BAKU (News.az)—Georgia’s president urged Turkey to help realize the unification of the South Caucasus but said his country does not want Russia or Iran in the alliance.
“The emergence of the ‘United Caucasus’ is my aspiration,” Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, reportedly told Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu while discussing the concept of the creation of the union during their meeting in Tbilisi on Saturday, the Georgian Presidency’s press office said.
Saakashvili reportedly expressed his belief in the concept of “open borders” across the region, saying this idea is already being discussed with the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides. The Georgian president also proposed a similar project during Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Georgia last year, but experts had little hope that it would be realized.
Three countries in the South Caucasus established a federation following the October Revolution in Czarist Russia in 1917, but the union soon fell as Azerbaijan opposed going to war against the Ottomans at the time. Following the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia also fought a full-scale armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
“There is a long way to materialization of the current idea; yet, this is a positive step put forward,” Saakashvili said, underlining the importance of the initiative enabling citizens of both Turkey and Georgia to travel with only state identity cards. Turkey proposed a similar initiative in 2008 following the August war between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway South Ossetia, but Turkey said Russia should also be in the so-called “Caucasus Cooperation and Stability Platform.”
Turkey and Georgia plan to apply “single window customs” at the Sarp border gate, the largest and busiest gate in the Caucasus, facilitating trade transactions and enabling cross-traders to present their documents at a single location. “Such an example can be a ‘role model’ for the rest of the region,” Saakashvili told Davutoğlu during the meeting.
Davutoğlu said during a press conference on Saturday that he considers this a very serious initiative regarding the integration of the two countries’ economies. “The fact that we are opening our borders is a positive paradigm for other countries of the region,” said Saakashvili, who also reportedly told Davutoğlu that all countries in the region should open borders.
Saakashvili’s remarks came after his visit to Armenia late last month, where he discussed transportation-communication facilitation with Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan, the Georgian Presidency’s press office had said at the time. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 as a sign of solidarity with Azerbaijan when Armenia sent its troops into Nagorno-Karabakh and other provinces neighboring the region.