive project for the EU to assure its energy security in this way. In this sense, Turkey and Greece hold the main role in this project. The significance of Turkey as an alternative natural gas supplier to the European Union, and Greece as a transit point as an EU member, mean that this project will further help the collaboration between Turkey and Greece, despite the chronic disputes in the Aegean and over the island of Cyprus.

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i The report can be found at;

ii Clingendael International Energy Programme, Institute for International relations: “Study on Energy Supply Security and Geopolitics-Final Report” January 2004

iii In his speech for the construction of Russian-German Natural Gas Link, 9 December 2005

iv More information about the Trans-European Network and its funds can be found at;

v BOTAS, Turkey-Greece Natural Gas Pipeline Project,

vi In his speech at the ceremony of Turkish-Greek Natural Gas Project, 3 July 2005, Tekirdag, Turkey

vii Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis-Greece, August 2006

Kurdistan in the Making: Challenges and Opportunities for Turkey in Northern Iraq

By Mehmet Kalyoncu

Nowadays, amid the current presidential and nearing parliamentary elections, Ankara is preoccupied with the question of a cross-border operation against Kurdish PKK militants who have found refuge in northern Iraq. A provocative comment came from one of the Kurdish leaders in Iraq, Massoud Barzani: “if Turkey interferes with Kirkuk, then we will interfere with Diyarbakir.”1 Baghdad’s apparent tacit approval of his comments have strained nerves in Ankara more than ever as the Turkish military keeps a wary eye on developments in Northern Iraq.2

The provocative attitude of Barzani’s Kurdish Regional Government, and Baghdad’s failure to confront it, are also coinciding with heightened terrorist activities from the PKK in Turkey’s southeastern border area with Iraq. This has had the effect of blurring the distinction between the PKK threat to Turkey and Kurdish state formation in Northern Iraq, creating the impression that the two are naturally conducive to each other. In fact, they are not. The two are indeed interrelated, but will reinforce one another only if Ankara gets involved in northern Iraq militarily and isolates itself from the region economically and diplomatically.

The PKK threat is likely to be used by the Kurdish leaders as leverage against Ankara so long as it does not recognize the legitimacy of Kurdish state formation in northern Iraq. The PKK would seek to garner Kurdish popular support for the idea of the so called “Greater Kurdistan” in the southeastern Turkey as well as within the Kurdish Diaspora in the European capitals through alliances, with other diasporas traditionally not so friendly with Turkey.

The PKK threat is, however, destined to die out, provided that Ankara fully engages in diplomatic and economic relations with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad, tries to make sure that the KRG is not dominated by a particular clan or family but is controlled by alternating governments through democratic elections, and carries out multilateral but not unilateral military operations against the PKK camps in Northern Iraq. At the end of the day, the formation of a Kurdish political entity in Northern Iraq may even serve Turkey’s deliberate diffusion into the Middle East, if handled properly by Ankara.

A Hostile and Unpredictable Kurdish Government is a Threat- Not Kurdistan

A democratic Kurdistan on good terms with Turkey can be a reliable ally in the Middle East. As a matter of fact, for Turkey, which is now all for more involvement in the Middle East, Kurdistan with a democratic government could be even vital to Turkish interests, provided that its leadership is available and accountable to the average Kurd, and hence subject to alteration through a democratic election process. The real challenge seems to be securing the Kurdish Regional Government’s future against the absolute domination of a particular clan, which is the Barzani clan at the moment. This clan has traditionally proven unpredictable and exhibited a mostly confrontational behavioral pattern.

Ankara can never have a stable and predictable relationship with the Barzani leadership, at least so far as past experience would seem to indicate. The relations between the two have frequently swayed between cooperation and confrontation. Turkey provided a safe haven for some half a million Iraqi Kurds during the First Gulf War, in addition to 1.5 million Kurds escaping Saddam Hussein’s campaigns in the 1980s- most notably, the 1988 chemical attack in Halabja. In the early 1990s, Ankara granted the Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Massoud Barzani the right to seek refuge in Turkey, which it did not give to his rival, Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Nevertheless, the Ankara-Barzani alliance did not last.

According to Iraqi Kurdish writer Kamal Said Qadir, “switching alliances is part of the Barzani family political culture, intertwining survival and power with Kurdish nationalism. Between 1980 and 1988, Massoud Barzani allied himself with Iran in its fight against Saddam, even as the revolutionary authorities in Iran turned their guns on Iranian Kurds. After long hostility to Turkey, in 1992, he allied with Ankara in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerˆš„¢n Kurdistan, PKK); in 1996, he allied with Saddam Hussein against rival Kurdish leader (and current Iraqi president) Jalal Talabani. In the wake of Iraq’s liberation in 2003, Barzani has portrayed himself as a U.S. ally. For how long, though, remains unclear.”3 Barzani’s recently confrontational attitude toward Ankarawas thus not contrary to his attested behavioral pattern when he recently threatened to interfere with Diyarbakir, Turkey’s southeastern province, in case Turkey interferes with Kirkuk, which he claims to be a truly Kurdish city.

