Monday, November 19, 2007

Carrying A Big Stick

Published: 11/19/2007
Turkish Press, MI

AKSAM- President Abdullah Gul’s three-day visit to Azerbaijan ended yesterday. The call made by Gul to Armenia during the visit was very important. Some in Armenia might believe he was carrying a big stick, but his visit was important for reflecting the real political situation in the region. In addition to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, taken together the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas line, the railway extending to Kars and the forthcoming Marmaray connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul under the Bosporus will constitute a strategic energy, transportation and communication corridor from China to Europe . In Gul’s words, you could get on a train in China , enter Turkey from Kars and then, after passing under the Bosporus, proceed to Europe , also on train. In addition, oil and gas from the Caucasus will be able to be transported to Europe via Turkey . Let’s add Turkey ’s possible European Union membership to this as well. These huge projects will have a big impact on the entire region, but an atmosphere of peace and stability is necessary towards this end. Those who can’t accept the key role to be played by Turkey in the years to come might want to sabotage this atmosphere. Terrorist attacks and the so-called Armenian genocide claims can be seen as part of this.

Gul said this to Armenia : If you want to take your share in the region, then you have to join this caravan. In other words, either stay poor or get rich. But throughout the long history of the Caucasus region, not even the most steadfast ruler has reigned for more than 50 years. This is a region that has seen fierce clashes. The 70 years of the Soviet Union was an exception. When Gul put Sheikh Shamil’s sword in his hand at the Gence Art Museum , he said, ‘As this is the Caucasus , the sword should always rest ready in its scabbard.’ In other words, you could face a threat anytime, so you should be careful. Turkey is aware of this, and the world is aware of Turkey . Particularly after the option of a cross-border operation by Turkey into Iraq came up, people are paying more attention to Turkey . Moreover, Turkey has made its power felt on the international stage as a global actor.

The Saudi king will arrive in Turkey today. In addition, the Jordanian king, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will all visit Ankara next week. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora is also due to visit. During the upcoming Middle East conference, regional problems will be discussed but these bilateral contacts in Ankara are important for evaluating regional problems from a different perspective. Meanwhile, Gul says that everybody knows the importance placed on Turkey . But Turkey isn’t watching on the sidelines from Ankara . The fact that during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the US this week Gul also paid his first official visit to Azerbaijan , and even visited Gence –the first such visit for a Turkish statesmen to this place, just 60 kilometers from Armenia -- is rich with meaning.

Gul will visit Turkmenistan early next month. In addition, there are plans for visits to Uzbekistan , Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan as well. We used to call these regions our brothers, but then a new concept of relationship was developed. Gul defined it by saying that if you act only with excitement, you won’t accomplish anything, and so you must fuse enthusiasm and pragmatism. Meanwhile, Turkey ’s EU membership bid hasn’t been forgotten. On this issue, Gul said that the important thing for Turkey to know its needs and implement reforms. He added that if only this had been done and membership talks had started earlier, the situation would have been different. He’s quite right, but we should stop being mired in the past. If Turkey can continue this vision, Turkey will become a global country with a huge impact on world politics. Imagine you’re a country in the middle of a strategic corridor extending from China to Europe, an EU member, and the Caucasus is the EU’s neighbor. Some people might call this a dream. But today such huge projects as the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which yesterday was only a dream, are a reality. The foundation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will be laid next year. As Gul said, if we can cast away the shackles in our minds, new dreams will come true in the years to come.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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