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The big conversation in South-West Eurasia - Live Blog
10 August 2016

16.30 GMT: We will now be closing this blog. Over the last four days we followed the diplomatic activity involving Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Armenia and looked at some of the comments and analysis from a wide range of experts. We will continue to follow events through our regular reporting on the commonspace.eu website, facebook page and twitter feed.

16.15 GMT: The meeting between president Putin and president Sargsyan felt a bit as if it was an afterthought coming after the meetings held earlier in the week that have been planned and prepared for some time. As we reported earlier Armenian sources suggested that it was the Armenian side that asked for the meeting. Now that this series of meetings are over it will take some time until the full implications of what was discussed and agreed becomes clear. From what has been published so far there were no surprises. Many interesting and ambitious ideas have been proposed and it would be interesting to see which of them will eventually be fully implemented. 

15.30 GMT: We now have the first images of the Putin Sargsyan Meeting in Moscow, courtesy of the website of the Russian President. the meeting is also attended by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

 

14.45 GMT: Whilst we wait for more on the Putin - Sargsyan meeting, here is a reaction from the Armenian Foreign Ministry to earlier suggestions that Russia and Turkey may have some joint initiative regarding Nagorno-Karabakh

The spokesperson for the Armenian Foreign Ministry has poured cold water on this idea. Turkey has no business engaging in the Karabakh conflict settlement, spokesperson for the Armenian MFA Tigran Balayan told Armenian News - NEWS.am, commenting on the statement of the Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

"We are still sure that Turkey has no business engaging in the Karabakh conflict. The only benefit which the completely pro-Azerbaijani Turkey can provide is to stay away from the [Karabakh] settlement process as much as possible," Balayan stressed.

14.00 GMT: We know have some comments from Baku about the trilateral meeting held there on Monday. Farhad Mammedov, Director of SAM (Azerbaijan Strategic Centre affiliated to the Presidential Administration).  Speaking  to the Russian Valdai Club website Mammadov expressed hope that "a qualitatively new format of strategic partnership between the [three Caspian] countries will positively influence the negotiations on the Caspian Sea status".

The final declaration, signed by Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev and Hassan Rouhani, mentions also security issues, which, according to Mammadov, "are the cornerstones, because without them it is impossible to implement fully the economic projects." In particular, this means security cooperation in the Caspian Sea, joint efforts to combat terrorism, as well as the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, whose recent escalation alarmed the world community. According to Mammadov, the "atmosphere of cooperation between Azerbaijan, Russia and Iran will have a positive impact on the negotiation process, as the main neighbors in the region - Russia, Iran and Turkey - are beginning more to cooperate than to compete in the region."

"President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev called last meeting of presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran historical, - said Farhad Mammadov. - Azerbaijan puts into this cooperation a concept of constructive pragmatism, when each of the parties benefits from the cooperation, meets its obligations, which result in interdependent, equal and mutually beneficial relations. This process allows the participants to gain momentum and put forward new initiatives. "

13.15 GMT: More on Turkey and NATO. This time a very nuanced Russian perspective from an interview with the Director of the Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortnukov, who was asked if he thinks that Russia can dislodge Turkey as a NATO member?

"In Russia there are no allusions about Turkey's membership in NATO. I don't think anyone here in Moscow believes that Turkey might leave NATO. But at the same time, everybody knows that Turkey is a very special NATO member. For example, during the Iraqi War back in 2003, Turkey denied the international coalition access to its airspace. It didn't allow the United States and the United Kingdom to use its military infrastructure to invade Iraq. Likewise, during the recent migration crisis, Turkey, at least for some time, was very hesitant to let NATO do patrolling in its territorial waters. So, I think that Moscow understands that Turkey is a NATO member but it might have very special views on issues of importance compared to other NATO members. This is something that Russia keeps in mind."

13.00 GMT: There has been a very categoric statement issued by NATO following some recent press reports concerning Turkey. The NATO spokesperson in Brussels has just issued the following:

In view of speculative press reports regarding NATO's stance regarding the failed coup in Turkey and Turkey's NATO membership, let me stress NATO's very clear position.

Turkey is a valued Ally, making substantial contributions to NATO's joint efforts. Turkey takes full part in the Alliance's consensus-based decisions as we confront the biggest security challenges in a generation. Turkey's NATO membership is not in question. Our Alliance is committed to collective defence and founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, human rights and the rule of law. NATO counts on the continued contributions of Turkey and Turkey can count on the solidarity and support of NATO.

The NATO Secretary General spoke to the Turkish Foreign Minister on the night of the attempted coup and later with President Erdogan, strongly condemning the attempted coup and reiterating full support for Turkey's democratic institutions. He expressed support for the elected government of Turkey and respect for the courage of the Turkish people. He also conveyed his condolences for those who had lost their lives during the coup attempt.

11.40 GMT: More on how the Armenian media is covering this week's events. The columnist of the Regnum News Agency Stanislav Tarasov, in an interview with 168.am, spoke about last Monday's trilateral summit in Baku said it is too early to speak about the Moscow-Baku-Tehran axis, as the centers of this trilateral format are Tehran and Moscow which are interested in developing relations with one another. Azerbaijan, as the initiator of this is the host side, but the political initiative is in the hands of Moscow and Tehran. Stanislav Tarasov said that Azerbaijan's role in this project is being a transit country and that Armenia may also assume a similar role and this two transit directions can develop simultaneously."In my opinion, in order to maintain regional balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan, such a summit should be held with the participation of Armenia too. The latter, as compared to Azerbaijan, is the strategic partner of Russia. On the one hand, this new trilateral format may have a restricting influence on Azerbaijan, on the other hand, Azerbaijan may think of putting pressure on these countries. If an attempt is made to integrate Armenia in this transit network, then Azerbaijan will be obliged to change its policy," said Tarasov.