However, Opportunities Still Exist

Despite Ankara’s not so friendly experience with Massoud Barzani, Turkey and the Kurdish entity in Northern Iraq, be it defined as a state within clearly defined borders or an autonomous regional government, could develop mutually beneficial relationship in this chronically unstable region- so long as the Kurdish leadership turns truly democratic as opposed to being run by a dictatorship led by a particular family or clan. According to Richard Holbooke, a former US Ambassador to the UN, “despite their history, Turkeyand Iraqi Kurdistan need each other. Kurdistan could become a buffer between Turkey and the chaos to the south, while Turkey could become the protector of a Kurdistan that, though still technically part of Iraq, is effectively cut loose from a Baghdad government that may no longer function. In addition, Turkey has a major economic opportunity in northern Iraq; already, more than 300 Turkish companies and substantial investment are a primary engine of Kurdish growth.”4

Due to either this approach being favored by the United States, which has so far acted unilaterally in the region with almost no regard for Ankara’s concerns, or fearing possible nationalist unrest from the Turkish public, Ankara has so far reflexively disregarded the possibility of accommodating the process of Kurdish state formation in Northern Iraq. However, such a process, so long as it is guided by democratic values and remains somewhat predictable, may not be detrimental to Turkish national interests in the region after all.

Full engagement with the current Kurdish state-building process in Iraq from the very beginning would help Turkey gain confidence, not only in its own Kurds, but also in all Kurds of the region- the very constituency targeted by the PKK and other separatist entities. In so doing, Turkey can build leverage against the possibly hostile Kurdish government(s) now and then in Northern Iraq, and the central government in Baghdad. In this regard, Turkey should take the lead in the region by helping the Kurds of Northern Iraq to modernize their community, establish institutions and help democracy take root in the new Kurdish state entity.

Turkey’s support to the Iraqi Kurds should also aim to create a broad middle class which would also develop an economic interdependence between Turkey and the Kurdish Iraqi state. Economic engagement could start with taxing the already ongoing trade between Turkey’s southeastern cities and the cities in Northern Iraq. Such an engagement should also aim to carry Kirkuk oil to the global markets through Turkish pipelines. In addition to pursuing full diplomatic and economic relations with the new Kurdish state, Ankara should mobilize civil society organizations in Turkey to be proactive in the making of the new Kurdistan, so that the ties between the Turkish and Kurdish publics remain strong, even if disruptions may occur occasionally between the governments.

Is the Military Option a Viable One?

The option of a military operation against the PKK camps in Northern Iraq might seem tempting, but is in fact highly risky, not only for Turkey but also for regional stability. The military might of Ankara of course cannot be compared to that of the PKK rebels, or even its possible allies in Baghdad. Based on that comparison and the record of 16 successful cross-border operations, some may tend to think that it would take only hours to annihilate the PKK threat. However, it is no longer 1992, when the PKK was encircled by Barzani’s peshmerga units from the south, thereby helping the Turkish military to succeed quickly. Today, a military operation with some 40,000 troops against the PKK is no different from a scenario in which a conventional military power goes after a non-conventional enemy with high mobility, which would most probably retreat back and diffuse into the Kurdish civilian settlements. Once the Turkish military forces are tempted to chase the retreating fighters, it may be far too late for Ankara to realize just how far it has had to go into northern Iraq by the time the world media will have already condemned the operation as a Turkish invasion of Iraq.

The Last Thing Turkey Needs: A Hostile Kurdish Diaspora

Another risk associated with Ankara’s non-accommodating approach to the Kurdish state being formed in Northern Iraq is the likelihood that it would create a hostile Kurdish Diaspora in the Western capitals, and provide a medium for them to be lured by other anti-Turkish diasporas. Given Turkey’s bitter experience with the Armenian and Greek diasporas, the last thing Turkey needs is a hostile Kurdish Diaspora. However, the present attitude of Ankara toward the Kurdish state formation in a restructuring Iraq is likely to only create another hostile diaspora, this time a Kurdish one, mainly located in the European capitals.

It is to the best interest of Ankara to recognize that it cannot afford to ignore the ongoing modernization of Kurds in Western capitals and the expediting role of transportation and digital communication to help them organize. Most probably no later than a decade will proliferate Western educated Kurdish leaders who will be pursuing a Kurdish “independence” cause. A la Qubad Talabani who represents the Kurdish Regional Government in Washington, who is up for establishing a Kurdish Congressional Caucus and a Kurdish-American Business Council, and who interestingly called for an amnesty for the PKK, 6 which is listed as terrorist organization by the US State Department.

Similarly is it inevitable that there will grow a second- and third-generation European Kurdish community which will be attached to the imagined “Kurdistan.” It should not be difficult for Ankara to understand that such a flourishing diaspora would easily find financial and intellectual support in Europe, given certain European states’ certified support for the PKK. According to Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in the recent past Greece, Bulgaria and Russia, in addition to Syria, Iran and Israel have supported the PKK in one way or another.5 In addition, the Danish government has long turned a blind eye to the Kurdish Roj TV broadcasting from Denmark, despite Ankara’s concerns over the TV channel being used as an outlet for the PKK to convey its captured leader Abdullah Ocalan’s messages, and to instigate the Kurds in Turkey to make uprisings and provocations. Similarly, the Belgian government has long provided protection to Fehriye Erdal, a PKK member and the assassin of prominent Turkish businessman Ozdemir Sabanci, despite Ankara’s continuous efforts to bring her to justice.

After all, not only should Ankara avoid making foes of those who could be friends, but also recognize the opportunities attached to the challenges unfolding in Northern Iraq.

