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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

The Assassination of Hrant Dink: Another Deadly Incident Destined to Remain Unsolved?

By Mehmet Kalyoncu

The assassination of Hrant Dink, one of the most prominent Turkish Armenians and the editor-in-chief of bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper Agos outside his newspaper’s office was a deplorable act by any definition. Yet it was not an unexpected one, given the selection of the target and its expected/actual impact on Turkish society and on Turkey’s position vis-ˆšÃ‰  -vis the issue of the “Armenian genocide’ that has taken on new proportions internationally of late, with the US Congress weighing a resolution on the issue. Ankara has already warned about the implications of American genocide recognition for bilateral relations.

This is at least the thesis of a good percentage of the population in Turkey, where all too often such murky crimes are blamed ultimately on malevolent and all-powerful outside forces- with the result that it is rare that full investigations are ever executed.

The Turkish police caught Mr. Dink’s assassin in just 32 hours, something which the government took great pride in noting. Yet has the problem been solved with the simple arrest of a 17-year-old gunman? Was he the ultimate and sole perpetrator of the killing? Just as with other recent violent events in Turkey, such as with the 16-year-old who killed a Catholic priest in Trabzon last year, the murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist has been added to the pile of unsolved or semi-solved incidents that have been planned against the peace and stability of Turkey by the so-called “dark hands.”

This expression — karanlik eller in the Turkish — is the metaphor mostly used to refer to what the public views as the sinister masterminds behind the scenes. It is used in general to refer to those who allegedly always wanted to stir things up in Turkey. Even officials have used the “dark hands” metaphor after unsolved assassinations, bombings and the like. And there have been more than a few over the past year or so.

Fortunately, it seems like the killing did not breed the expected conflict between the Turkish Armenians and the Turks, mostly due to the fact that both sides are more aware than ever of the detrimental results that possible provocations could cause. Regarding the killing of Mr. Dink, the Turkish Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II noted, “[t]his assassination is a deplorable act that targets our country’s stability and its international relations.”[1] Moreover, regardless of their ethnic background, thousands took the street and protested the Dink killing by shouting “We are all Hrant, We are all Armenian!” Further, the fact that the killer was identified and reported to the police by his very own father suffices to suggest that the Dink killing has so far failed to cause social conflict between ethnic Armenian Turks and the Turks.

Nevertheless, it is imperative for the AK Party government to not let the Dink case go unresolved, or be left semi-resolved as were three other infamous recent incidents: the bookstore bombing in the southeastern Kurdish-inhabited town of Semdinli, the aforementioned killing of the Catholic priest, and the murder of Supreme Court magistrate Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin in May of last year.

The Semdinli Incidents

On November 9, 2005, a bookstore (Umut Kitabevi) in Semdinli, near Hakkari, the most notable town in the southeast of Turkey, was bombed, killing two and injuring fourteen. The local people nearby managed to apprehend the suspected bomber and two other men allegedly involved with the bombing. In the alleged suspects’ automobile were discovered AK-47 assault rifles, Semdinli area maps, a name list of the political opposition leaders, and a document consisting of information about certain individuals in Semdinli.

Interestingly, two of the three alleged perpetrators were identified to be gendarmerie intelligence officers (JITEM) and one, a PKK [the armed Kurdish separatist group] informant. More interestingly, one of the JITEM officers was allegedly linked to then-Commander of Land Forces General Yasar Buyukanit, who is now the Chief of General Staff and whose relationship was never officially denied.

Immediately after the bombing, despite the call for calm by Kurdish community leaders and the officials, about a thousand people took to the streets and put the police checkpoint under fire.[2] The AK Party government assured the public that those responsible would be brought to justice shortly, and immediately established an investigation committee. The committee still continues its inquiry today, and the three alleged perpetrators were sentenced. However, the public is hardly convinced that the three men sentenced were the masterminds behind the Semdinli bombing.

The Semdinli bombing took place during a period when the military-civilian relationship was being scrutinized and it was argued that the civilian administration should have higher control over the military- to keep in line with EU requirements.

The Killing of Catholic Priest Andrea Santoro

On February 5, 2006, Priest Andrea Santoro of Italian Sancta Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon, who ministered to Turkey’s small Catholic population in this northeastern Black Sea town, was murdered by a 16-year-old boy. The killer reportedly had a personal problem with the priest, rather than a religious or ideological one.[3] However, before the investigation was even completed, the European press in general and the Italian press in particular had been quick to link the killing to the Prophet Mohammed cartoon crisis in Denmark and elsewhere. The Italian press thus portrayed the incident as an indication of religious fanaticism in Turkey- whose European Union bid has always been clouded in many Europeans’ eyes by the religious make-up of the country.

Indeed, a Corriere Della Sera article reported that the killer shouted “Allahu-Akbar” before killing the priest, thereby sufficing it to seem an act motivated by religious fanaticism.[4] Similarly another Italian newpaper, La Repubblica, reported that the killer interrupted the service, approached Priest Santoro and shot him after screaming “Allah Akbar”.[5] La Republica also reported that there hade been similar attacks in Beirut as well on the same day due to the Denmark-sparked cartoon crisis.

The investigation started immediately after the killing and identified other suspects involved with the killing of the priest. The prolonged judicial process, focusing exclusively on the 16-year-old gunman, ended after the 9th court trial, with an 18-year sentence imposed.[6]

Yet was the whole case really solved? The Turkish public still hardly believes that it was. Again the familiar reference to “Dark Hands” manipulating the killing from offstage was made. Priest Santoro’s killing also took place right after Turkey started EU accession negotiations with the European Union in October 3, 2005.

