Turkey-Abkhazia Relations post-Abkhaz Elections
Hasan Kanbolat, Director of ORSAM
Sergei Bagapsh won again in the Dec. 12 presidential elections held in Abkhazia, which has declared a one-sided (de facto) independence from Georgia. While Bagapsh was the president of a state considered “de facto” independent, he is now the president of a state considered “de jure” since the August 2008 war.
In this respect, the Bagapsh administration will want to improve relations with Abkhazians living outside Abkhazia and especially with Turkey, which has an Abkhaz population five times as big as the Abkhazian population in Abkhazia, in the new term in order to balance Russia’s influence over Abkhazia.
The rapprochement between Turkey and Abkhazia -- which began after Foreign Affairs Ministry Deputy Undersecretary and former Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, who was part of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s delegation to Tbilisi, drove to Abkhazia on Sept. 8 to meet with Abkhaz officials -- pointed to the start of a new period.
Two ambassadors who have experience in Turkey’s Caucasus issue played a major role in preparing the groundwork for this new period. These two ambassadors are the former Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan, Çeviköz, and the former Turkish ambassador to Georgia, Ertan Tezgör. Even though Turkey is a Euro-Atlantic country and has good relations with Georgia, having good relations with Russia provides a favorable environment for Turkey and Abkhazia to improve relations. A report released on Dec. 16 by the Middle East Strategic Research Center (ORSAM) and the Economic Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) titled “Abkhazia for the Integration of the Black Sea” provides a re-evaluation of and suggestions for Turkey-Abkhazia relations.
In conclusion, we can summarize the new period in Turkey-Abkhazia relations as improving humanitarian ties with Abkhazia by recognizing Georgia’s territorial integrity. To achieve this, direct bilateral relations should be improved on issues such as ensuring direct transportation between Turkey and Abkhazia (first by sea, then by air) and providing assistance in the areas of culture (via civil society organizations), religion (via the Religious Affairs Directorate), development (via the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency [TİKA]) and humanitarian grants (via the Turkish Red Crescent [Kızılay]).