1 “Barzani haddini asti, bu sozlerin bedeli agir olur”, Zaman, April 10, 2007, available at
2 “Barzani’ye destek Verdi: Karisanin elini keseriz”, Zaman, April 14, 2007, available at

3 Kamal Said Qadir, “The Barzani Chameleon”, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2007, available at

4 Richard Holbrooke, “Opportunity for Turks and Kurds?” Washington Post, February 12, 2007, p.17

5 “Dr. Cagaptay: ABD, Turkiye’nin K. Irak’ta kisa sureli operasyon yapmasina goz yumar”, Zaman Amerika, 12 Nisan 2007, p.3

6 “Qubad Talabani calls for amnesty for PKK,” Turkish Daily News, (, June 14, 2006. See speech on “Amnesty for the PKK”<>at the Center for Strategic and International Studies<>(CSIS), June 13, 2006, cited at

Greek-Turkish Military Altercations Expected as Cyprus Readies for Offshore Oil Exploration

By Ioannis Michaletos and Christopher Deliso

A potentially major military face-off between perennial rivals Greece and Turkey could be looming, motivated by Turkish alarm over the imminent plan of the Cypriot government to explore for oil in the Mediterranean Sea. If it occurs, the showdown will reach a peak sometime between May 20-July 20, according to Greek media reports, now confirmed by high-level sources in Athens and in Western Europe.

This violence will most likely come about through yet another provocative encounter between military aircraft over the eastern Aegean, as was witnessed with last summer’s F-16 collision that left one Greek pilot dead. The Greek fighter planes encountered Turkish planes near the island of Karpathos, well within Greek territory. The majority of simulated dogfights, which take place on a regular basis and have one positive result (of giving the pilots some real-life training), however take place closer to Turkey and the Aegean coast where several islets disputed by Turkey lie. The closest Greece and Turkey came to war was a decade ago, over such an islet near Kalymnos.

The summer 2006 altercation occurred, Greek media widely speculated, because of intense Turkish interest in state-of-the-art Russian-made mobile anti-aircraft units in place in the Lassithi prefecture of eastern Crete. This suspicion was quickly confirmed by military sources in Athens. The question now is whether Turkey’s level of interest would exceed that of last year, in relation to the emerging situation in Cyprus.

Nicosia’s bold initiative to explore for oil, with the assistance of multinational oil companies, has brought the Turkish military to near-panic mode. A successful find and subsequent investment would dramatically increase the Greek Cypriot government’s foreign support and thus bargaining position with Turkey over the divided island.

Cyprus’ geopolitical value, even preliminary to hydrocarbons, lies in its strategic location, between three continents, near Israel and a stop en route to Suez. During the Israeli-Lebanese conflict last summer, thousands of foreign tourists, including many Americans, were evacuated quickly to Cyprus- a fact gratefully acknowledged by the US government when it sent a naval vessel to Cyprus on a goodwill visit meant to recognize the Cypriot contribution to securing the safety of Americans during the fighting.

Until now, the international community has tended to view Cyprus only in terms of its perennial security problem, resulting from the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation, in an operation called Attila (1 &2). However, 2007 looks likely to be the year in which Cyprus takes the first steps towards becoming an energy hub- if the government’s plan to proceed in exploiting the rumored hydrocarbon reservoirs deep beneath the Eastern Mediterranean Basin are allowed to go on unimpeded by military provocations further north.

In December 2006, the first media reports came out of Nicosia revealing the intention of the Cypriot government to search for oil assumed to be found offshore, southwest of the island. Moreover, Cyprus then signed agreements with Lebanon and Egypt so as to draw lines in relation with the zones allocated to each state.

In late January 2007, the Turkish leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of North Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, stated that an unpredictable situation might occur should Cyprus go along with its initial plan. Basically, the Turkish leader formulated a threatening scenario backed by the government of Turkey, considering that it was soon followed by a warning from Ankara to Beirut and Cairo not to proceed along with Cyprus in exploiting oil deposits in the region.

When the Cypriot announcement was made, Turkey seemed to be caught off-guard diplomatically; it had assumed Cyprus would not be able to initiate such a dramatic decision that could alter the political realities in the Eastern Mediterranean should oil is found. Greece has not voiced full support for Cyprus yet, deciding not to inflame the already delicate Greek-Turkish relations.

However, behind the scenes the Greeks are taking great care to ensure that the situation does not escalate, and if it does, that the military is prepared. According to information received by from high-level military sources in Athens, the Greek army went on an emergency footing on April 7, in anticipation of a new Turkish provocation in the eastern Aegean. This source also cited the period of greatest danger as being roughly between May 20-July 20.

Among the likely spillover effects of this will be to dramatically alter the discussions that will take place on the sidelines at NATO’s upcoming round-table discussion, set for late June in Ohrid. While most of the private discussion between officials (delegations are expected from dozens of countries) is expected to center around NATO enlargement, energy security and the Kosovo issue, a breakout of hostilities between Greece and Turkey would put these issues on the back burner, at least temporarily.

For the first time in its history, perhaps, Cyprus is with the oil issue formatting a policy that will empower its diplomatic arsenal without having to rely on Athens. Of course, this does not mean any breakdown in the traditional alliance and common national bonds between these two states populated by the same nation. What is essential, though, is that the entrance of Cyprus into the EU, and the overall economic dynamism of the island have enabled it to become more resilient in promoting its national interests.