11.30 GMT: There is some concern in Armenia about what the meeting later today between Putin and Sargsyan is all about. Commonspace.eu Armenia correspondent reports that in one of today's analysis on the 1in.am news outlet the view is expressed that the outcome of the meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin are worrisome.

"Armenian-Russian high-level meetings, in fact, have became a symbol of alarming expectations for Armenia, when prior to every such meeting the community is trying to guess what the next demand of Russia will be, the nature of such a demand, and which field (economic, political, security sector) it will be related to? In this sense, the fact that a new meeting will be held in the light of warming of Russian-Turkish relations adds up to those alarming expectations", writes 1in.am.

According to the website, it is still early to talk about what arrangements were made between Turkey and Russia, however if Russian-Turkish relations are improving it means the Russian-Armenian relations cannot improve because such changes directly affect the interests of Armenia. In other words, if Russia substantially improves its relations with Turkey, then it will be forced to go in an opposite direction with Armenia. It is obvious that the so-called Armenian-Russian relations are completely linked to Russia's relations and agreements with other entities in the region. Russia's relations with Armenia are conditioned by virtue of its relations with other countries in the region - Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran and even Georgia. However, it was supposed to be the opposite, because it was Armenia that was declared to be Russia's strategic, military and political ally.

11.20 GMT: Again about the economics of Turkish-Russian relations, Daily Sabah reports that "the Turkish lira rebounded Wednesday morning, reaching below 3 per dollar following talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The Turkish lira-per-dollar-rate Wednesday morning went down to 2.9623".

08.45 GMT: London's Financial Times is one of the newspapers that has the picture of Putin and Erdogan at their meeting yesterday on its front page. The FT however, also has a thoughtful editorial comment. Here are some excerpts:

Mr Putin is happy to support a fellow strongman facing criticism from liberal democracies. He will also seize any opportunity to drive a wedge between Turkey and its Nato allies. This carries immediate risks for western policy in Syria. Turkey - whose chief concern is to limit the ambitions of Syria's Kurds - has been an unreliable partner in the fight against Isis, but it has been a crucial conduit for arming rebel groups battling Syria's Bashar al-Assad. It will now be under pressure to tacitly accept Moscow's position that Mr Assad must stay in place during any transition.

Despite these risks, Russian-Turkish talks on Syria could have some positive effects. There can be no political solution to the conflict without their involvement; and both countries have an interest in ending the siege of Aleppo, which is showing the limits of Russian air power and could lead to a fresh influx of refugees into Turkey.

Despite western angst at Turkey's drift into autocracy, it is too soon to give up on Mr Erdogan. His trip to Moscow is a calculated slight to the west, but it is also a sign of his underlying pragmatism. Turkey cannot afford to pick fights with all its neighbours. Terrorist attacks and political instability are scaring off tourists and investors alike. Russia can alleviate the economic squeeze if it lifts sanctions and revives energy deals. But the EU remains a far more important trading partner, and Nato the best guarantee of security in an embattled region.

The editorial adds:

The EU and US should make no concessions in its dealings with Turkey. They should condemn any abuse of the rule of law; and insist that Ankara supplies evidence to support demands for Mr Gulen's extradition. They should also recognise the challenges Turkey faces at home and on its borders.
Many western governments were slow to condemn the coup: this has alienated even those Turks who oppose Mr Erdogan, and it has fuelled suspicions of western backing for the coup. It would help to be far more explicit in acknowledging that Turkey would be in a far worse position now if the rebel generals had succeeded.

07.50 GMT: The Turkish President Office have now issued the full text of President Erdogan's comments at the Press Conference with president Putin in St Petersburg yesterday in which Erdogan says Turkey-Russia relations have reached an exemplary level in recent years thanks to state officials’ joint will and with the support of Turkish and Russian peoples, adding,

"We have attained this level not by chance, but as a result of a shared vision and a grand potential for cooperation. Today with my dear friend Mr. Putin, we took a shared stand to strengthen our bilateral and multilateral cooperation. We will maintain our talks at every level and in an intense manner. We will use our potential more effectively for the peace and stability of our region. We think that Turkey-Russia relations have strengthened and become more resistant to crises in comparison to the past."

07.45: GMT: The US State Department has also commented on yesterday's meeting between Putin and Erdogan.The State Department said Tuesday it does not view the restoration of Turkish-Russian relations as "a zero-sum game".

"We don't view this as a zero-sum game," State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said during a press briefing.

She added that Turkey and Russia were both sovereign states and had a lot of common goals such as the fight against Daesh and efforts for a political solution for Syria.

Trudeau also stressed that the U.S. remained concerned about "anti-American rhetoric" in Turkey and said the U.S. didn't view it as "helpful".

She said that the U.S. expected all parties in Turkey such as the media, civil society and the government "to be responsible in their statements on this."