The Killing of the Supreme Court Magistrate

On May 17, 2006, Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin, a Turkish Supreme Court Magistrate, was shot dead by a young attorney Alparslan Arslan. The immediate news reports noted that the assailant screamed “We are Allah’s soldiers. Allahu Akbar” while shooting Ozbilgin, a claim which was, later on, disputed.[7] Certain ultra-secular groups allegedly related the killing with the Supreme Court’s ban on the headscarf, and sought to send a warning to the AK Party government which was seeking a formula to resolve the headscarf problem. The family members and immediate friends of the assailant denied that he was even a practicing Muslim let alone a fanatic who would perpetrate such a killing due to religious motivations.

As of today, the Alparslan Aslan court trial still continues. Will the case be solved when he is sentenced? It may seem so, but it is still hard for the Turkish public to believe that he was the mastermind of the killing.

Finally, Hrant Dink: The Latest, but Unlikely to be the Last

The assassination of Hrant Dink has come during a time when the Armenian Diaspora is preparing to wage full battle against Turkey. On February 8, 2007, a resolution that recognizes the Armenian genocide and foresees certain sanctions on Turkey will be voted on in the U.S. House of Representatives, where long-time supporter of the so-called resolution Nancy Pelosi of California is the incoming Speaker. Bolstering the correlation of the timing of the Dink killing with the upcoming voting on the resolution, Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of ANCA (Armenian National Committee of America) noted, “Hrant Dink’s murder is tragic proof that the Turkish government –through its campaign of denial, threats and intimidation against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide — continues to fuel the same hatred and intolerance that initially led to this crime against humanity more than 90 years ago.”[8]

Ironically, however, as Turkish Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II noted, Hrant Dink was known as the foremost Armenian Turkish intellectual, and one disliked by the Armenian Diaspora due to his efforts to promote dialogue between Turkey and Armenia, and settle the conflict over historical disputes through open intellectual exchanges. Nevertheless, Dink’s death presents a matchless opportunity for the Armenian Diaspora to exploit against Turkey at this crucial time. Again, another mysterious death at a politically sensitive moment for Turkey- the fourth in just 15 months.

The “Dark Hands” Syndrome

The real challenge for the AK Party government now is less finding the assailant of the Dink killing but more pursuing the very investigation, wherever it may lead, to find the mastermind(s). The Turkish authorities and population have proven indulgent in the past about blaming such attacks on abstract external powers, or the so-called “dark hands.”

From top government officials to prominent intellectuals, almost everyone refers to the so-called “dark hands” that target the peace and stability of Turkey and try to drag the country into chaos.

Given the fact that in 2007 will be held two critical elections, presidential and parliamentary, in which chaos in Turkey hampers the political process and the government’s abilities to cope with ever-more complex situation, there is no reason to not expect such random assassinations as that of Hrant Dink in the days and weeks ahead. Nevertheless, popular acceptance of the so-called “dark hands” phenomenon would be an easy way out and would hinder the AK government’s ability to investigate the assassination and bring those really responsible to justice.

Referring to the assassination as a mere provocation attempt Prime Minister Erdogan recently noted, “we know that those who shot him (Mr. Dink) have in fact shot Turkey. Our solidarity, democracy, freedom of thought, peace and stability was the target.”[9] Similarly, the intelligence officers cited, the strategists and commentators, have in the immediate aftermath so far followed the course and attributed the latest killing to the so-called “external powers.”[10] Most importantly, they have all drawed attention to the correlation between the timing of the Dink assassination and the upcoming discussion of the Armenian genocide in the U.S. House of Representatives. The argument is that certain interest groups should have wanted to bolster the Armenian Diaspora’s hand as it prepares to pass resolution in the U.S. Congress to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Former MIT (Turkish National Intelligence Service) officer Mahir Kaynak suggests, “[H]rant Dink’s killing would benefit the Armenian Diaspora in the United States. He was the right choice to start a long-term campaign against Turkey”. Similarly, former Chief of Intelligence Bulent Orakoglu stresses that the assassination of Dink is a signal for similar future killings: “such assassinations were already expected starting in early 2007. Creating chaos is the strategy of certain powers.”

Along similar lines, Retired Lt. General Edip Baser, Special Coordinator for Terrorism, views the killing as a deliberate effort to divert the AK Party government’s attention away from the situation in Northern Iraq.

Certainly the failure to bring the mastermind(s) of Hrant Dink assassination to justice will weaken the AK Party government’s public image as it nears the presidential and parliamentary election domestically and Turkey’s position vis-ˆšÃ‰  -vis the genocide allegations internationally. Perhaps it was such a motivation that led the so-called “dark hands” to kill this prominent Turkish Armenian journalist- if they actually did, of course. If history is any judge, we may never know.

[1][1] “Mutafyan: Saldiri ulkemizdeki huzur ortamini hedefleyen igrenc bir suikasttir”, Zaman 19.01.2007 at

[2] “Provakatorler Semdinli’de sahnede”, Zaman 11.11.2005 at

[3] “Trabzon’da Katolik Kilisesi’nin papazi olduruldu olduruldu”, Zaman 06.02.2005 at

[4]“Turchia: ucciso un prete cattolico italiano”, Corriere Della Sera 02.06.2006 at

[5]Turchia, sacerdote italiano cattolico ucciso in chiesa mentre pregava”, La Repubblica 5 febbrario 2006 at

[6] “Rahip cinayeti davasinda temyize gidildi”, Zaman 30.10.2006 at

[8] Press Release “Anca Condems Murder of Hrant Dink”, available at

[9] “Hain bir provakasyonla karsi karsiyayiz”, Zaman 01.20.2007 at

[10] “Turkiye’ye yonelik bir operasyonun isaret fisegi — Signal Bullet of an Operation against Turkey“, Zaman 01.20.2007 at

Turkey: Europe’s Emerging Energy Corridor for Central Eurasian, Caucasian and Caspian Oil and Gas

By Mehmet Efe Biresselioglu

One important geopolitical consequence of the demise of the Soviet Union was the rise of intense political and commercial competition for control of the vast energy resources of the eight newly independent and vulnerable states of Central Eurasia: the sub-region of Central Asia, consisting of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan; and the sub-region of the Caucasus, consisting of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Another effect was the change of control of the Caspian Sea basin from two littoral states, which had been the Soviet Union and Iran, to the five countries of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Enormous oil and natural gas reserves attracted the major actors of the world into the region, and analysts early on dubbed it a new chapter in the old “Great Game.”