A first consequence of this new confidence would be the ability of Greece to concentrate its efforts around Greek-Turkish relations in a more advantageous level than before. Simply put, if Cyprus is strong enough to look after itself on its own, Greece will have more resources to spare on other fronts relating to Turkish territorial claims that have led the two countries towards conflict, as was seen in 1955, 1964, 1974, 1987 and 1996.

Following the oil announcement, the Turkish Navy reportedly patrolled the area in question, even though no concrete date on its activities could be found. During the past few months, quite a few Turkish analysts, journalists and public officials have proclaimed a looming crisis in case Cyprus becomes an oil-producing country, thus creating the perfect framework by which the European Union could accuse Ankara of not conforming to European norms. This would, of course, hinder Turkey’s ability to seek an eventual entrance in the union

On the purely business level, the possibility of oil underneath Mediterranean Sea in a period of global concern on energy security; has attracted the attention of most of the world’s oil multinationals. Large oil companies from the USA, Russia, UK and China, Norway, France and Germany seem to be interested in investing in the assumed hydrocarbon reserves offshore Cyprus.

Despite Turkish opposition, Cyprus has already begun the process of initiating a bidding procedure for the aforementioned oil fields. 11 areas off of southern Cyprus will be the first where the tests for oil will begin. The total surface area is around 70,000 sq. km, and there are also good indications of discovering natural gas as well. French consultants employed by the Cypriot government have already stated that at depths in excess of 3,000 meters there is also a high probability of discovering gas fields as well.

Cyprus has already stated that it will issue three types of permit in relation to the oil fields. The first will be for tests covering a one-year time-frame, the second for three years and lastly a 25-year development license according to which the companies will be able to produce and process oil and gas. As part of its marketing endeavors, from now until mid-July (when the first permits are set to be issued), the Cypriot government plans to organize trips across the major oil capitals of the world in order to market the new riches of the island to prospective investors.

The Americans, who traditionally have placed more weight on the special relationship with Ankara than with Nicosia, have expressed a neutral position and the US Ambassador to Cyprus, Ronald Schilcher, has stated in Cypriot media that it is a sovereign right of the Cypriot Republic to conduct any kind or research on its territory.

Currently, American interests dictate a wide interest in every new oil field that could produce adequate amounts of oil, so as to secure the West from either Russian or Arab control. Therefore, if Cyprus is a country abundant with that resource, the US would be more than happy to support its initiatives and of course to gain a percentage through their own oil conglomerates. Cyprus could thus be considered to be traveling a course towards a NATO entrance, since the alliance has apparently been reincarnated as an armed safeguard of Western ‘energy security’ vis-a-vis Russia.

What is most interesting is the absence of any Greek interference during the past few months, even at the level of mere rhetoric, against Turkey’s aggressive threats to Cyprus. Even though there are still quite a few incidents between Greece and Turkey due to continuous airspace violations by Turkish fighter planes, and a sense of stressful relations between the two states; Greece did not take advantage of this situation to bash Ankara in Brussels, or to protest before the international community about Turkey’s hardline attitude against Cyprus (a nation with 1/100 of its population). Most probably, the Greek government wants to let international interests make their intentions known — a process that will unfold over the coming months and until July — before it makes a statement. That is, unless the anticipated showdown in the Aegean occurs, and forces Athens’ hand in advance.

Western consulting firms to the oil and gas industries have had their hands full with the Cyprus dossier for the past several months. According to one consultant closely related with the American intelligence establishment, “some of the companies interested are leery about the risk of potential violence, which we have been aware of and relayed to them.” And so, the source states, oil interests find themselves trying to decide whether the anticipated riches outweigh the reward.

Relevant to this is another side effect of possible Turkish aggression, about which the Greek intelligence services are not entirely unaware. That is the specter, on the other side of the Turkish frontier, of an increase in activity from the Kurdish PKK and intensified activity on the Turkish-Iraqi border. Whether such activity could be orchestrated by Greece as a defensive mechanism, or materialize simply as a Kurdish tactic for taking advantage of a moment when Turkey’s military is looking westward rather than eastward, is unclear (Greece did, of course, support former PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan surreptitiously in the 1990’s).

In either case, however, it is likely that in the case of violence in the Aegean within the May 20-July 20 time-frame, Kurdish insurgents will try to take advantage of the situation and fighting in eastern Turkey is expected to increase.

Turkey indeed feels immensely pressed by four very challenging factors. Firstly, the Kurdish affair interrelates with American and Israeli strategies in the Middle East, and Turkey finds itself in a most unpleasant situation, since its interests do not harmonize with those of these others. Further applicable issues show why the industry analysts and defense experts on the region are concerned about the potentially chaotic and unpredictable outcome of the next few months in Turkey.

A declaration of an independent Kurdish state that would act as a bulwark against Iran and Syria and, most importantly, become a staunch ally in the post –Saddam Iraq for the Americans would be a disaster of staggering proportions for internal Turkish politics. Roughly 20 percent of Turkish citizens have Kurdish descent and the prospect of a future disintegration of the southeastern provinces could not be excluded in such a case.

Secondly, the Presidential elections in Turkey have once again revealed the wide chasm between the secular Kemalist classes against the populist Islamist one associated with the AK Party of Prime Minister (and presidential candidate) Erdogan. Further, the always doubtful prospect of successful accession negotiations between Brussels and Turkey is fading, and with it the major justification from the Turkish political class for internal ‘pro-Western’ reforms.