07.40 GMT: In the meantime as President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia prepares to leave for Moscow to meet President Putin, reports are coming in that he has signed a decree firing the staff of the Armenian national Security Council and ordering a complete restructuring of the institution. This is is the latest in a series of personnel moves in the military and security sector in Armenia that started immeediately after the April fighting in Karabakh but that intensified considerably in the last week after the stand-off with armed men at the Erebuni Police Station in July.

07.15 GMT: Commonspace.eu Russian language editor has been scanning the Russian language website for their analysis of yesterday's meeting. He writes:

A Russian website RBC.ru carries comments by a number of Russian experts on yesterday's meetingAfter Syria, in the relations between Moscow and Ankara the most important question is Transcaucasia, says Gumer Isaev. Erdogan announced the launch of "a mechanism of trilateral format" - Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. "We appreciate it very positively," - he said, but gave no further explanation, and Putin did not comment on this issue.

Earlier, the head of the Asia and Middle East Center, RISS, Anna Glazova noted that peace in the Caucasus depends on the cooperation between Moscow and Ankara. It is significant that the last outbreak of war in Nagorno-Karabakh took place precisely during the "Cold War" between Russia and Turkey.

On the one hand, says Isayev, this format can be used to ensure that the representatives of different parties of the Karabakh conflict set at negotiating table and find a compromise to solve their regional problems. On the other hand, such a mechanism can be used for keeping the West beyond the resolution of conflicts in the South Caucasus.

07.00 GMT: The world media carries the story of the meeting yesterday between President Putin and President Erdogan. Whilst the media in Turkey and Russia is generally upbeat, one Russia media source is quite critical. Rain TV, an alternative media source in Russia had this to say:

For Erdogan, Putin is now - a friend and ally. It is no coincidence that on the day of the restoration of relations with Russia, Erdogan made peace with another enemy - Israel. Allies became necessary. After all, the EU does not accept Turkey in to the Union, despite of standing in queue for 16 years, and the US did not support the recent repression against the rebels. Moreover, the Russian sanctions. The previous year the volume of trade was at $ 44 billion, and this year it drastically declined.

Left without allies, Moscow now has a partner, a member of NATO, relations with which it can flaunt on the negotiations with the West. In addition, project pipeline "Turkish Stream", which was frozen immediately after the start of the conflict, again became relevant. After all, the "Turkish Stream" should be an alternative to the "South Stream" blocked by European Union.

Putin and Erdogan personally are very similar, and even taking this fact into consideration, they could not not make peace. Both engaged in a constant mobilization of the electorate, both found a way to bypass the constitution and extend terms in office (Erdogan in Turkey in 2003), both refer to its neighbors (Ukraine and Syria) as younger brothers and states that do not exist.

It is Wednesday, 10 August 2016. Welcome to the live blog from commonspace.eu


19.00 GMT: We are now closing this live blog for today, Tuesday, 9 August 2016 a day when Turkey and Russia embarked on a public reconciliation after a difficult period in their relations. President Erdogan is in St petersburg where he had two meetings with his Russian counterpart President Putin. Both sides pledged to work to bring their relationship to one of close co-operation. The German Foreign Minister became the first major western politician to comment on the Russian-Turkish rapproachment. He welcomed the meeting saying that "It is good that the two countries have moved closer again after Turkey shot down a Russian combat aircraft last year. At the same time, I do not believe that relations between the two countries will become so close that Russia can offer Turkey an alternative to the security partnership that is NATO. Turkey is an important NATO partner - and it needs to stay that way."

This blog will be back live tomorrow Wednesday, 10 August at 06.00 GMT (10.00 am in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan, 09.00 in Moscow and 08.00 am in Brussels) with more news, comments and analysis on a week of inetnsive diplomatic activity in South-West Eurasia. We end with the last picture, from the Press Conference of president Putin and President Erdogan earlier today. Good night!

 

18.45 GMT: The full interview of the German Foreign Minister with the newspaper Bild is available here

18.40 GMT: There has not been much comment from western leaders about the goings-on of the last two days but the German newspaper Bild today carried an interview with theGerman Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who welcomed the recent rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, dismissing media reports claiming Ankara was distancing itself from NATO.

"It is good that after the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey last year, now there is a rapprochement," Steinmeier told  Bild on Tuesday.

He said closer dialogue between regional powers was important to find a political solution to Syria's civil war.

"There won't be a solution to the civil war in Syria without Moscow, and without Iran, Saudi Arabia or Turkey," he said.

Steinmeier argued that, contrary to various comments in Western media, Turkey's closer dialogue with Russia would not undermine ties with NATO:

"I don't believe that relations between the two countries would become so close that Russia could provide Turkey with an alternative to the security partnership of NATO," he said.

"Turkey is an important NATO partner, and it must remain so," he added.

 

18.30 GMT: Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan tomorrow Wednesday travels to Moscow for a meeting with President Putin, the last of this weeks big summits involving the players in South-West Eurasia. Ahead of that, there are some comments from Armenian Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan, quoted by news.am:

The aim of the military and political leadership of Armenia is to ensure the self-determination and independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). Armenian Defense Minster Seyran Ohanyan said the aforementioned at the press-conference on Tuesday, touching on the meeting to be held between the Armenian and Russian presidents in Moscow on Wednesday. According to the Minister, unilateral concessions are out of the question. The activation of the negotiation process on the Karabakh issue settlement is a fact. In the Minister’s words, during this “activation”, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs - especially upon the initiative of Russia - are carrying out work aimed at solving the Karabakh issue only and only by peaceful and political means.