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the oil and natural gas reserves of these regions are significant. The proven oil reserves of five Caspian Sea Region Countries are 153.8 BBbbl, which is 14.6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Their proven reserves of natural gas are 2688.3 tfc, which is almost 50 percent of the world’s proven reserves. If we include the possible reserves of the five Caspian Sea region littorals and Uzbekistan, figures reach up to 30 percent of world oil reserves and 60 percent of natural gas reserves.

Europe’s Growing Energy Needs

Europe is entering a new era in its energy consumption. Energy demand will continue to increase as there is, and will increasingly be, strong competition for global energy resources. In 25 years’ time, between 60 and 70 percent of Europe’s oil and natural gas needs will be met by third countries which are not members of the European Union. The expectation of total energy demand growth is only about 0.5 percent per year on average through 2030, and oil demand will hold steady, according to a World Energy Outlook report.

However, the European Union’s main problem is high and volatile energy prices, and a lack of energy supply diversity, because of the EU’s dependence on external suppliers, especially Russia. It is frequently argued that Russia cannot be considered a reliable partner of the EU in this respect because of the frequent arguments among various countries of the former Soviet Union, between suppliers and transit countries, a phenomenon which has negative effects on supply. Also, there is a limit to how much gas Russia can sell to Europe, since Russia needs gas for itself and is reaching its limit of exports.

Therefore, Europe needs alternative energy suppliers in order to diversify its energy supply. The former Soviet states of Central Eurasia, the Caucasus and Caspian Sea have the potential to meet Europe’s oil and natural gas needs; Central Asian and Caspian Sea Basin oil reserves rival those of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, and the region also has the world’s richest reserves of natural gas. There are many advantages for the European energy markets in these regions according to the context of energy need and diversity. Yet the possibility of realizing these advantages hinges on one crucial issue: how is the gas and oil to get to its potential markets?

Turkey’s Crucial Role as a Supplier of Energy to Europe

Energy has become a strategic factor in global politics. It is a key to national power as well as a major requirement for economic growth. Turkey’s geo-strategic position makes it a natural energy bridge and a transit point between the main oil producing areas in the Caspian, Caucasus and Central Asia on the one hand, and consumer markets in Europe on the other. For Turkey, which has few energy supplies of its own, the recently completed Baku-Tbilisi Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline is the initial step in its effort to become a major energy player, not as a producer but as a transit point.

In an era when countries are increasingly looking to diversify their energy sources, Turkey hopes to establish itself as a kind of energy supermarket, betting that controlling oil routes will turn out to be as strategically valuable as producing the stuff. Geographically, Turkey is endowed with advantages, so the country would like to use those advantages to take on a role as a supplier of energy resources.

The BTC pipeline offers landlocked Caspian basin states another export route to global markets, significantly and purposefully, bypassing Russia in the process. Here Turkey has a dual role because of Russia’s interest in Turkey’s role in a north-south (Black Sea-Mediterranean) corridor to bypass Ukraine (Russia is currently using Ukraine to export oil and natural gas to Europe). If Turkey could balance the Western and Russian interests, it would become an important energy route indeed.

There are many oil and gas pipeline projects in which Turkey is directly involved. These are:

East-West Corridor:

Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Project (Completed)

Kirkuk-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline (Completed)

South Caucasus Pipeline (under construction)

Turkey-Greece-Italy Gas Pipeline (Under Construction)

Nabucco Gas Pipeline (Projected)

Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (Projected)

Kazakh Oil-expansion to BTC (Projected)

Iraqi Gas (Projected)

North-South Corridor:

Blue Stream Gas Pipeline (Completed)

Samsun-Ceyhan Bypass Oil Pipeline (Projected)

Burgas-Alexandroupolis Oil Pipeline-Bypass for straits (Projected)

Samsun-Ceyhan Gas Pipeline (Projected)

Turkey-Israel Oil/Gas Pipeline (Projected)

Turkey has one big advantage compared to the other countries which would like to take its place as a transit hub: it is a longstanding NATO ally with a future committed to becoming an EU member. Turkey is currently adopting the necessary EU regulations and acquis. Also, from a perspective of trans-Atlantic security, Turkey could be seen as the right choice for becoming an energy transit country to the West, as it has already proven itself a strong and trustworthy ally in this respect also.

Turkey has adapted itself to the post-Cold War conditions in functional energy strategy, and so connected itself to several major energy markets and sources. Along with important bilateral agreements, Turkey has managed to connect itself to the main energy markets, including the European energy market, through complex energy projects. In this sense, it can be argued that Turkey has contributed to the emergence of a new energy regime in Eurasia.

Turkey will have ready access to diversified supplies of natural gas and oil income from existing pipelines and those under construction. These two benefits alone can drive economic growth. If Turkey can balance the interests and demands of the many parties with a stake in its natural gas transport infrastructure, then its geopolitical location can be used to its advantage in both trade and foreign policy relations. Thus, as a critical player in transit shipping supply and distribution of oil and gas, Turkey will gain new sources of income and greater global influence. This will nevertheless require an active foreign policy with a determined strategy of its own, which will succeed in fending of monopolistic ambitions.