Since the Cypriot initiative to search for oil might result in a diminishing of Turkish influence in the East Mediterranean and promote Cyprus to the status of an oil-rich country protected by the all-powerful global corporations, Turkey is understandably nervous about the future of an island which its generals like to refer to as a ‘dagger pointed at the heart of Turkey.’

Related Issues: the French, British and Germans Eye Cyprus

In 1960, with the creation of an independent Cypriot Republic, Greece, Turkey and the UK were identified as the guarantors of the island, and under that pretext Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974. Since then Cyprus has developed strong relations with the USA, Russia and surprisingly, over the past few months with France. The war in Lebanon last summer gave a tremendous boost to the bilateral relations of the two states.

France is the guarantor power for the Lebanese Maronites and has played over the centuries an active role in the region. Cyprus was an integral base that secured the evacuation of more than 150,000 refugees from the war-torn area, which led to a program of cooperation with Paris on a technical and military level (on a symbolic level, perhaps this new friendship was hinted at it when Cyprus selected a French-language song as its Eurovision entry for 2007).

In late February 2007, the two states signed a defense agreement that is of profound importance for all countries involved in the Cyprus quagmire. The agreement details exchange of information, military training, joint naval exercises and cooperation in S&R missions as well as with issues concerning illegal immigration, terrorism and organized crime. Furthermore, France was allowed to use the military base situated in Pafos in order to deploy its naval and air force units when necessary.

The Cypriot minister of foreign affairs has noted that “the crisis in Lebanon gave both countries the chance to cooperate in the military field with benefits not only for both countries but mainly for Middle East countries. I wish and hope that just as Cyprus proved to be a factor of stability in the Middle East region, the solution to the Cyprus problem and Cyprus’ reunification will prove that Cyprus can, be reunited with the cooperation of all partners such as France, help in peace and stability in the region.”

A key factor now, therefore, is the likely extension of French influence in the most strategically critical state in the region, and the results that this will have for the position of the United Kingdom. In comparison to Greece and Turkey; the UK does not have ethnological or historical ties with Cyprus, apart from its 80-year stint as a colonial (and unpopular) administrative power. A French-British rivalry played out in Cyprus over the coming years thus becomes likely. And this will involve some regional alliances and antipathies as well.

Turkey, for its part, has long experienced strained relations with Paris due to the latter’s suspiciously timely decision to recognize the so-called Armenian genocide of 1915-1921 The French electorate is also rather opposed to Turkish EU membership and a Sarkozy presidential victory could further chill relations. Through Cyprus, the French have finally found a way to expand their influence in the Eastern Mediterranean, with or without Turkish assistance. The British, by contrast, have been far more conciliatory to the Turks, with the Blair government one of the strongest supporters of Turkish EU membership.

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Projects and Possibilities: Turkey’s Future Role as a Transit Country for Central Asian and Caspian Natural Gas to the EU

By Mehmet Efe Biresselioglu

Nowadays, energy diplomacy is more crucial than ever for the EU. There is a strong need for a long-term EU common energy policy in order to enable the bloc to meet its future energy needs. Turkey is likely to play an important role in the EU’s energy strategy.

Energy has always occupied a central place in the thinking of the European Union, as it is one of the main reasons for the union’s existence. In 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established in order to reconstruct the energy sector of the post-war era. Six years later, in 1957, the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) was established.

The main problem, then as now, was the recognition of energy as a national priority rather than as a communal one. The sector could not enjoy the benefits of a common approach, as all too often it meant clashing with national interests, i.e., the sovereignty of the members of the community.

The situation regarding the energy sector and energy policies of the community remained untouched even at the time of the setup of a single market (1992). The main attempt by the European Commission thereafter came in 1999, when the energy and transport policies of the European Union were combined under one Commissioner.

The EU is still trying to set up a common energy policy today. Its objectives include security of energy supplies, the improvement of competitiveness of energy markets, and the protection of the environment. It is accepted by all members of the union that energy must be taken into account in foreign and security policy-making, as well as in the external trade policy-making of the EU, in order to achieve the future security of energy supply towards the EU.

Global Energy Trends and the European Union

In the 21st century, global energy trends are developing along different lines than in the previous century. The new global energy tendency is shifting from energy dependency towards energy independency. In this process, different aspects should be taken into account, such as alternative energy source, renewable energy and external supplies.

These global trends are not different for the European Union. It is faced with high oil and natural gas prices, increasing energy dependence and energy access uncertainties. Beside these, the European Union has its own energy problems. There is a unity problem inside the EU on energy policies. It is always difficult to reach a consensus when it comes to energy. Also, its high energy dependency on concentrated regions such as Russia, Middle East and North Africa; and problems of transportation from such frequently turbulent regions, are creating security challenges for energy supply. The European Union is therefore making a great effort in order solve all the problems that it is facing. It is establishing and supporting bilateral, multilateral and regional dialogues on energy security and supply.

The latest EU energy strategy is “A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy,” a separate document from the main EU Security Strategy, which is “A Secure Europe in a Better World“, released in March 2006.It is clearly stated in this strategy that the EU has problems because of its energy dependency on Russia, Northern Africa and the Gulf.

European Import Dependency on Natural Gas

European Union members share 2 percent of the world’s proven gas reserves. Natural gas accounts for 25 percent of the EU’s total energy consumption, and the EU accounts for 17.4 percent of the world’s total natural gas consumption, according to the EIA’s European Union Analysis. The EU is a net importer of energy. It is importing more then 40 percent of its natural gas consumption and the commission expects this import dependency to rise from 40 to 55 percent by 2010, to 67 percent by 2020 and to 81 percent by 2030, according to the European Energy Outlook 2020.

