Since June 1999, relations between Greece and Turkey have grown stronger and become more diverse. Many bilateral agreements have been signed in a large variety of fields (energy, immigration, tourism, the environment, air route network in the Aegean Sea). Mr.Erdogan visited Greece in July 2004. The Greek foreign affairs minister went to Turkey in April 2005.
Turkey wants to promote stability in this part of the work and to develop neighbourly relations with its different neighbours. The Erdogan government is striving to put its role as “bridge” between Western countries and the Muslin world to work.
Focussing on Iraq in particular, Turkey is interested in the changes in this country from many standpoints: the Kurdish issue, the protection of the rights of the Turkmen minority (estimated to be 800,000 people), the resumption of economic relations (prior to the sanctions, Iraq was a major economic partner for Turkey), as well as the security of its nationals (Turkey reports about 100 deaths in Iraq, truck drivers in particular). Ankara is trying to maintain a dialogue with all of the parties. In January 2003, Turkey took the initiative of holding a first regional conference, bringing together the countries bordering Iraq. The second conference was held in Istanbul in September 2006.
Ankara has worked hard to give fresh impetus to its ties with certain Arab countries (specifically Egypt and Jordan) and develop its economic relations. Accordingly, in early 2004 it signed three agreements with Syria to encourage investments and tourism. Turkey is linked to Iran by a gas agreement.
Its role as “bridge” is also manifest in the promotion of the “Alliance of civilizations”, which Mr.Erdogan co-sponsors with Mr.Zapatero, President of Spain’s government. Moreover, Turkey is active in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
The Caucasus has once again become a zone of priority interest for Turkey. The concern with security dominates Turkish diplomacy in the region. Azerbaijan, a Turk-speaking republic, is a natural ally for Turkey. Relations with Armenia, on the other hand, are still marked by the very heavy historic bone of contention about the massacres of 1915. Ankara maintains its blockade with regard to Armenia; however, it has relaxed the visa issuance system for Armenians.
Turkey is especially concerned with its energy interests in the region and wants to develop its key role in the following distribution channels:
the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil and gas pipeline to transport oil from the Caspian Sea and gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz deposit (Baku-Erzurum route). The BTC is expected to be fully functional by 2006. The project entails a volume of 50 MT per year.
the 1,270 km long “blue stream” gas pipeline, which crosses the Black Sea and supplies Turkey with Russian gas. It was officially opened in November 2005 by Messrs.Putin, Berlusconi and Erdogan, three years after it was started.
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