Turkey‘s ability to become an energy transport hub will depend on an array of intergovernmental, territorial and business agreements. Turkey is not a producer of energy, but considering its location, one should realize that the most viable way to transport natural gas and oil from the Caucasus, Caspian Sea region and Central Eurasia is through Turkey. Today, Turkey is already becoming a vital energy corridor for Europe by virtue of the pipelines that have been constructed, are under construction or are projected for the future.

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Why the EU Needs a Strategy for the Black Sea Region

By Lara Scarpitta*

It is old news that geography matters in foreign policy. A dormant EC/EU had to learn this vital lesson in 1989, when communism crumbled behind its safe walls. Faced with the sudden prospect of bordering poor, unpredictable and unstable neighbours, it responded by anchoring the former soviet satellites of Central Europe with the offer of EU membership. But now that a new enlargement has been completed, geography matters even more. With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria on the 1st of January, the EU’s new eastern border has moved south, to the shore of the Black Sea. Across its waters, however, lies one of the most unstable and conflict-prone regions of post-Soviet Eurasia.

For centuries, the Black Sea region has been a theatre of violent conflicts and power struggles, due primarily to its geographical location and character as a transit route. During the Cold War, all Black Sea states (except Turkey) were within the Soviet sphere of influence and at the periphery of international strategic interests. But as the Soviet Union began to break down in 1991, the Black Sea region plunged into chaos, torn apart by several ethnic and separatist conflicts. The end of the Cold War’s artificial stability freed long concealed (and suppressed) historical grievances and a number of new independent states such as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan emerged from the ashes of the Soviet Empire.

Nevertheless, most of them are still very weak democracies, facing territorial separatism, ethnic tensions, undemocratic trends in domestic politics, slow economic progress, environmental degradation and endemic corruption of public officials. The long years of armed conflicts have caused disruption to trade and damaged infrastructure. Due to its potential for conflict, the region has attracted relatively little foreign investment and most such countries are still today heavily dependent on the Russian economy. Unemployment rates are generally very high, with almost all states suffer from a hemorrhagic migration abroad of a consistent percentage of the working-age population.

Today the Black Sea region is also a major source and transit area of several security threats, from terrorism to international organised crime as well as arms and human trafficking. It is home to four so-called “frozen” conflicts — Transnistria, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia – the unresolved separatist issues which followed the breakdown of the USSR.

Despite years of diplomacy and talks, hopes for finding a peaceful and long-standing resolution for these conflicts remain bleak. Apart from fuelling bilateral tensions, these “frozen’ conflicts have been a bane for the region’s democratic and economic development, breeding instability and corruption and favouring the proliferation of organised crime. Uncontrolled territories in Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, for example, have become safe havens for the activities of powerful organised criminal groups involved in people smuggling, human trafficking as well as goods and arms trafficking. The phenomenon of arms trafficking is widespread in the region and much of the large weapons stockpiles abandoned by Russia in the early 1990s have ended up on the grey and black markets. The region is also a major source of drug production and a trafficking route for drugs coming from Central Asia and the Middle East (especially Afghanistan) into Europe. Large profits are also being made from smuggling people across the region with a promise of a better life in the West, and there is evidence that these profits are being reinvested into drugs and arms trafficking, as well as financing terrorist activities, as a recent Europol report highlighted.

This situation carries significant implications for EU security. A power vacuum in the region can potentially result in a security vacuum with consequences which are self-evident yet highly unpredictable. Because of its sudden and new geographical proximity to the wider Black Sea states, the EU will no longer be immune from the backlashes of instability and conflicts in the region, but rather will be directly exposed to a whole range of security threats, from organised crime to drugs and arms trafficking, as well as refugee and illegal migration pressures.

Aside from these security concerns, however, the Black Sea region offers many positive opportunities. The most obvious is in the field of energy. Thanks to its proximity to the oil-rich Caspian Sea and its vast energy resources, the Black Sea region can play a major role for the EU’s energy strategy, to secure alternatives to Russian energy supply.

Many ambitious pipeline projects were launched in the 1990s to guarantee direct access to Caspian oil via the Black Sea. These include the U.S. East-West Energy Corridor and the EU Traceca project (Transit Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Central Asia).

Although these failed to materialise when conflicts erupted in the Balkans and in the South Caucasus in the 1990s, it is in the interests of the EU that these projects be reinvigorated to ensure greater Western access to Caspian energy resources.

Perhaps most importantly, the Black Sea region matters for its strategic importance, owing to its proximity to the Middle East. Since 9/11, the US has played an active role in the region to safeguard its vast security and economic interests, especially access to Caspian oil and gas reserves. American “pipeline politics’ has gone hand in hand with its war on terror and the U.S. administration has been keen to support the NATO aspirations of some Black Sea countries.

Yet is the EU ready take up these challenges with similar energy? Can it exploit the region’s huge and lucrative potentials and prevent the Black Sea from becoming a permanent source of security threats?

Most likely, it will only be able to do so partially. The reasons are multiple. First, the EU does not have a Black Sea policy, or at least not a coherent strategy as such. It has opted instead for a patchwork of policies and approaches: enlargement to South-eastern Europe and Turkey, the “European Neighbourhood” policy and a structured cooperation with the South Caucasus states.