EU gas imports are usually coming from concentrated regions except Norway (an internal supplier of the EU). The other major suppliers are Russia, the Middle East and the North African countries.

a. Natural Gas Suppliers of the EU

Country : Volume

Russia: 131 bcm

Norway: 62.6 bcm

Algeria:33.5 bcm

Libya : 0.5 bcm

b. Natural Gas Suppliers of the EU (in LNG form)


Algeria: 18.80 bcm

Nigeria: 10.75 bcm

Middle East:5.40 bcm

Source: World Energy Outlook 2005 by IEA

As we can understand from the tables above, most of the EU’s natural gas import is regional, via pipelines, with the exception of LNG exports. Russia is exporting more than 40 percent of the EU’s natural gas needs, while African countries supply around 18 percent. Half of the African gas is exported in LNG form, which is important for the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts of Europe; however, they are strongly lacking in market in Central and Eastern Europe.

The most considerable amount of imported gas is of course from Russia. The EU’s natural gas dependency on Russia is very high and volatile. The bloc was faced with an unexpected situation in 2006 when Russia suddenly cut the supply and stopped exports destined for the EU through pipelines via Ukraine. Also, the gradual exhaustion of North Sea gas resources is pushing the EU to come up with new energy policies.

The Central Asian and Caspian Regions as Alternative Gas Suppliers to the EU

One of the major alternatives for Europe, garnering ever-increasing attention, are the Caspian and Central Asian producers. Yet the EU has no direct dialogues with these regions. The bloc maintains bilateral energy cooperation with Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan. But the EU is lacking a region-wide policy and any arrangements towards this region, such as the ones it maintains with Arctic Region, ECSEE, Africa (Gulf of Guinea), the Balkans, North Europe, the Mediterranean andOPEC.

The Caspian and Central Asian regions should be taken into account in order to diversify the energy dependence of the EU. Yet as the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi –Ceyhan Pipeline has brought Azeri oil to global markets, the world has started to pay more attention to the region. We can now see a bandwagon effect in action, for other alternative pipelines to carry natural gas and for other suppliers in the region, in addition to Azerbaijan, to integrate into the system and angle to use it.

c. Proven Reserves in The Caspian and Central Asian Region

Country: Proven Gas Reserves

Azerbaijan:1550 bcm

Iran: 358 bcm

Kazakhstan:1840 bcm

Russia:3168 bcm

Turkmenistan: 2860 bcm

Uzbekistan: 1870 bcm

Source: BP

Kazakhstan‘s, Turkmenistan’s and Uzbekistan’s situation is different than that of Azerbaijan. They are much more dependent on Russia because of their need to use Russian pipelines to export their natural gas. Although this is currently the only way for these three countries to export their natural gas stocks, these pipelines are not always reliable, as they are not modern and not protected against corrosion.

However, Russia is using their dependency in order to profit as much as it can. For example, while Russian gas which enters Ukraine is more or less $95 per tcm, at its start in Turkmenistan, the gas’ price is only around 30-45$ per tcm.

Turkey‘s Role as a Transit Route to the EU

There are three alternative projects which will allow the Caspian/Central Asian region to sell their natural gas towards EU via Turkey.


Tabriz-Erzurum Pipeline: activated in 2001, this pipeline carries Iranian natural gas to Turkey. It has a capacity of 20 bcm/y, but it is currently using only one-quarter of this capacity.

South Caucasus Pipeline: also known as the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline, this is a parallel natural gas pipeline to the BTC. It will carry Azeri natural gas to Turkey and can possibly be extended to Kazakhstan by building a pipeline between Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline: the result of an agreement between Turkey and Turkmenistan for building a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, Georgia and finally Turkey, the Trans-Caspian Pipeline will have a capacity of 20 bcm/y. However, Caspian maritime disputes over territorial waters are proving a challenge to this project. Currently, this project is suspended because of an agreement between Russia and Turkmenistan obliging the latter to not sell natural gas via any other way than Russia.

Turkey is expected to be a major conduit for Caspian and Central Asian natural gas towards EU because of its geographical location and Turkey’s possibility to become a third largest gas exporter to EU after all these projects will come to reality.

Turkey‘s energy strategy was stated clearly by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in the opening ceremony for the BTC pipeline. “Turkey’s energy strategy is devised on the basis of its national requirements and the world energy needs directed by global developments,” he said. “In this context, we aim at making Turkey a transit country in the East-West and North-South axes, transforming the Ceyhan Terminal into an energy trade centre and following the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline, the realization of the Samsun-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and the Trans-Caspian Natural Gas Pipeline projects.”

There are two main projects from Turkey towards the EU to carry Caspian and Central Asian Natural gas

Nabucco Pipeline Project:this will allow Turkey to export Caspian natural gas to Europe via the Balkans. As Turkey has signed an agreement with Azerbaijan to import gas with a reselling option, it is placing much importance on this project. It could be one of the two projects enabling Turkey to export natural gas to the EU, other than the South-European gas ring. This project, estimated to have a capacity of around 25-30 bcm/y, would send gas to European energy markets via the Balkans. It will have to be achieved through the cooperation of Turkey, Bulgaria, Austria, Hungary and Romania.

