HASEN expert assesses the Caspian Forum and the agenda
“Energy and diplomacy are two areas which intermingle with each other. The Middle East and the Caucasus are two regions which are located in very close key zones. Very serious changes have begun in both of the regions. In the Middle East, we have arrived at a point where the Arab Spring which has locked up mainly due to developments in Syria. In regards to discussions in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program, as a development in favor of Iran has come on the agenda, a question has begun being asked on whether we are facing possible a reshape of the region.
We should not forget that Iran is one of the key countries here. When one looks at the issue from a political point of view, Iran’s Turkey-related policies have been associated with the Shiite axis/crescent discussions. These policies also brought such discussions to the agenda, as of 2013, on whether there has been an operation against Turkey’s moves for becoming a regional power.
During the 2011 Tehran talks, the United States tried to push Iran toward a certain point on the nuclear issue in which Turkey was also engaged with Brazil, at the cost of risking itself. But, no result was yielded there. Turkey seriously put itself into risk and the reason for doing so was its will to resolve this issue through peaceful and ethical values. Yet, we saw that Iran didn’t have such a view, instead following a line to resolve the issue according to its own agenda.
Now, we are face to face with an Iran which has clout in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Parallel to this, when we look at the Caucasus, we see that different powers are becoming active in the region along with developments such as Russia’s gradual shift back to the region; a pro-Russia government’s taking office in Georgia after former President Mikheil Saakashvili was defeated in Georgian elections; and the EU’s engagement with Georgia with a prospect for membership.
Azerbaijan has begun confirming the country’s stability with the presidential elections. Parallel to this, the main political powers have intensified their clout in the region, with Armenia predominantly approaching Russia.
However, we should underline one thing. When we look at the energy axis, while the Middle East has become an unstable region, the Caspian Region has begun to stabilize. Meanwhile, a transition to natural gas that we call clean energy has loomed large in general on the world.
When we look at the natural gas deposits around the world, we see that the first three of them are mainly in the Caspian Region.
The Caspian region has become more important when you look in regards to confidence and stability and in parallel to relations in the Middle East.
Another point which I want to underline is the fact that Turkey has a risk zone parallel to its rising acceleration regarding foreign policy; this risk zone is its dependency on external sources in energy.
That’s why; Turkey needs to by-pass this dependency in a way and produce a solution. In regards to natural gas and energy; we are using natural gas flowing from Russia for lighting purposes as well. There is an aspect which doubles our dependency.
Turkey is trying to overcome this risk zone. It is not possible to say that this was overcome following the prime minister’s meetings in St. Petersburg. The dependency on Russia is still increasing, since there is an agreement between the states of Russia and Turkey, and it will go on for another decade. But on the other hand, Turkey is trying to establish alternative energy zones.
In regards to the alternative energy zones, although being an intermediary country, with the TANAP Project which will be launched with Azerbaijan next year, Turkey is trying to create a breathing space for itself. Transportation of North Iraqi natural gas and oil to Turkey is also on the agenda. There is also the East Mediterranean, which has recently come on the agenda.
When we combine them all, Turkey is trying to become a regional power. It is trying to turn its minus points to an added value via combining energy and diplomacy along with stability zones in its neighborhood. At this stage, the picture gradually seems in favor of Turkey but, in parallel to this, it is also seen that the region will evolve into a different point on the energy issue with Iran’s political ascents in the region. Thus, although the picture seems in favor of Turkey, points against Turkey have also begun to emerge in political field particularly in the Middle East.
When we look at the issue from the point of increasing demand, we know that the predominant factors in the Caspian equation are Asia and China. Looking from the point of natural gas reserves, Iran and Turkmenistan are among the biggest players. At the moment, we see that Turkmenistan has been shifting the market to the east of Turkmenistan thanks to pipelines it built with China. We should not consider Caspian oil only with regard to the European axis. Memories of the 13th and 14th centuries are being evoked with the process of instating the modern Silk Road, that’s to say the flow of spice and silk in India and China to Europe. It was a place where cash money was in circulation as a serious amount of money was flowing from around the Caspian to Istanbul and the East Mediterranean. This was one of the main reasons that triggered geographical discoveries.”