Indeed, therein lays part of the problem. While the EU enlargement policy – with its strict conditionality and convergence to EU norms and standards – has (at least so far) been relatively a success story, other policies failed to deliver the expected results. Bilateral cooperation with post-Soviet Eastern neighbours like Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, as well as with the South Caucasus states (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), put in place since the mid-1990s hardly proved a recipe for stabilisation and prosperity. The over 3 billion euros from the EU’s TACIS funds allocated in the last ten years have failed to convince reluctant post-Soviet governments to introduce sound democratic and market-based economic reforms. Part of the problem is that the EU lacks sufficient leverage to push for such reforms. This is hardly a surprise if one considers that most of these states are still heavily under Russia’s influence. The 2006 energy crisis in Ukraine and Moldova, as well as Russian import bans on Moldovan and Georgian wines and water are a stark remainder of Russia’s economic power over its neighbours.

The EU, by contrast, continues to have a limited impact on the region. But the EU “stabilisation’ policy has also been too weak in its incentives to push for reforms. The so-called Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PACs), lacked not only a prospect for membership but also a strict conditionality and were based primarily on a multidimensional cooperation on economic and cultural questions and a political dialogue on issues concerning minorities, human rights and security in Europe.

The “European Neighbourhood” policy, launched officially on the eve of the 2004 “big bang’ enlargement, was aimed at addressing some of these problems. But judging by the results so far, the innovative offer of “everything except institutions,” has not been the trump card the EU was looking for as an alternative to enlargement. The colour revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia have not given way to the expected substantial democratic reforms. Moldova continues to struggle to control its separatist region of Transnistria and there are no signs of Belarus abandoning its totalitarian regime. Little progress has been made in fulfilling the various Action Plans, the EU’s own financial commitment for the region for 2007-2013 has increased but remains marginal and the EU has continued to politely dismiss the long-term membership aspirations of some of its pro-Western neighbours.

Paradoxically, with these differentiated approaches towards its neighbours the EU has in fact achieved the rather unexpected results of widening the economic, political and social gap between them. While in Romania and Bulgaria the EU accession process has arguably ensured the successful creation of sound democratic institutions and fast economic growth, the EU’s eastern neighbours have witnessed a halt or reversal of their democratic process, as highlighted by the 2005 Freedom House Report, with most struggling with macroeconomic and structural difficulties and declining standards of living.

So what should the EU do? For a start, think strategically. After the 2007 enlargement and with the accession negotiations already underway with Turkey, the EU has already become an actor in the Black Sea region. Developing a coherent and well articulated Black Sea policy to protect EU economic and strategic interests has therefore become imperative.

No doubt, anchoring the countries of the Black Sea region is not going to be easy, not least of all because without a realistic prospect of EU membership for most of these states, the EU lacks its most powerful point of leverage. On the positive side, however, the EU is now in a far better position to develop an ambitious and realistic policy for the region than it was some years ago. It can now draw on its expertise and the instruments developed in the past decade, by abandoning rhetoric and reinforcing its concrete actions.

The coming months may be crucial for the development of a coherent EU Black Sea strategy. German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier made it clear that Germany intends to achieve concrete results in Black Sea Region during its presidency by examining the effectiveness of the European Neighbourhood policy.

Still, by itself this policy is not sufficient. The stability of the region requires political courage and long-term strategic thinking. The EU should certainly put “some meat on the bone’ on its neighbourhood policy, by offering to its neighbours concrete and lucrative economic incentives in exchange for serious and tangible commitments to democratic and market-based reforms and the protection of human rights. But a credible EU Black Sea policy also needs to demonstrate that the EU is serious about the resolution of all the “frozen’ conflicts in the region. The support for the EU Border Assistance Mission between Ukraine and Moldova and the appointment of a EU Special Representative for Moldova in 2005 is a positive sign that EU commitment heads in this direction.

However, concrete steps must be taken at regional and bilateral levels to find durable peaceful solutions. In this respect Brussels must also find the political courage and determination to take the initiative diplomatically with Russia. Unfortunately, EU reactions to Russia’s allegedly “imperialist’ policy to its near abroad have remained weak and not much more has been done beyond expressing disappointment.

Finally the EU needs to step in with greater support and financial involvement to support regional cooperation efforts. So far the EU has paid lip service to regional cooperation preferring to focus instead on bilateral relations. As active regional partners and new EU members, Romania and Bulgaria are likely to play an active role in this respect.

Romanian President Traian Basescu has made it clear on several occasions that Romania intends to promote more assertively the idea of a strategic vision for the Black Sea region and a greater involvement in regional dynamics. Black Sea economic cooperation in particular can offer the EU an ideal forum for promoting projects in the field of energy as well as non economic areas, such as the protection of the environment, controlling immigration and fighting arms and human trafficking. Ultimately, the extent to which the EU will be able to secure its immediate and distant neighbours in the Black Sea region will depend on its ability to increase its role and impact on the region and become a pulling factor for democratic change. A democratic and fully integrated Turkey will be crucial in this respect.

The benefits of a coherent, realistic and forward-looking strategy towards the Black Sea region are enormous. If the EU’s “close’ and “distant’ neighbours can successfully complete their economic and political transition, security threats will be weakened. Similarly, the creation of stable democratic institutions, functioning economic structures and vibrant civil societies will undermine the operation of criminal groups. To achieve this long-term objective all EU instruments and forces should be mobilised. Otherwise, the region may well plunge once again into chaos. However, this time EU citizens many not be immune.

*Lara Scarpitta is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies of the University of Birmingham. Before embarking on a PhD, Lara worked in Holland, Italy and recently in Brussels where she worked as an intern in the Cabinet of Vice President of the European Commission Franco Frattini, EU Commissioner for Freedom, Security and Justice.

