Turkey's Abkhazia strategy

Turkey's Abkhazia strategy

Recently, Turkey has actively supported the South Caucasus region's infrastructure development. Inaugurated in October 2017, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) Railway has already carried over 180,000 tons of freight. At the same time, Ankara has engaged in efforts to develop maritime transport links with the EU states, Russia and the Caspian states.

Turkey's annual sea freight volume exceeds 200 million tons of cargo, and in this regard, it is interested in Abkhazia with a coast line of 220 km and three ports: Sukhum, Ochamchire and Pitsunda. In Soviet times, the territory of the Abkhaz ASSR was the eastern gateway to the South Caucasus, with the most important regional railway line of the Soviet Union running through its territory. Ankara is interested in Abkhazia's interconnection of the North and South Caucasus, a common border with the Krasnodar Territory, as well as the republics of the North Caucasus, Stavropol, which have a strong agro-industrial base, a developed network of railways going to Kazakhstan, which is a very important direction for Turkey. The factor of the unresolved Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, of course, has "inhibitory effects", but maintaining good neighborly relations with both parties to the conflict, Ankara expects to achieve a trade and economic agreement, which, among other things, will stimulate the Abkhaz economy.

According to Turkey, working in the 3+2 format (Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia + Russia and Turkey) may create the basis for overcoming conflicts and achieving the economic development of the South Caucasian states. Ankara is sympathetic to Moscow's geopolitical interests in the South Caucasus region, but uses every opportunity to strengthen its own positions. Modern Turkey is the largest regional exporter of goods and services, and despite its difficult relations with Armenia and conflicts in the South Caucasus, Ankara  looks forward to the adoption of an economic formula that will not only qualitatively affect the trade growth rates, but also cover the North Caucasus, which would allow to overcome the shortage of transport connections between Russia and Turkey.

Creating an energy transportation and communication network to link Central Asia and Turkey depends largely on the participation of Georgia. Moreover, cooperation between Ankara and Tbilisi may not be limited to transit, Georgia can also become a transport hub in international distribution networks. Although Abkhazia is Turkey's close partner and beneficial in a longer-term perspective, Georgia remains one of the guarantors of international cooperation in the region.

The relationship between Abkhazia and Turkey shouldn't be underestimated. The diaspora of over half a million Abkhazians in Turkey plays a significant role in carrying out the strategy. This community is the most organized, there are branches of Abkhaz cultural societies in many large Turkish cities, moreover, ethnic Abkhazians are loyal Turkish citizens. Their activities are primarily linked to cultural enlightenment - maintaining their native language, traditions, culture and folklore, organizing concerts, festivals, exhibitions, conferences and round tables, publishing scientific papers, as well as maintaining cultural contacts with Abkhazia. Heads of large banks, hotels, TV, radio and transport companies, commercial, construction and pharmaceutical enterprises visit Sukhum together with representatives of the Abkhaz diaspora.

Abkhazia is ready to further develop relations with Turkey, but refrains from discussing the conflict with Georgia, the territorial integrity of which is recognized by Ankara. Although Sukhum doesn't like the Turkish government's official position, given the importance of Turkey as a strategic partner, Abkhazia seeks to establish economic contacts with Turkey.

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