Nando Times
Turkey proposes security pact against Russia for Caucasus countries

By MISHA DZHINDZHIKHASHVILI


TBILISI, Georgia (January 15, 2000) - Turkish President Suleyman Demirel on Saturday proposed creating a Caucasus security pact aimed at increasing the ability of countries in the region to support each other and resist Russian power.

"This is a very important historical idea," said Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who is hosting Demirel for two days of talks. "The concept proves that the world cannot remain indifferent to a region represented by a group of key countries from the Eurasian point of view."

The former Soviet republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey are increasingly wary of Russia's growing assertiveness in the Caucasus region, where the Kremlin is now trying to smash Chechen rebels.

The proposed pact would address political and economic security concerns of countries in the Caucasus region that stretches across a range of high mountains from the Caspian to the Black Seas.

A statement issued Saturday said that there could be "no alternative to the assertion of peace and stability in the Caucasus region," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

The Caucasus has been one of the most unstable regions to emerge from the collapsed Soviet empire, and hopes for great wealth from vast oil reserves have made the area the focus of intense competition for political and economic influence from Russia, the United States and Western Europe.

Demirel arrived in Georgia on Friday for two days of meetings with Shevardnadze that also dealt with Russia's war in Chechnya and a key oil pipeline that would bypass Russia.

"I think the visit was of major importance. We discussed all the questions of our political, economic and military relations," Demirel said. "Our points of view coincided. And what is very important, there is the political will and desire to implement our intentions."

Shevardnadze said "full clarity" was achieved on the proposed pipeline, which would carry Caspian crude oil to a Turkish port via Azerbaijan and Georgia. Russia wants the oil to flow through its territory and sees the deal as a way of reducing its regional influence.

Many analysts have said that Georgia is reluctant to move ahead with the deal because of Russian pressure.

Turkey wants Georgia to guarantee the security of the stretch of pipeline that runs through its territory - an unlikely prospect with a war raging in the region and with Chechen refugees pouring into Georgia.

Without Russian consent and in the absence of a strong U.S. push for the pipeline's construction, some fear that the pipeline deal will have trouble getting off the ground.




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