“[The issue must be solved] By the way, which the military and political leadership and the President of Armenia have followed since the conclusion of the ceasefire agreement. And they have been carrying out work up to now so that the conflict can be finally resolved in the framework of mutual agreement and in the conditions of forming an atmosphere of confidence through dialogue and mutual understanding,” Ohanyan stressed. According to him, all the international norms – non-use of force, self-determination of peoples and territorial integrity - should be observed in this process. “Through juxtaposing all this, we must do our best to achieve our current aims, namely self-determined, free and independent NKR, as well as development of large community and extensive ties with Armenia. We all understand that given the mutual agreement and dialogue, this readiness should be comprehensive.

I have always said and will reiterate today that if NKR is endangered -- that is in case of a new aggression -- the NKR Defense Army (NKR DA) in cooperation with the Armenian army will do its best to defend every inch of the NKR land,” Ohanyan concluded.

 

16.30 GMT: After their first meeting, which was followed by a Press Conference, President Putin and President Erdogan are expected to have second meeting today in St Petersburg, this one focusing on Syria. This meeting is likely to be more difficult than the first, because on Syria, Russia and Turkey are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

 

16.20 GMT: A senior Turkish official accompanying Erdogan on his visit to St Petersburg is quoted by Reuters as saying that  there was a clear consensus about improving relations that were damaged when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border late last year. "The general mood has been very positive," the official said after the meeting in St. Petersburg.

 

15.40 GMT: President Erdogan has said that he and president Putin have agreed to  "form a new platform comprising of Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan to discuss regional problems"

 

15.20 GMT: RT, the Russian pro government channel  is giving a huge positive spin to the Putin-Erdogan Meeting

 

15.10 GMT: Not everyone is pessimistic about the recent developments. Our Armenia correspondent writes:

The 168.am online media outlet asked the "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine's political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov to comment on the regional developments in the light of a newly forming Russia-Iran-Azerbaijan trilateral format. According to Mr. Lukyanov, Armenia is not isolated from regional projects, but it is constrained by the lack of political relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan. In his opinion, with the removal of international sanctions against Iran Russia is interested in Iran - one of the most powerful sovereign countries in Eurasia region, especially, when Iran is in the phase of allocation of its resources and Russia can take advantage of this opportunity. Two participants in this format (Iran and Russia) are interested in the relations with Armenia. "Iran's historically good relations with Armenia will continue, there will be no changes in this matter. To say that Iran wants to have better relationship with Azerbaijan than Armenia would be wrong. Russia is a strategic partner of Armenia, threfire these programs cannot be against Armenia. Discussions over the EEU-Iran cooperation are in the process, therefore it is expected that Armenia will be seen as a bridge in this processes. Of course, this is an assumption, nonetheless it a feasible one. In my opinion, Armenia cannot be left out of this program", -said Fyodor Lukianov. Concerning the warming of the relations between Russia and Turkey, according to the expert, this will positively affect the entire region, including the situation in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict zone. He disagrees with the opinions that Russia will violate the interests of Armenia for the sake of relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey. He assured that Russia needs both Armenia, which joined every integration projects initiated by Ruissia, and Azerbaijan, cooperation with which provides Russia a presence in the South Caucasus. "Most probably the Russian-Turkish crisis provoked the April war in Karabakh, and this new phase will have a positive effect on the resolution of the conflict", said Lukianov.

 

15.00 GMT: As can be expected the intnesive diplomatic activity of this week has generated quite a lot of comments from experts in and on the region. Throughout the day and tomorrow we will try to share some of the comments.

Our Armenia correspondent says that the head of the Analytical Center on Globalization and Regional Cooperation Stepan Grigoryan in an interview with 1in.am spoke about the ongoing developments over the Nagorno Karabakh issue under the light of the meetings between the Russian, Azerbaijani and Iranian presidents, as well as the Putin-Erdogan and Putin-Sargsyan meetings.

"We have repeatedly warned the Armenian authorities that they are conducting a wrong policy because all the energy resources, communication facilities, railway and safety are linked to one country and depend on one country that is Russia. As a result of this policy we fail to actively cooperate with Iran in implementing transport projects". As a reminder Grigoryan mentioned that their center has warned also that Russia can dramatically change its policies and improve its relations with Turkey in accordance with its political interests. Today it is very important for Russia to improve relations with Turkey, since Russia's main enemy and target is Europe, NATO. Therefore, Russia wants to weaken their positions. Russia's primary goal is to get out from isolation with the help of China and Turkey. According to Stepan Grigoryan, the history showed many times that the rapprochement of Russian-Turkish relations is dangerous for Armenia, which witness today.


"The issue of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict will be discussed as a general topic. We are facing a serious threat, which is a consequence of the poor policy of Armenian authorities. Armenia did not sign the Association Agreement with the EU, instead it gave everything to Russia and now Russia understands that Armenia does not have any tool for resistance." Mr.Grigoryan believes that Russia wants Azerbaijan to join the Eurasian Economic Union that is why there is a pressure on Armenian government to make concessions over the NK conflict. "This trade is an obvious and serious risk", - he said. He agrees with the thesis brought by many that the status quo is not beneficial for Armenia and that there is a need to eventually solve the problem. "However, this cannot be considered in today's context because in case Armenia agrees to unilateral concessions Azerbaijan as an aggressive and unpredictable country will perceive it as weakness and will not hesitate to attack."

