‘Improvement of troubled relations in Black Sea possible with cooperation in BSEC’
First Deputy Secretary General of the BSEC Permanent International Secretariat Tahsin Burcuoğlu (2nd L), Ambassador Michael B. Christides (C), BSEC Executive Manager Meltem Güney (2nd R), Deputy Secretary General of the BSEC Permanent International Secretariat Alexander Prishchepov (R)The improvement of mutual relations between Black Sea countries like Russia and Turkey or Azerbaijan and Armenia could occur through their cooperation at the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), Secretary General of the BSEC, Ambassador Michael B. Christides has said.
“We are providing an already functioning confidence-building mechanism in a regional aspect, and hopefully we can foresee that the result of a better atmosphere between Turkey and Russia might start from the meetings of Russian and Turkish representatives from the highest-level ministers down to the experts of the working groups in the BSEC,” Christides told a group of journalists at a meeting organized at the BSEC Headquarters in Istanbul on Dec. 1.
The BSEC, which was established in 1992, consists of 12 member states which have a Black Sea coast or are part of the Black Sea region.
The chairmanship of the BSEC, which is currently held by Romania, will pass to Russia in January 2016.
Christides, who became the secretary-general of the BSEC in July 2015, said the presence of the BSEC also provided face-saving opportunities for member states to convene.
“Because we are already together, we are working together and if we improve the relationship inside the BSEC, then this will have a spillover effect also on the bilateral climate,” Christides said.
Christides said they were trying not to put political issues at the forefront, but were making the concept of cooperation in the BSEC a significant issue. “During the working groups and other meetings, every member state is there, participating. For instance, in the tourism field, we are promoting the common picture of the wider Black Sea area as a tourist area for third countries. We are promoting the idea of cruise tourism in the Black Sea.”
Replying to a question about the most recent economic measures taken by the Russian government toward Turkey after the downing of a Russian aircraft on Nov. 24, Christides said: “We cannot interfere in the bilateral decisions concerning these kinds of things. But I am sure you will see representatives of tourism authorities of Turkey and Russia taking part in the next meeting of the tourism because we will be promoting this general concept of the Black Sea as a common historical heritage.”
Christides also said they would be narrowing their priorities in the next term at the BSEC to include projects in transportation, energy and regional trade.
The next leaders’ summit of the BSEC will be held in 2017 in Turkey.