Ending the Isolation Should be the Priority
A report launched on 16 December 2009 by Ankara-based think tanks urged the Turkish government to engage in relations with Abkhazia. "The aim of this report is to question isolation policy and promote engagement by looking to the region as an economic entity," said Burcu Gültekin Punsmann, the lead author of the report "Abkhazia for the Integration of the Black Sea," which was co-published by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) and the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM).
Economic sanctions are policy tools used by governments to constrain business activity across borders with intended policy outcomes, according to the report, which underlined that cooperation was the key factor in ensuring success. In 1996, Abkhazia was virtually cut off from the outside world. The dire situation of the war-ruined economy was further exacerbated by the Russian-Georgian maritime and land blockade, which caused economic and social disruption.
Turkey responded positively to the call to impose economic sanctions on Abkhazia and canceled direct cruises between the ports of Trabzon and Sukhum in 1996. Today, the maritime link between Turkey and Abkhazia is officially closed. Turkey is justifying its compliance with the isolation regime as respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia.
"Turkey can become an important actor to end the isolation of Abkhazia," said Punsmann, stressing the fact that Turkey was as important for Abkhazia as Russia in terms of foreign economic relations. "It is time for both the Turkish and Georgian governments to find practical ways to open up to Abkhazia and promote more active, more pro-engagement policy toward Abkhazia," she said.
The findings of the paper were discussed during the panel discussion "Untapped Potential for Regional Engagement, Looking at Abkhazia". Peter Semneby (EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus), Irakli Alasania (Chairman of Our Georgia-Free Democrats Party of Georgia) and Nikolay Trapsh (Dean of the History Faculty of Rostov On Don University) contributed to the panel chaired by Erol Taymaz of the Middle East Technical University. The speakers unanimously stressed the need for engagement policies towards Abkhazia and call for pragmatic approaches aiming at opening up channels of communication for people and trade. Turkeys potential to contribute to confidence building measures between Georgians and Abkhazians has been highlighted during the debate.
The full text of the report is available at http://www.orsam.org.tr/tr/raporgoster.aspx?ID=484