South European Gas Ring Project: the 2003 signing of an intergovernmental agreement between Turkey and Greece, as well as a Sale and Purchase Contract between the relevant organs of the two countries (namely, BOTAS and DEPA), paved the way for an energy project expected to be completed during 2007, with future expansion to Italy possible. Recently, a deal was signed by DEPA and Edison for just such an expansion. This second part of the project will come on stream around 2011. The gas ring will allow Turkey to export natural gas towards Europe via Greece. Its starting capacity is 0.75 bcm/y, with a long term capacity of 11 bcm/y.

It should be noted that the Nabucco pipeline and South European Gas Ring project do not compete with one another. Both will help secure the energy diversification and independency of the European Union from Russia. Turkey’s role is crucial for European energy security through such energy diversification. As a transit country, Turkey is important for both sides of the east-west corridor, the connector route between the producer regions to the east and energy-hungry Europe.

Because of its geographical position and larger geo-political trends, in the future Turkey has a good chance to become one of the four suppliers of natural gas for the EU, along with Russia, Middle Eastern countries and North African ones, by exporting the natural gas of Caspian and Central Asian regions.

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The End of an Era in the Armenian Genocide Debate: Will Recognition Lead to a Turkish Policy Transformation?

If Turkey gives up its opposition to potential US recognition of the atrocities between Turks and Armenians that took place during World War One as a “genocide,” will its diplomatic hand ultimately be strengthened? The following article argues that this just might be the case.

By Mehmet Kalyoncu

What should have happened ninety-two years ago in 1915 is finally likely to happen in 2007. Both Houses of the U.S. Congress are expected to pass a resolution that recognizes the bitter WWI experience of the Turkish Armenians as genocide after it is discussed in the House Foreign Relations Committee in April. Ankara reflexively and as usual warned Washington that bilateral relations may be damaged to a degree never before seen. A similar resolution was stopped in the year 2000 due to Turkish diplomatic pressure. But times have changed.

For many Turks, passing the resolution will verify their suspicions of the unfaithful friendship of the United States. Ankara is right when it maintains that bilateral relations would be damaged severely during a period in which the United States needs a reliable ally in the Middle East. Nevertheless, by acknowledging the distinction between recognizing the so-called Armenian genocide and letting the U.S. Congress recognize it, Ankara could actually benefit by letting the latter happen.

A sizeable part of the Turkish public, from officials to intellectuals and ordinary men on the street, view the recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide by the US Congress as an opportunity to break free from an area of coercion in the United States’ allegedly unfaithful friendship, and from an almost century-long hysteria surrounding the question of “what if the United States recognizes the so-called genocide?” In this regard, the recognition of the so-called genocide seems to present a more of a threat to the interests of the United States than to those of Turkey.

Recognizing the So-Called Armenian Genocide

Mr. Turgut Ozal, former President and Prime Minister of Turkey, was among the first who sought to get rid of the hysteria by signaling a tacit approval of recognizing the so-called genocide in 1991. However, Ozal had to back up when political opponent Suleyman Demirel, some high-ranking generals and the secular establishment accused him of not being sensitive to this most important national matter.

Nuzhet Kandemir, then Turkish Ambassador to the US, ironically and yet somehow proudly notes that he managed to convince Ozal to believe that such an approval would not serve the Turkish national interests.[1] More ironically, Ilter Turkmen, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, suggests that Ozal did not in fact believe in what he said, but just seemed so in order to stimulate a debate when he asked if it would not be better for Turkey to recognize the so-called genocide.[2]

It is not clear whether Ozal thought the same way, but today it seems like the “genocide card” is destined to lose its value dramatically as a foreign policy instrument against Turkey once the United States, the long-time strategic ally of Turkey, recognizes the so-called Armenian genocide. For so many years, thinks the majority of the Turkish public, especially the Western European countries and the United States have exploited the genocide question as a stick to beat Turkey when the carrot did not indulge her.

Today, US recognition is likely to make the genocide issue much less effective as a foreign policy instrument; with the threat of it gone, Turkey will be freed of a longstanding preoccupation in its relations with the United States.

Although there is no unanimity among them, some in the media and secular circles have speculated about the aftermath of the genocide recognition and foresee potential sanctions against Turkey. These speculations are often countered in the public debate by questions such as: What happened after France long ago passed the resolution in its parliament? What happened even after France declared it a crime not to recognize the so-called Armenian genocide? Would the case be any different with the United States?

International criminal law does not provide a guideline to deal with historical atrocities, argues Swedish historian Bertil Duner.[3] Yet international law suggests the creation of an international expert body representing both historians and the legal profession to investigate such historical cases, and arrive at an eventual condemnation of the responsible party or parties. This is actually not much different from what Turkey, especially during the AK Party government, has been advocating.

Whether the U.S. recognition makes any difference is something to be seen in the future. However, it is not difficult to argue for now that such recognition will have implications at multiple levels.

Possible Implications of the US Congress’ Recognition

Turkey and Armenia are likely to gain from the US recognition of the so-called genocide, while the United States is likely to lose in the long term. First of all, the recognition will bring an end to a prolonged era throughout which Turkey has suffered continuous hysteria when considering the implications of the United States recognizing the so-called Armenian genocide. Consequently, by the end of its de facto liability to the United States for not recognizing the so-called genocide, Turkey is likely to increase its bargaining power against the US in their bilateral relations. Secondly, Turkish foreign policy, which has essentially revolved around three issues throughout the republic’s history (defending against Armenian genocide allegations, Cyprus, and relations with Greece), is likely to gain momentum that could be developed down lesser-explored avenues such as increasing bilateral relations with non-Western states.