Cyprus’s Military Balance: Greek and Turkish Forces in Comparison

By Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

After the end of the Cold War in 1989, only a small corner in Europe remained divided along an “iron curtain” with its own divided capital. Cyprus, a beautiful island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is the only state in Europe that has part of its territory (37 percent) occupied and its capital, Nicosia, divided, along the infamous “Green Line.” Despite the Turkish self-declared Republic of Northern Cyprus, created after the 1974 invasion, there is only one Cyprus recognized by international law and that is the 73 percent Greek-inhabited Cypriot Republic. Even though the Turkish Army stands firm on the rest of the territory; the so called “Republic of Northern Cyprus” has not been recognized by any state in the world and there have been plenty of UN condemnations calling for a withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the island.

In April 2004, the two sides were close to an agreement based on the principles of the “Annan plan.” The referendum, held by the Greek Cypriot side, rejected the proposals by a 76 percent majority, thus reflecting the strong mood in the country for a solution based more on justice rather than on compromise. Currently Turkey is being pressed by the EU to accept the Cypriot democracy as a state entity and at the same time to lift the bans that keep Cypriot airplanes and ships out of Turkish territorial waters and air. Since the acceptance of the Republic of Cyprus into the European Union, time is ticking away for the Turks to balance their regional aspirations and their desired status quo in the Eastern Mediterranean with their ambition to becoming a member state in the enlarged European family. Turkey’s failure to open its ports to Cypriot vessels led to a predictably harsh report card from the EU in November 2006, and there is not currently much reason for optimism in the near future.

Wary of the Turkish armed presence, the Cypriot Republic has greatly increased its military capabilities over the past decade by acquiring state-of-the-art Russian weaponry and at the same time expanding its diplomatic capabilities beyond its traditional fraternal friendship with Greece. Already Cypriot officers attend four military Study Groups in Brussels and regularly train alongside officers from other member states regarding issues such as naval strategic transport, threats from nuclear proliferation and the use of UAV-type aircraft. Moreover Coast Guard exercises are being held in Cyprus with the assistance of other EU members, with the main aim of curbing illegal immigration from the Middle East. Lastly, Cyprus is a part of the Battle Group composed of Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. It is supposed to become operational by October 2007.

The Turkish Cypriot population relies heavily on the annual economic assistance of Turkey, as well as on the formidable Turkish-stationed in their part of the island. The Turkish Army often upgrades its systems and holds military exercises on a regular basis. Turkey has stated many times that it will never recognize Cyprus as an independent state and it seems that it is not in their interest to do so unless it is pressed significantly to do so by the world powers, namely the USA and EU.

The old thinking in the Turkish military remains in vogue today regarding Cyprus. It hypothesizes that a united Cyprus would soon fell under Greek domination, thus allowing the Greek to encircle the Turkish periphery from Eastern Thrace to the Aegean shores and down to the Alexandrine Gulf. Adding the perilous conditions on the southeastern borders of Turkey, where Kurdish guerilla groups are regaining strength, bolstered by their brethren across the hills in Iraq, as well as the old enmities with Armenia and Syria and the unknown factor of America’s plans for far eastern neighbor Iran, it seems likely that Turkey will continue to manifest the symptoms of the “Sevres syndrome,” an outlook “mirrored by the narrow notion of security — limited to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state — that characterizes Turkish politics.”

On the military level now, Turkey’s forces are generally superior in numbers, whilst the Greek Cypriots have at their disposal high-quality armaments and the conviction that they will fight hard and make a “last stand” in case of a war to defend their homeland. The geographical terrain of Cyprus is less than 9,250 sqkm — excluding the British Bases — and it is unlikely that any conflict will result in a kind of warfare that will involve large numbers of tanks and troop movements. Special Forces, along with artillery and missiles, would play the decisive role for a quick victory one either side. Furthermore a potential conflict would draw Greece and Turkey into the war, thus enlarging the skirmishes on a much wider front, so as to encompass most of the Eastern Mediterranean Basin. In any such conflict, the interests of the United States and the EU would be to control the situation as soon as possible and act in order to stop a wider war. Again, the side that would be able to move faster and more dynamically in the first couple of days would probably create the “facts on the ground’ and emerge the winner.

The Cyprus issue has achieved global importance due to the geopolitical placement of the country, just opposite from Israel and the Middle East, and just a few miles north of the Suez Canal. Recently, France signed a defense contract with Cyprus, because of its involvement in Lebanon’s peacekeeping force, and Germany also has agreed to use military installation in Cyprus in order to support its operations in Beirut. The UK now holds its own two sovereign bases that have a surface area of up to 3 percent of the island, and it seems unquestionable that Britain will retain its historic geo-strategic position here for decades to come.

For their part, Greece and Turkey now have their own national troops based on the island, even though the former are vastly outnumbered by the latter. Both countries also have continuously vowed to support their own side in case of any conflict. Other players in the area include the USA, Russia (which has cultivated strong ties with the Greeks over the past 15 years as well) and Israel, which views Cyprus as its safe haven in case of a major Arab offensive in the future. Cyprus also is vital for the humanitarian relief of Lebanon, and recently more than 100,000 Lebanese citizens were transferred via Cyprus to safety in various locations worldwide.

The Cypriot government helped evacuate, house and repatriate 13,500 Americans during the Israeli war against Lebanon this past July. On October 25, as if to give a final sending-off gift to a tourism season disrupted by the war, an American Naval vessel, the USS Eisenhower, pulled in to Cyprus for four days. “This routine port visit offers a shore leave opportunity for the more than 5,000 crew members and is a way for America to thank Cyprus for its support during the Lebanon crisis,” announced a US embassy statement.

On overall assessment, the Cyprus issue in inexorably connected with all of the other chronic problems in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East area. The Israeli-Arab conflict, the Greek-Turkish brinkmanship and the ambitious of the Great Powers will dominate the Cypriot future, since this island is a naval fortress adrift in the most vital and sensitive area for world security nowadays. It is also a hub of global commerce with a well established banking industry which processes billions in legal and not-so-legal funds, making it again a place of great importance and interest for powerful people around the world.

