Black Sea Security: The Turkish Perspective
His Excellency Vecdi Gönül
Minister of Defense of Turkey
Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül
"...[the Black Sea] region will become a major transport and trade corridor for the movement of oil, gas, goods, and services to and from world markets...instability there may affect not only security in the Black Sea but also the entire Euro-Atlantic area.."
The new security threats and challenges, which are transnational in nature, are becoming much more diverse and multidimensional in the new global security environment. Thus, providing security for the Black Sea region has become significant not only for the coastal states themselves, but also for the countries and the regional and international organizations taking part in this wider geographythe wider Black Sea region.
Much to our satisfaction, despite some frozen as well as some ongoing conflicts in Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, many cooperative efforts have contributed to promoting peace and stability in the Black Sea. Since 1992, trade has soared, stability has been achieved, and contact among our peoples has developed in this region.
REGIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
When new challenges started to emerge in the Black Sea region, Turkey relied first and foremost on regional and international cooperation and solidarity. The Balkan Stability Pact, the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial Initiative, and The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) were all ideas fully supported by Turkey. Over time the coastal states of the Black Sea have developed a common understanding that they must pool their efforts for both the security and the prosperity of the area. This common way of thinking has resulted in BLACKSEAFOR and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organizationexcellent examples of how regional cooperation can be fostered by intensifying our efforts to cope with the newly emerging challenges.
The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization and BLACKSEAFOR emerged as the manifestations of the will of all the regional countries. These countries aim was to shape the regions present and future through their own united efforts. We continue to think that the security of the Black Sea should be handled first by the coastal states through the existing mechanisms in the region.
Especially since the end of the Cold War, Turkeys bilateral relations with Black Sea countries have developed significantly. We have signed 23 different agreements and protocols with Black Sea littorals, replacing the misgivings of the past with a climate of friendship and mutual trust.
Turkey also signed in 2001 a joint action plan with Russia for cooperation in Eurasia. With this plan, both countries took up the task of contributing further to strengthening peace, stability, democracy, human rights, and sustained development in Eurasia. During the Turkish Prime Ministers visit to Ukraine in April of 2004, Turkey also signed a joint action plan with Ukraine, beginning new cooperation with special emphasis on the Black Sea region.
Turkeys relations with Bulgaria and Romania have also developed further since the end of the Cold War era. We look forward to increasing cooperation and solidarity with these new allies against the challenges that lie ahead. Turkey has also considerably improved relations with Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
TRANSPORTATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
A significant security dimension of the Black Sea area is its strategic position as a transit corridor for energy resources. In addition to the huge amount of Russian oil reaching the Black Sea, the Caspian regions oil output has also been increasing. However, heavy tanker traffic in and out of the Black Sea and particularly in the Turkish Straitswhere 135 million tons of oil have been transported, a number that is expected to increase by at least 50% by the year 2010is causing serious concern for Turkey. Protecting the environment as well as ensuring the health, safety, and security of the local population are our main considerations.
In pursuit of that goal, I would like to highlight the importance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil-pipeline project, which will divert 50 million tons of oil from the Black Sea terminals to pipeline systems annually. We are aware of the need for new alternative crude oil transportation systems as well as pipeline systems that bypass the Straits.
RESOLVING CONFLICTS AND FIGHTING TERROR
As far as political problems go, we must admit that the wider Black Sea region is unfortunately not without them. The South Caucasus, one of the sub-regions of the Black Sea basin connecting Europe to Central Asia, merits particular attention: the Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts are main sources of instability in the region, and have waited more than a decade to be peacefully solved. We believe the region will become a major transport and trade corridor for the movement of oil, gas, goods, and services to and from world markets, and instability there may affect not only security in the Black Sea but also the entire Euro-Atlantic area. Turkey believes that it is time for major players in the region to pursue more active policies to solve these frozen conflicts.
The recent escalation of tension between Tbilisi and Adjara leadership has also been a cause of great concern for Turkey, but we are happy to be seeing a reduction of tension in the area.
In addition to working to solve these frozen as well as ongoing conflicts, the Black Sea littorals should also consolidate their efforts to fight transnational terror, organized crime of all sorts, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the region in a synergetic way. To that end, we began Operation Black Sea Harmony on March 1, 2004, mainly in the western Black Sea, to surveil and patrol the Istanbul Strait approaches and to trail suspected ships. We have also organized a Black Sea Political Consultation meeting in Ankara to discuss the modalities of its use in constabulary tasks in the Black Sea.
It is Turkeys belief that increasing bilateral cooperation in the Black Sea region, coupled with enhanced multilateral instruments, will have a positive impact on peace, stability, and the well being of the entire region. Factors such as shared history, similar traditions and cultures, a common commitment to democracy and a free market economy, and the desire for sovereign equality among the countries of the Black Sea region constitute the prerequisites for facing the challenges of the twenty-first century. Regional and international cooperation are of greater importance than ever before for coping with the threats and challenges of the new century.