Turkey open to cooperation in Caucasus: Erdoğan

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili walk towards the entrance at the Presidential Complex, Ankara, Turkey, June 1, 2021. (AA Photo)

“We are open to regional cooperation incorporating Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a press conference with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili at Ankara’s Presidential Complex late Tuesday.

“We reiterate our commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity,” he said, pointing to Georgia’s breakaway regions.

“The Abkhazia and South Ossetia tensions should be resolved in accordance with Georgia’s territorial integrity,” he said.

Turkey and Georgia have taken crucial steps to enhance bilateral ties in the past decade. They are a part of the trilateral mechanism with Azerbaijan, which was initiated by the Trabzon Declaration on June 8, 2012. The framework provides fertile ground for discussions on the consolidations of regional stability and security.

The bond between Turkey and Georgia has been strengthened through the establishment of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council.

Turkey is Georgia’s top trading partner, reporting more than $1.7 billion (TL 12.03 billion) in trade volume in 2018. Both countries inked many significant bilateral agreements including the Free Trade Agreement and Joint Economic Trade Committee (JETCO), while also increasing the number of joint projects in the energy field.

One of these projects, the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipeline, started delivering gas to the Turkish network in July 2007. By last year, it had delivered 3.4 billion barrels of crude oil shipped from the marine terminal at Ceyhan in southern Turkey to global markets in 14 years. Similarly, the 1,076-kilometer (669-mile) Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline started delivering Caspian oil to Turkey and global markets in 2006.

Another major project, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad, opened in 2017 and connected not just Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan but also Europe to Central Asia and China. The 829-kilometer railway line, extending from Baku to Kars, complements a major part of the Middle Corridor with the Caspian Pass line.

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