Equipment and personnel breakdown of military balance in Cyprus

Land Armies

Republic of Cyprus National Guard (plus Greek national forces)

Tanks: 41 (T-80U type), 82 (M48MOLD type), 113 (AMX-30 type)-Russian, US and French types respectively.

Armored vehicles: 43 (BMP-3 Type), 124 (Cascavel Type), 27 (Jararaca Type), 150 (Leonidas II type), 131 ( VAB VCI Type).- Russian, Brazilian, Greek and French types respectively.

Artillery: 8 (M110A2 Type), 12 (M107 Type), 12 (Zuzana Type), 12 (Mk3F Type), 12 (TR-FI Type), 12 (M114 Type), 72 (M56 Type), 20 (M-1944)- USA, Slovakian and Russian types. 100mm, 105mm, 155 mm, 175 mm, 203 mm.

Rocket launchers: 4 (BM-21 Grad type), 24 (M-63 Plamen type)- All Russian types: 40x122mm, 32x128mm, respectively.

Antiaircraft systems: 6 (Tor-M1 type), 12 (Skyguard type) – Russian and Italian types

Antiaircraft systems: 12 (Atlas-Mistral type), 18 (Mistral type), 100 (9K32M-Strela type)- French and Russian types.

Antiaircraft machine guns: 24 (GDF Type), 50 (M-55 Type)- 2x35mm, and 3×20 mm respectively.

Antitank weapons: 50 (Milan type), 1,000 (Apilas type), 1,000 (RPG-7V type), and unknown number of M72A2 Law type.- 112mm, 85 mm, 66 mm respectively

Other weapons: 150 (M40A1-106mm), 114(MO-RT61-120 mm), 26 (M2/M60-107 mm), 180 (E-44-81 mm), 50 (M19- 60 mm)

Turkish Cypriot Army (plus Turkish national forces)

Tanks: 386 (M48A5 type) US origin

Armored vehicles: 200 (AIFV type), 200 (M-113 type)- US and Turkish respectively

Artillery: 12 (M115 type), 24 (M44T type), 35 (M52T type), 12 (M110 type), 36 (M114 type), 90 (M101 type)- US origin: 203 mm, 155 mm, 155 mm, 203 mm, 155 mm and 105 mm respectively.

Rocket launchers: 18 (T-122)- Turkish origin, 40×122 mm.

Antiaircraft systems: 170 (Stinger missiles), 18 (Igla missiles), US and Russian respectively

Antiaircraft machine guns: 84 (M1 type)- US origin, 40 mm.

Antitank systems: 36 (TOW type), 12 (Konkurs-M type), 48 (MILAN type)- USA, Russian and French types respectively

Other weapons: 170 (M40A1-106 mm), 30 (HY-12DI-120 mm), 100 (M2/M30-107 mm), 175 (M1/M29-81 mm)

Navy and Air Force

Republic of Cyprus Navy and Air Force (plus Greek national forces)

Combat helicopters: 11 (Mi-35P type), 4 (Gazelle type)- Russian and French types respectively

Transport and General Use helicopters: 4 (Bell type)- US origin

Aircraft: 1 (BN-2T type), 1 (BN-Maritime type), 1 (PC-9 type)

Patrol boats: 15 of different Greek, Israeli and Italian types. Most of them speed boats with heavy equipment

Surface-to-sea missiles: 24 (Exocet MM40 Type)- French origin

Turkish Cypriot Navy and Air Force (plus Turkish national forces)

General Purpose helicopters: 4 (UH-1H type)- US origin

Aircraft: 3 (T-41D type), 1 (An-2 Colt type)

Patrol boats: 2 speed light weight speed boats


Republic of Cyprus National Guard (plus Greek national forces)

13,000 active-duty, plus 65,000 reserves

Turkish Cypriot armed forces (plus Turkish national forces)

40,000 active-duty, plus 25,000 reserves

NOTE: To the above military balance one has to take into consideration the general balance of powers between Greece and Turkey. Also weapons such as electronic warfare, special operations vehicles, training equipment, support vehicles, ammunition, rifles-machine guns, mines, bombs, jeeps, trucks and radars were not accounted for in this survey.

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Turkey: Why a Coup, Soft or Hard is Unlikely in 2007

By Mehmet Kalyoncu

A recent Newsweek article by Zeyno Baran projects a soft coup in Turkey in 2007. Baran suggests that the conditions that paved the way to the end of the Islamist Welfare Party government on February 28, 1997 have once again been materializing, with the current AK Party’s Turkey, so that a similar soft coup by the army generals may bring an end to the Islamist-leaning government.

However, that some generals think the time has come to topple the AK Party government is a necessary, though insufficient condition for a soft coup in Turkey at this time. The differences between the former Islamist Refah of the 1990’s and the conservative democratic AK Party, the socio-economic and political contexts in which they govern, and the mentality change within the Turkish military since the Refah years all hinder the possibility of a soft coup in 2007.

Differences between the Refah (Welfare) and the AK Party

The differences between Necmettin Erbakan’s old Islamist Refah (Welfare) Party and Erdogan’s conservative democrat AK Party rule out the possibility of public acquiescence with a deja-vu soft coup. Both domestic and especially the foreign observers of Turkey view the AK Party simply as another, yet mildly, Islamist political party due to the political backgrounds of its key officials. The fact that Prime Minister Erdogan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gul and the Speaker of the Grand National Assembly were all close aides to the Refah leader as recently as a decade ago hinders the observer’s ability to view the AK Party as different from the Islamist party whose term in the office was ended by a soft military coup.

