by Hasan Kanbolat, Today's Zaman - 17 September 2009
During Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Tbilisi on Sept. 8-9, Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ünal Çeviköz drove to the Abkhaz capital of Sukhum[i], where he met with Abkhaz officials.
The visit was reported as the first visit to Abkhazia by a Western diplomat since the five-day war between Georgia and Russia (Aug. 8-12, 2008). However, Abkhazia is a place Western diplomats frequently visit. EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby was in Sukhum[i] in July.
Çeviköz is an experienced diplomat who has served as the Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan, worked effectively to relieve tension in the region during the five-day war and brought the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform to the agenda. He knows the region's problems very well. He knows better than anyone else that the last bridges between Abkhazia and Georgia were burned after the five-day war. Moreover, following Russia and Nicaragua, Venezuela also recognized Abkhazia's independence. Bolivia is said to be next in line. A three-person delegation from Abkhazia traveled around Latin America last week to accelerate the process of Latin American countries recognizing Abkhazia's independence. During a period in which Abkhazia's independence process has begun to gain momentum month by month, Çeviköz could not have gone to Sukhum[i] to engage in efforts to restart a peace process between Abkhazia and Georgia. Therefore, we can presume that a new process is going to start between Turkey, Georgia and Abkhazia. In other words, to prevent Abkhazia from unifying with the Russian Federation any further, Ankara may have asked Tbilisi to allow a controlled relationship with Abkhazia. To be more explicit, the door may be opened to preventing Georgia from disturbing ships on humanitarian missions or those involved in trade traveling between Turkey and Abkhazia over the Black Sea.
Turkey is rediscovering Abkhazia with the help of geographical, ethnic and cultural closeness. It has entered into an unstoppable multidimensional integration process with Abkhazia. A close relationship is being established with Abkhazia similar to the multidimensional relationship established with Cypriot Turks in the east Mediterranean region. The Black Sea is no longer a sea that separates Turkey and Abkhazia. Abkhazia is becoming one with the Black Sea coastline of Turkey.
Opening commercial ship transportation and a ferryboat line between Sukhum[i] and Turkish ports on the Black Sea (İstanbul, Samsun, Trabzon) will boost confidence in solving the problem. The Abkhaz people will become interested in Turkey, in other words, the West.
The southwestern Caucasus region (Turkey, Georgia, Abkhazia) will be completely open to humanitarian and trade activity. The southwestern Caucasus, which were once divided by security barriers during the Cold War period, will reunite through intense cross-border cooperation. This will give Ankara the opportunity to improve relations between Tbilisi and Sukhum[i], even if only slightly. In conclusion, in the post-Cold War period, in order for the Black Sea region to become integrated, new policies concerning Abkhazia are necessary.
Hasan Kanbolat, Director of ORSAM
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