I’ve been wondering what Turkey’s role in the Russian-Georgian conflict has been and could be. The Turkish Daily News reports on an Ankara initiative to foster negotiations several ongoing Caucasian issues, and the uncertain prospects for even modest success:
“Do I think that the idea to promote regional cooperation in the region is a good one and that Turkey has a role to play here?” asked Stephen Larrabee of the RAND Corporation think tank. “The answer is yes. But this particular proposal is not the way to approach it. In a general sense I would agree that Turkey has a role to play and needs to be more active.”
Despite statements made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealing that the leaders of Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan responded positively to the Caucasus plan, diplomats gave contradicting messages regarding Ankara’s initiative.
A Russian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier Moscow had not yet given an official response and was still discussing the proposal. The same official made clear, however, that Russia would not sit at the negotiating table with the current leadership in Georgia.
In an interview with the Turkish Daily News, Georgia’s ambassador to Turkey welcomed the Turkey-sponsored initiative to create a Caucasus alliance but said it was not possible for Georgia to sit at the table with Russia at the current stage, as they were still under occupation.
Notice the difference? Additional Russian troop withdrawals are a conceivable first step to regional talks. The resignation of the elected Georgian government is not.