Even if the key officials in both parties are in some case the same, what both parties mean to the general public in Turkey is strikingly different. Different not only due to the latter party’s popularity in the public mind, with its service-oriented political program and unprecedented Western leanings, but also to what it means within the context of political transformation in Turkey today.

The Refah Party represented the radical Islamist segments of the society vis-a-vis the laic state, and as such was very much disliked by the secular elite and by the majority, moderate Muslims. The elite disliked Erbakan’s Refah Party because of just about everything it had stood for. It was viewed as an open threat to Turkey’s secular way of life as envisioned by Ataturk in 1922.

Similarly, the majority moderate Muslims were irritated by the Refah due to its continuous confrontation with the secular state, which thus led to restrictions on practicing Islamic rituals in public as a result of such confrontations. In addition to the tensions that Refah caused domestically, Erbakan’s immediate pursuit of alliances with radical Islamist governments internationally, such as Iran and Libya, convinced the public that the Refah could be nothing but a problem for Turkey in the years to come. Therefore, the 1997 soft coup by the generals against the Islamist Refah government was not something that the general public did not long for, let alone not expect.

The AK Party, however, is not simply a moderated version of the Islamist Refah, but an outcome of the Turkish public’s reaction to the previous political rot in Turkey. On November 3, 2002, the main motivation of the Turkish public was to vote out the traditionally failing political parties such as ANAP, DYP, REFAH, DSP, and CHP.

The AK Party was simply voted in as a natural outcome of such a primary motivation. The fact that the Genc Party of Cem Uzan, whose record of corruption was no secret to the public, received unexpectedly high vote prove the public quest for a major change among the political actors in Turkey.

The diversity of the AK Party deputies also suggests that it is a sort of dissident movement, which reacts to the traditional way of politics in the country. The Party includes members not only from the former Islamist Refah Party but also from the leftist parties such as DSP and CHP, as well as from the center parties such as ANAP and DYP.

This very diversity of the AK Party marks yet another major difference from the Refah Party: the AK Party seems to be an inclusive party, which seeks to unite different political segments around the common motivation of service and continuing the Westernization project. On the contrary, the Refah was an exclusive party, which widened the secular vs. non-secular drift, and faltered Turkey’s Westernization project during its short term in office in 1997.

TESEV: “No Islamist Threat in Turkey”

On the issue of the surge of political Islam in Turkey, outside observers often fail to recognize, or do not want to recognize, the difference between Islamism and religiosity. As such, they tend to confuse the increase of religiosity with the surge of Islamism, though the two are completely different concepts.

While Islamism was a general attribute of the Refah Party, religiosity is that of the AK Party. Refah’s main political instrument to garner public support was Islamism. Refah successfully used it to appeal to the conservative public segments and create a front against the secular state elite, so much so that on many occasions Erbakan and key party officials did not hesitate to warn the voters of betraying their faith by not voting for the Refah Party.

At the same time, however, many key officials from Refah were frequently criticized for not being piously observant of Islam, and for instigating the secular state institution to be harsher on practicing Muslims.

The AK Party, however, seems to have religious politicians at the key positions, and to try to avoid all sort of confrontations with the secular state institutions on the basis of religious matters. The most notable example of such effort is the acquiescence of the ruling AK Party with the headscarf ban in public spaces, even though a majority of the party’s constituency consists of females with headscarfs.

According to the recent survey conducted by the TESEV (Turkish Economic and Social Research Foundation), the majority of the Turkish public think that there is not an Islamist threat in Turkey. They believe there is rather increased religiosity that manifests itself in increased number of mosque attendants.

Nevertheless, the public does not view piety as contradictory to their Western way of life and democratic values. On the contrary, they view the freedom of expression and practice of Islam as consolidation of democracy in Turkey in its true essence.

No Military Antichrist to the AK Party

The Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, General Yasar Buyukanit is likely to be the foremost opponent of any sort of anti-democratic military reaction to the civilian administration in Turkey. Prior to General Buyukanit’s succession of General Ozkok as the Chief of Staff, certain media outlets and ultra-secular circles sought to portray Gen. Buyukanit as the antichrist to the AK Party.

In other words, these circles sought to have him carry out such a function to eventually force the AK Party government out of the office. However, he has so far proven almost the complete opposite of what such critics had projected, with his strict adherence to the democratic norms of military-civilian relations.

Gen. Buyukanit avoided polemics that might stir up animosities between the military and the AK Party government, and he continued his support for the government’s reforms for EU accession. In so doing, the Chief of Staff has indicated that the democratic changes in the military’s attitude toward the civilian administration were not unique to his predecessor, Gen. Hilmi Ozkok, but that the army has undergone a major mentality change in terms of military-civilian relations.

From this point on, some generals’ breach of the new democratic norms would threaten Gen. Buyukanit’s credibility and grip on his team more that it would the civilian administration.


Religiosity, in contrast to Islamism is running at an all-time high in Turkey nowadays. Given public opinion, it seems likely that trends toward religious observance will not be declining anytime soon.

The failure to distinguish between religiosity and Islamism, as it has been manifested politically in the past, however, causes inaccurate interpretation of political developments in Turkey. In 1997, the ruling Refah government was militantly Islamist, and the public was relatively much less religious; in 2006, the ruling AK Party government is relatively much less Islamist, and the public is more religious.

In addition to that, the Turkish military is more democratic in terms of military-civilian relations. Given the differences between the Refah and the AK Parties, the recent mentality transformation within the Turkish military, and the way Turkish public view the current government, it is highly unlikely for what happened in 1997 to be repeated, one decade later.

The author is a Turkish scholar and political analyst for Zaman USA.

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