 

14.50 GMT: President Aliev of Azerbaijan has been tweeting after yesterday's trilateral meeting with Putin and Rohani

 

14.20 GMT: Pictures of the Erdogan-Putin Meeting

 

 

14.15 GMT: The meeting between President Putin and president Erdogan has taken place St PetersburgRussian President Vladimir Putin has said the country is against "all kinds" of coup attempts during his first meeting with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the downing of a Russian warplane last November.

In remarks made to the media at the Constantine Palace in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, President Putin said Russia "was against all kinds of coup attempts." "I would like to remind you of our principal attitude. We are against all attempts that are against the constitution. I hope under your management the Turkish people will overcome this problem," Putin said, referring to the July 15 coup attempt by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) in Turkey.

The Russian president also said despite the tumultuous times of Turkey's internal politics, Erdogan's visit was "a sign of normalizing ties".

"The restoration of bilateral ties would benefit both Turkey and Russia," Putin said.

Erdogan agreed with Putin and said Turkish-Russian solidarity would also help in resolving regional issues.

"Our region has political expectations of Turkey and Russia," Erdogan said. "Turkey-Russia ties have entered into a very different and positive phase," Erdogan said.

The Turkish president also said he appreciated his Russian counterpart's support following the defeated July 15 coup.

"Your call after the coup attempt made us happy," he told Putin.

The two leaders were expected to discuss the way forward in reinforcing bilateral relations during their meeting, as well as exchanging views on regional and international developments the Turkish Anadolu New Agency reported.

 

09.00 GMT: Turkish President Erdogan is on his way to Russia.

Accompanying the President during the visit are Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Culture and Tourism Nabi Avcı, Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekçi, Minister of Food, Agriculture and Livestock Faruk Çelik, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak, Deputy Chairman of the AK Party Mehdi Eker and Undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan. The line up gives us some indication of what will be discussed.

 

07.30 GMT: The respected Turkish Newspaper Turkish Daily News today carries a story of how relations between Turkey and Russia were restored after the crisis over the downing of a Russian Plane on the Turkish-Syrian border, and the diplomatic intrigues of the process. You can read it here on the TDN website

 

07.20 GMT: An interesting point of view on the meeting between Putin and Erdogan was expressed yesterday byVladimir Frolov for the portal Slon.ru, quoted by the Russian "TV-Rain" which is as close to an alternative point of view in Russia as is possible at the moment.

Frolov says that "In the talks with Erdogan Moscow sees geopolitical opportunities in at least three directions - in relations with the West, "the Syrian front" and the Eurasian vector. The summit can mark a new framework of strategic partnership, where Russia sees itself as solely the senior partner. Moscow does not know to what extent it can achieve this geo-political ambition, but the game - for Kremlin - is worth it."

"Ankara also intends, with no less determination, to play the Russian card in its relations with the EU and the US, to reduce the intensity of criticism in relation to human rights violations during suppressing the coup."

 

07.00 GMT: The big event of today is the meeitng between President Putin and the President of Turkey, Recip Tayip Erdogan. There are big expectations in Turkey from this meeting, the first between the two presidents since the dispute over the downed Russian airplane over Syria a few months ago. It will also be Erdogan's first meeting with a major world leader since the failed 15 July coup. This is the front  page of a Turkish English language newspaper connected with the state Anadolou News Agency

 

06.45 GMT: The trilateral meeting in Baku was observed with interest in neighbouring Armenia. Political analyst Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan said during a press brieifng yesterday that a new format is developing involving Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, which will also include discussions on the Nagorno Karabakh issue in the agenda.

"The issues that have been discussed are related to cooperation in the fields of transport and communication, but, in fact, we are dealing with a new phenomenon that is, a new format, which will bring a number of other issues to the discussion. They will try to coordinate their policies in the region regarding the security, economy and regional development. Within this format Nagorno Karabakh issue will also be discussed ", he said according to Armenpress News Agency.

"Until now Russia has been doing everything possible to show itself as a peacemaker, now it seems it is trying to wash its hands off the matter. The impression is that Russia realized that its increased activity in South Caucasus leads to a parallel activation of the conflict, and that the four-day war in April , in fact, was the result of the increasing influence of the Eurasian Economic Union", he said.

 

06.25 GMT: Commonspace.eu political editor said that "this first trilateral summit gave a political boost to the three leaders, and potentially opens the way for serious co-operation between their three countries that could contribute enormously to their economic prosperity. There is however a big difference between planning something and actually implementing it. The three countries have very different political and economic systems, and harmonising their laws and working methods to turn the ideas into practical measures will take a huge amount of effort and will. Other countries in the region may also not find the ideas being put forward as attractive. The Baku Summit however was a significant step in regional co-operation and its potential should not be underestimated either."

 

06.20 GMT: Yesterday saw the first trilateral summit between the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Iran and Russia, at the end of which a declaration was issued announcing the creation of a north-south transport corridor linking Russia to the waters of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean. (More here)

 

Good Morning. It is 06.15 GMT on Tuesday, 9 August (10.15 in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan, 09.15 in Moscow, and 08.15 in Brussels) Welcome to this live blog covering this week's diplomatic activity in South-West Eurasia.

