September 3, 2008 - 16:17 AMT
Russia supports Turkey's Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday accused NATO countries of arming Georgia, while at the same time praising the stance of Turkey - itself a member of the alliance, the Turkish Daily News reports.
Although Lavrov admitted that Turkey and Russia have different approaches with regards to Georgia's territorial integrity, he nevertheless voiced support for the Turkish proposal for a regional cooperation mechanism. On a one day visit to Istanbul, Lavrov offered concrete proposals to solve the problems facing Turkish exporters by Russian customs. In a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Ali Babacan, Lavrov denied that stricter Russian controls on Turkish imports are politically motivated. The checks resulted in hundreds of Turkish trucks being stranded at Russian border posts over the past few weeks. They raised questions about whether Russia was punishing NATO member Turkey for allowing U.S. warships carrying aid to Georgia to pass through the Bosporus. Lavrov said some countries had breached customs regulations, prompting Russian authorities to take more stringent measures. "We are not discriminating against Turkey," assured Lavrov. "We offered a more simplified method for Turkish goods," he said, adding that the custom authorities will meet soon to discuss the issue.
Despite his criticism of NATO countries arming Georgia, Lavrov said Turkey's alliance commitments were not an obstacle for Turkish-Russian relations. "Turkey never used its NATO membership at the expense of violating international principles. While being loyal to its NATO commitments it does not forget its commitments to the UN or OSCE," said Lavrov, also expressing satisfaction with Turkey's position on the maritime regime in the Bosporus and the Black Sea.
While Babacan emphasized the importance of Georgia's territorial integrity, his Russian counterpart said the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the only way to secure the existence of the people in these two regions. "We need to respect our differences," said Lavrov when asked about the divergence of view between Russia and Turkey. "The difference of view between Russia and Turkey is that, this does not create hysteria. This does not pose a threat to our relations. We take it as a matter of fact," he said recalling how Turkey recognized the independence of Kosovo. "Russia is loyal to the principle of territorial integrity. But there are commitments to the security of the people too," he said.
Voicing support for the Turkish proposal for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact, Lavrov said Russia appreciates Turkey's efforts to defuse the tension. Lavrov added that the two countries officials will cooperate to set the framework of the new mechanism. "This initiative is based on common sense," he said, adding that countries of the region should deal with their problems rather than wait for others to impose their own solutions.