First published in the November 1, 2008 Armenian Reporter.
by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan
Senior Turkish official: “Armenians aren’t our enemies”
On a visit to Washington this week, Ahmet Davutoglu, described as the architect of the Turkish government's foreign policy in the last five years, sought to warn the campaign of the Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) against changing U.S. policy on the Armenian Genocide, while reiterating Turkey's desire to improve relations with Armenia and Armenian-Americans.
In remarks at a Brookings Institution event on October 28, Mr. Davutoglu insisted that Turkey wants "to have best relations with Armenia," and "good relations" with Armenians everywhere in the diaspora, and that he and his government "don't see Armenia as a threat; we don't see Armenians as enemies."
Responding to a question from the Armenian Reporter, he said President Abdullah Gul's visit to Yerevan in early September was "done with the purpose of improving our relations with Armenians, not as a response to the Georgian crisis [and] was not a visit of realpolitik."
The "decision to visit Yerevan was clear immediately after [the invitation from President Serge Sargsian] was received [in July] but of course it was not publicized," he said.
At the Brookings event, Alan Makovsky, a senior Democratic staff member for the House Foreign Affairs Committee, appeared to take to heart Azerbaijan's "nervousness" over Armenian-Turkish talks and wondered what Turkey's "red lines" were with regard to Karabakh.
Mr. Davutoglu's comments suggested that unlike its unchanged position on the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government may be considering dropping or modifying its preconditions related to the Karabakh conflict.
While reiterating that Turkey has close ties with Azerbaijan, and arguing that the Karabakh conflict should be resolved sooner rather than later, Mr. Davutoglu declined to link such a resolution directly to Armenian-Turkish talks focused on establishing diplomatic relations and opening the border.
Ambassador Davutoglu, who is the chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was dispatched to U.S., as the Turkish Hurriyet daily put it, to "warn the future U.S. administration against endorsing Armenian claims of genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire."
"A step in the wrong direction will pose a risk not only to the Turkish-American strategic cooperation but also to Turkey's efforts to reach out to Armenia," Mr. Davuto?lu was quoted as saying after talks with Bush Administration officials and Republican and Democratic campaign advisors.
Meanwhile, speaking at the Jamestown Foundation on October 29, Graham Fuller, a veteran Turkey expert for the RAND Corporation, stressed that considering the long list of differences between the two countries - especially on Iran and Russia - Turkey "is no longer a U.S. ally."
International Monetary Fund to prop up Ukraine and Belarus
After the recently agreed $4.5 billion international aid and loans package to Georgia, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced this week plans to loan $16.5 billion to Ukraine and $2 billion to Belarus, international news agencies reported.
IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on October 26 that the Ukraine loan was intended "to maintain confidence and economic and financial stability" in the country whose current government has been seeking membership in the U.S.-led NATO alliance.
The global financial crisis in combination with a political crisis inside Ukraine has already had a significant impact on the country's financial sector and exports, a bulk of which comprised weapon systems supplied to Georgia, Azerbaijan, and other countries.
More unusually, the IMF loan to Belarus, long a pariah state in the West and a close ally of Russia's, is reportedly linked to its intended "economic liberalization." That decision comes after Russia pledged to provide Belarus with a $2 billion loan of its own in the form of delay in payments for natural gas supplies.
Belarus refused to fully endorse the Russian position on Georgia and took steps - like an early release of a political dissident - interpreted as gestures intended to improve relations with the United States.
Georgian government reshuffled
Grigol Mgaloblishvili, Georgia's 35-year-old ambassador to Turkey will replace banker Vladimir Gurgenidze as prime minister, with most other ministers keeping their positions, Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili announced on October 27. Mr. Gurgenidze had been in his position since November 2007 and according to Georgian commentators commanded no political influence.
Since joining the Georgian Foreign Ministry in 1995, Mr. Mgaloblishvili spent most of his time in Ankara, where he worked at the Georgian trade mission (1995-96) and the embassy (1998-2002, and as ambassador since 2004). Prior to that he was a Turkish studies student at the Tbilisi State University, where Mr. Saakashvili's mother, Giuli Alasania, was a professor of Turkish studies.
Aleksandr Skakov, a Georgia expert at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told Vedomosti newspaper that the appointment was evidence that "Mr. Saakashvili's political position is very weak."
He also linked the Georgian leader's political future to the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain has developed a close relationship with Mr. Saakashvili.
Last week, Georgian opposition parties announced that on November 7 they will hold their first anti-government protest in months. The day is the first anniversary of street clashes between police and demonstrators in Tbilisi that led to the imposition of state of emergency and early elections in Georgia.
On October 24 Mr. Saakashvili's former ally and Parliament Speaker Nino Bourjanadze said early elections "within a reasonable timeframe" were the way out of "the grave political crisis," adding that she would soon be establishing a new political party.