 

16.40 GMT: The trilateral meeting between the Presidents of Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia has taken place in Baku. The three Presidents have signed a joint declaration.

 

15.00 GMT: One meeting that has not received much attention was the one held yesterday between President Rohani and Azerbaijani religious leaders. In the past Azerbaijan has accused Tehran of supporting radical Shia religious groups. Yesterday's meeting, according to Azerbaijan State television, Az TVwas attended by the Chairman of theBoard of Caucasus Muslims Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, MPs and officials.

Az TV stated that speakers at the event highlighted friendly ties between Azerbaijan and Iran. They stressed the importance of preserving historical, religious and spiritual ties between the two countries.

14.45 GMT: This picture released by the press office of the President of Azerbaijan shows the line-up of the Azerbaijani and Russian delegations at their opening meeting in Baku. It is expected that Putin and Aliev will later have a tete-a-tete when the more sensitive issues are discussed.

 

14.30 GMT: Nagorno-Karabakh looms in the background of the discussions that President Putin is having in Baku with the Azerbaijani leadership. The Russian agency Sputnik quotes President Putin as saying that Russia will seek to ensure that Azerbaijan and Armenia find a compromise and a mutually acceptable solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

"I know this is a thorny issue for both Azerbaijan and Armenia. We will strive to achieve one thing: we will strive to ensure that Armenia and Azerbaijan find a compromise solution that is acceptable for both sides," Putin said at a meeting with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliev, according to Sputnik.

On his part Aliev thanked Putin for Russia's efforts in this direction.

According to the Russian agency RIA Novosti, the Azerbaijani president noted that regular meetings between the Azerbaijani and Russian presidents give new impetus to the development of bilateral relations that have reached the level of strategic partnership.

"We closely cooperate within all international organizations, strengthening political dialogue and economic ties," Ilham Aliyev said.

He added that the trilateral meeting of the Russian, Azerbaijani, and Iranian leaders will serve development of economic cooperation in the region and will strengthen security.

 

14.25 GMT: President Putin has continued his meetings in Baku, with a bilateral meeting with President Rohani of Iran.

 

13.00 GMT: It is interesting that before he left for Baku Putin held a meeting with his National Security Council. According to the Press Service of the Russian President "the socioeconomic situation in Russia and Mr Putin’s scheduled upcoming international meetings were the main subjects of discussion".

Taking part in the meeting were Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Director of the Federal Security Service Alexander Bortnikov, and Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Mikhail Fradkov.

 

12.30 GMT: President Putin is in Baku where he has already met President Aliev

 

11.30 GMT: In an interview with Azerbaijani news agency Azertac yesterday, Russian president Vladimir Putin addressed the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. Putin is meeting Armenian president Serzh Sargsyan on Wednesday.

“In May 1994, the ceasefire agreement was signed with the direct assistance of Russia, and it is still the basis of the truce. The adoption of the 2008 Moscow Declaration was an important step. It confirms that a conflict settlement should be achieved through political means alone. By the way, this is the first and still the only document on the Nagorny Karabakh settlement signed by the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“It was Russia again that played the crucial role in the cessation of large-scale hostilities at the beginning of April 2016. I would like to particularly emphasize that we are not trying to impose some readymade solutions upon Armenia and Azerbaijan. The sides should reach an agreement and find mutually acceptable solutions independently, without external pressure. This is our firm position.”

 

10.30 GMT: Commonspace.eu political editor has commented on the current visit of Iran's President Rohani to Azerbaijan and Iran's expectations from today's trilateral summit with Russia.

"Iran clearly sees the prospect of co-operation in this trilateral format -Iran-Azerbaijan-Russia as very useful. It is one way of excluding some of the more complicated issues in Iranian-Azerbaijani relations, such as the issue of Iran's support for certain relgious groups in Azerbaijan, and Iran's position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which falls short of Baku's expectations. These isues will not come up in the trilateral discussions where the focus will be on economic issues and on the future of the Caspian. This suits Tehran very well.

Clearly Iran has expectations that relations in this trilateral format will expand. Speaking ahead of the talks Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif praised Azerbaijan and Russia for their positive approach during the nuclear talks between Iran and the international community.'Under the sanctions, Iran's relations with neighbors were affected less than with others. However, with the onset of the nuclear talks, Iran's neighbors also took a more active approach to Iran,' Zarif told Trend News agency yesterday. 'Our relations with these two countries grew by degrees both during the nuclear talks and after', Zarif said.

Iran may also see the regional format as a way of managing its rather difficult relations with Turkey. Iranian officials in Baku with President Rohani have been muting the idea that the trialteral talks could in the future be enlarged to include Turkey. However the differences on many issues between both the three countries meeting in Baku today, as well as between them and Turkey remain very substantial. Neither Turkey, nor indeed Azerbaijan, will want to upset the governments of the Gulf states by getting too close to Tehran, or its positions. For the moment therefore, Tehran will have to be pleased with small steps and grand gestures, rather than anything more tangible."

 

08.15 GMT: An article in the Tehran Times this morning spells out how Putin's aims are vis-a-vis Iran. It says "President Putin's aim is for Iran to join a Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), initiated by Russia, beginning with Iran joining an EEU Free Trade zone". 