Armenia has suffered profound economic hardship since the break-up of the USSR. Some of this would have been lessened had the country been able to develop economic relations with its immediate neighbor to the west. However, the Armenian Diaspora’s continuous efforts to inflict pain on Turkey in the international arena have not helped in this capacity. Beside its occupation of Azerbaijani territory adjoining Karabagh, Armenia’s constitutionally certified territorial claims on areas of Eastern Turkey caused Turkey to impose a blockade on Armenia, shutting off Yerevan’s road and rail links to the West.[4]

However, with the Turkish people’s overwhelming show of sympathy following the recent murder of Turkish Armenian intellectual Hrant Dink, Armenia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arman Kirakosyan stressed his government’s readiness to open full diplomatic relations with Turkey unconditionally.[5] Such a gesture hints that in the absence of the Diaspora influence, Turkey and Armenia are likely to sort out the problems hindering the two countries’ ability to engage in bilateral political and economic relations.

What is in it for the United States?

What are the pros and cons of the US recognizing the so-called Armenian genocide? Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) notes, “[t]o truly dedicate ourselves to improving human rights across the world, our government must first learn from and properly condemn the mistakes of the past”[6] in order to express the rational behind his introduction of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. He is right in that the U.S. government should learn from and properly condemn the mistakes of the past, but it hardly needs to look at the mistakes of others or go that far back into history when it has more than enough of its own indiscretions to use for that educative purpose. Understandably, however, Pallone may not be able to distinguish between his own electoral interests and the US national interests.

US-Turkish relations are unlikely to radically change due to the Congress’ recognition of the so-called genocide. Nor is Turkey likely to take any radical action against the United States for that matter, given the fact that it needs the US support to deal with the Kurdish PKK separatists and the looming crisis in northern Iraq, over Kirkuk.

Nevertheless, the very fact that the United States recognizes the so-called genocide would entail structural changes in Turkey’s foreign policy orientation, which would indirectly rather than directly impact the US-Turkish relation in the long term.

Diminishing Influence of the “White Turks”

There are likely to be losers on the Turkish side of the debate as well once the so-called genocide is recognized by the US Congress. These will include mainly the exclusivist and elitist secular establishment in the state apparatus, its extension within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ankara, and their contacts in Washington, who have been reportedly lobbying on behalf of Turkey.

Throughout the republic’s history, a small number of elite members and diplomats have been considered to have the decisive influence on Turkey’s foreign policy orientation, formulation and implementation, serving as a conduit between Ankara and Washington. This diplomatic elite has earned the popular moniker, Beyaz Turkler (“White Turks”), and frequently derive from familial dynasties, some non-Anatolian in origin. The name implies a sort of “untouchable,” elevated image compared to the unwashed masses.

The prolonged conflicts such as the Armenian genocide issue, Cyprus, Turkish-Greek relations, which pretty much constituted the triad of Turkish foreign policy in the second half of the 20th century, entailed an exclusivist foreign policy apparatus independent of whatever particular government was in office.

Understandably, dealing with such conflicts required diplomatic expertise and personal connections in Washington. Yet some have speculated that by prolonging these conflicts, the very exclusivist “White Turks” elite has kept the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immune from the more traditional-minded bulk of Turkish society, the so-called “Black Turks,” and maintained their grip on the country’s foreign affairs.

Winds of Change in Turkish Foreign Policy

Nevertheless, in the recent years the so-called White Turks grip on Turkish foreign policy, which is marked simply by an unconditional attachment to the West, has started to diminish gradually. Turkish foreign policy has gained multiple dimensions with the AK Party’s efforts to reach out to Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and even Latin America. This new foreign policy orientation has thus opened the door to those intellectuals who speak the languages, know the cultures, or have even lived in these new regions of interest.

This expansion of interests represents a welcome breath of fresh air for a foreign policy establishment that has become somewhat close-minded due to a limited orientation traditionally focused on a few narrow issues. By reaching out to other corners of the globe, Turkey will develop for itself a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan mindset and inevitably a more prestigious place on the global stage.

The most significant example of the new breed of foreign policy intellectuals is probably Dr. Ahmet Davutoglu, foreign affairs counselor to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was allegedly the most influential thinker who crafted the new multi-dimensional foreign policy paradigm of the AK Party government, which resulted in closer relations of Turkey with its immediate neighbors such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran.

The US Congress’ recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide should only speed up the transformation within the Turkish foreign policy apparatus, which is in any case already underway, by eliminating a nagging issue that has for too long forced Turkey to expend its political capital in an investment promising little return.

[1] “Soykirimi tanisak daha iyi olmaz mi — Would it not be better if we recognize the genocide”, Hurriyet 7, March 2005, available at

[2] Ibid

[3] Bertil Duner, “What Can Be Done about Historical Atrocities? The Armenian Case” International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 217–233, Summer 2004

[4] Jon Gorvett, “Armenia, Turkey Takes Steps towards Rapprochement,” May 29, 2002, available at

[5] “Cenazede gordukleri tablo Ermeni diasporasini sasirtti” Zaman, January 25, 2007, available at

[6] “Armenian Genocide Resolution to be Introduced Tomorrow,” posted by N.J. Dem. Rep. Frank Pallone, January 29, 2007 available at

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