08.01 GMT: It is going to be a busy week for Russia's President Putin. After his meetings in baku today, tomorrow Putin will meet with Turkish leader Recip Tayip Erdogan. Relations between the two countrties are strained by the situation in Syria, where the two back different sides in the bloody civil war taking place in that country. But the Russian pro-government media is painting a picture of perfect harmony.

Good Morning, it is 08.00 GMT on Monday, 8 August, 12 noon local time in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan, 11.00 am in Moscow and 10.00 am in Brussels. 

We are resuming our live blog focusing on this week's political and diplomatic activity in South-West Eurasia.

Today will see the arrival of Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Baku where he will participate in a trilateral summit with the Presidents of Iran and Azerbaijan. President Rohani of Iran is already in Baku and yesterday held a number of meetings with his Azerbaijani counterpart, as we reported on our blog.

Putin's arrival in the Caucasus coincides with the eight anniversary of the start of the Georgia-Russia war in 2008.

17.00 GMT: This live blog will now close for today. We will be back tomorrow, Monday, 8 August at 0800 GMT (12 noon in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan, 11.00 in Moscow and 10.00 in Brussels. You can still comment on the content of this blog on our facebook page commonspace.EU or our twitter feed @commonspace.eu

16.50 GMT: Commonspace.eu Armenia correspondent has been monitoring the Armenian Service of the Voice of America which today carried comments by two American experts on likely benefits to Armenia as a result of the recent improvements in Russia Turkish relations.An improvement in Russian-Turkish relations is advantageous to Armenia, says Michael Rubin, an analyst with the American Enterprise Institute. According to Rubin, Armenia can first of all expect economic benefits from such readjustments, rather than political ones.

16.40 GMT: Both Iran and Azerbaijan are emphasising that they have embarked on a serious programme of practical co-operation between them, especially in the economic sphere.one proof of this is a new car factory which Tehran will open in Azerbaijan. Production capacity of the $15 million joint venture plant, which will be constructed by Iran Khodro Company and Azevrocar Company, is 10,000 cars per year and it is expected to create 300 new job opportunities. The groubd breaking ceremony for the new factory took place today to coincide with the visit of President Rohani to Baku.

16.30 GMT: President Putin has also been speaking about the Caspian prior to his arrival in Baku. He told the Azerbaijani state news agency Azertag "We see great potential in increased cooperation in the Caspian Sea, primarily within the Caspian Five (comprising Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan) and the developing trilateral partnership involving Iran."

16.00 GMT: President Rohani has made some general references to the Caspian Sea when speaking after his meeting with President Aliev today. APA quotes him as saying that Caspian-related issues were discussed at the meeting.

"The Caspian littoral countries should become an area of ​​peace and stability. To overcome some of the problems related to the Caspian Sea, some quick work has to be done. We think joint work is necessary in the oil, gas and other areas. The ecosystem is very important for us too. We have to focus on preventing pollution of the Caspian Sea. In this regard, we encourage the creation of a Caspian center in Azerbaijan", the agency quoted Rohani as saying. There is at the moment a dispute among the five littoral states of the Caspian regarding allocation of economic zones and coastal waters. A commission between the five o countries meets regularly but little progress has been made so far on the more substantial issues.

15.40 GMT: Commenting on the meetings that President Putin is having this week with the leaders of Iran, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Armenian journalist Vahagn Antonian says that with these meetings Russia strives to strengthen its role and presence in the region, gain allies and partners and reduce the number of "fronts" that have opened or can open against it. 

15.00 GMT: It is 7.00 p.m. in the evening in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, 6.00 p.m. in Moscow and 5.00 pm in Brussels. To sum up the events of the day so far, President Rohani of Iran has arrived in Azerbaijan where tomorrow he will participate in trilateral meetings with the Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan which are likely to focus on economic and security issues. Ahead of the meeting President Putin has said he would like Iran to become a full member of the Eurasian Economic Union. This afternoon Rohani met with Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliev. The two sides signed six agreements covering a number of technicasl issues. At a press conference Rohani said that Iran wants to contribute to peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan and spoke about "regional convergence".

14.50 GMT: Commonspace.eu Armenia Correspondent Vahagn Antonian tells us that the Putin-Rohani-Aliev meeting in Baku is being played down by the Armenian media. Some media sources are however emphasising that Nagorno-Karabakh will not be discussed in the trilateral meeting tomorrow. Understandably there is more focus in the Armenian media on the meeting between Putin and President Sargsyan later in the week. As our correspondent tells us there is emphasis in the Armenian media that this meeting will take place"at the request of the Armenian side".

14.30 GMT: Back to those speeches of President Aliev and President Rohani earlier. Both presidents emphaises the importance of the north-south corridor Rohani said that it is one of the main issues between Iran and Azerbaijan, as well as other regional countries."Finally we will be able to connect the Caucasus countries, Russia, northern and eastern Europe to the Persian Gulf," Rouhani said.
He further expressed hope that the corridor would contribute to boosting economic ties of all regional countries, a thinly veiled reference to the fact that Iran wants to see Armenia as part of this project.
The North-South International Transport Corridor is a multipurpose route for the transit of goods between Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Europe, India and Central Asia via shipping lines, railroad and land routes. The first step on establishing the corridor will be finalized this year and the Astara (Azerbaijan)-Astara (Iran) rail bridge is going to be completed through Iran-Azerbaijan cooperation, Rouhani said. The second step is to complete the Astara-Rasht railway, which will be finalized through a 50-50 investment of Iran and Azerbaijan, Rouhani added, as quoted by today.az

13.50 GMT:  We have an interesting perspective on how Iran is looking at this trilateral perspective from an interview this morning in the Tehran Times with the Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mohsen Pakaein. He says:

"The tripartite meeting is in fact a new trend in regional cooperation between Iran, Russia, and Azerbaijan as three key countries in the region at a presidential level. Negotiations will focus on how to make the maximum use of each other's capacities to expand ties and address regional challenges and threats. This will be possible through adopting coordinated stances. In fact, the importance of the meeting lies in its emphasis on regional convergence. The more convergent policies regional countries adopt, the more peaceful the region will be".

The use of the term "regional convergence" is interesting, and suggests an engaged Iranian approach to the region.

13.30 GMT: Rouhani in Baku says "We believe peace and security should embrace the region and Iran would help both Armenia and Azerbaijan to come to a peaceful settlement", according to the Iranian news agency Mher

13.20 GMT: Iran and Azerbaijan have a complicated relationship. They share a common history, a common shia religious tradition, and million of people of Azerbaijani ethnicity live in Iran. However these factors also bring with them a lot of baggage and relations are sometimes difficult. rohani's visit is mean to focus on the positive, and also allow an opportunity for the sides to discuss their differences. The Azerbaijani news agency APA is quoting President Aliev as saying during today's talks:

" our relations are established at the highest level. During the bilateral meeting today, we discussed political and economic issues. There is a huge mutual understanding between us and we are building our relations based on this understanding. Relations between the two countries have been developing quite rapidly in recent years. This development has reached its highest level in the history of the 25-year-old relations. I believe that political, economic and other relations will develop further. Several documents will be signed today. Iran-Azerbaijan relations will continue to develop on the basis of friendship"

The documents Aliev is referring are mostly related to technical issues, but an interesting one is a "Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of electronic security between the Ministry of Communications and High Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of the Islamic Republic of Iran".

13.05 GMT: Iran's President Hassan Rohani and Azrbaijan's President Ilham Aliev have had their first round of talks, after which they addressed a prss conference. It is reported that a number of agreements have already been signed.

13.02 GMT: Commonspace.eu political editor has commented on this week's flurry of diplomatic activity in south-west Eurasia:

The fact that these meetings are taking place so close to each other may very well be a coincidence. Some have been planned long in advance, others have been hastily put together in the last days. Regardless of this, the intensity of this week's diplomatic activity is of some significance. The region has in recent months been rocked by a number of serious developments: the shooting down of a Russian military plane by Turkey, close to the Turkish-Syrian border created a serious problem between the two countries; in April there was a serious escalation in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in a few days of heavy fighting hundreds of soldiers from both sides were killed and injured. Then in July we saw the dramatic events unfolding in Turkey as a section of the armed forces tried to stage a military coup. Nearly at the same time armed men seized a police building in Yerevan demanding the resignation of the Armenian government, seriously challenging the current authorities.

Diplomacy has been at work: relations between Russia and Turkey have been mended to some extent over the last weeks. The meeting between president Putin and President Erdogan in St Petersburg on Tuesday will show to what extent this is the case. Russia has also been pushing for progress in the negotiations over the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Putin will use the chance of his separate meetings with presidents Aliev and Sargsyan to gauge if this is the moment to move forward. Moscow has been looking with increasing concern at events in Yerevan over the last weeks and is sensitive to the fact that it cannot push president Sargsyan too much, yet there seem to have been some Russian promises made to Baku on the Karabakh issue, so no action is not an option for Russia either. Iran remains a distant player in most of the regional issues, but a player nonetheless. Tehran is hoping that now that it has been rehabilitated by the international community it will be able to play a more active role in the Caucasus region and beyond.

In this intensive diplomatic conversation the west - namely the US and the EU, appear absent or excluded. It is August, Brussels is deserted, and the American are focused on their forthcoming Presidential elections. There has already been considerable criticism of how the EU has handled the aftermath of the attempted coup in Turkey. As a candidate country Turkey expected a much swifter and non-ambivalent expression of solidarity. Instead it got a serious of somewhat patronising statements. Putin will be the first major foreign leader to meet Erdogan since the coup, and no doubt he will use the opportunity to rub salt in the wound. Over the next few days it will become clearer if Putin's strategy is to contain developments in a turbulent region, or to use recent events as a launching pad for new initiatives.

13.01 GMT: The diplomatic activity has already started. A few hours ago, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani arrived in Baku, and he has already had a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev.

Rohani and Aliev will tomorrow be joined by Russian President Vladimir Putin for a trilateral meeting that is likely to focus on issues related to the Caspian Sea, regional security and economic co-operation.

 

It's Sunday. 7 August 2016, 1300 GMT (1700 in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan, 1600 in Moscow and 15.00 in Brussels)

Good afternoon and welcome to this live blog "The big conversation in south-west Eurasia". Over the next five days the editorial team of commonspace.eu will be following the series of meetings taking place between the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan in various formats, and will try to explain how these meetings relate to each other, and their likely impact on the region and beyond.

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