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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06ANKARA5522 2006-09-21 11:49:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

CAUCASUS CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION CONFERENCE

Tags:   PREL PGOV TU 
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VZCZCXRO5766
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHAK #5522/01 2641149
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 211149Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8878
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 005522 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/17/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV TU
SUBJECT: CAUCASUS CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION CONFERENCE
SPOTLIGHTS VISION FOR CHANGE AND THE CHALLENGE


Classified By: Political Counselor Janice G. Weiner for reasons 1.4(b),
(d)



1. (C) Summary. Representatives from Turkey and several
neighboring countries met from September 15 to 17 in eastern
Turkey to discuss opportunities for regional cross-border
cooperation. The conference, which was co-sponsored by the
Kars Municipality and the International Urban Development
Association (INTA), was held in conjunction with the third
annual International Caucasus Cultures Festival. Speakers
were realistic about the hurdles impeding greater regional
cooperation but remained optimistic about working through
local authorities to build cultural and economic bridges
where possible. Performances by artists from participating
countries highlighted the cultural links within the region
but also demonstrated the challenge that festering feuds
present -- after the Armenian group played songs the Azeris
claimed as their own and not Armenia's, the Azeris refused to
perform. End Summary.



2. (C) The mayor of Kars, Naif Alibeyoglu, has been the
driving force behind the annual Caucasus conference. His
town is a 30-minute drive to the Armenian border and hosts
the ruins of the ancient city of Ani, important to Armenia,
Georgia, Turkey and other civilizations. Alibeyoglu, a
member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may
be Turkey's strongest proponent of opening Turkey's land
border with Armenia, which has been closed since 1993. He at
times has defied GOT policy and the still-testy sentiments of
many Turks toward Armenia in his efforts to promote greater
regional trade and boost the prospects for his poor, rural
province. Alibeyoglu envisions Kars as a regional hub in the
Caucasus, with the annual conference some day rivaling the
Davos Economic Forum. Currently better known as the setting
for noted Turkish author Orhan Pamuk's novel, Snow, Kars is
not yet a threat to Davos. But the annual conference has
succeeded in attracting attention to grass-roots
opportunities aimed at nudging governments slowly toward
greater regional cooperation that might revive links with
strategic Central Asian markets and beyond.



3. (C) Dengir Mir Firat, AKP Vice Chairman, dodged
addressing the Armenian border issue directly in his
conference remarks by noting that "conflicts usually come
from politicians, not the people." Given Turkey's location
surrounded by divisive regions such as the Middle East, the
Balkans and the Caucasus, Firat said Turkey cannot remain
neutral and must play a role in finding solutions to pending
disputes. The head of the MFA's South Caucasus Department,
Suleyman Gokce, also addressed the "deep competition and
differences of opinion" within the region and the steadying
role Turkey has played. He specifically mentioned Turkey's
relations with Georgia, Azerbajian and Armenia, and said that
Turkey wants to help resolve frozen conflicts and bring
progress to the area. Successful efforts like the
Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline will build regional cooperation
and stability, he noted, and local cooperation is often a
good place to start.



4. (U) Kenan Altun, the AKP Deputy from Ardahan province
which borders Georgia, echoed Mayor Alibeyoglu's call to open
Turkey's brder with Armenia and seize opportunities forpeace. He reiterated the oft-heard call to leave issues of
history (such as the 1915 Armenian massacre) to the
historians, but claimed that the Armenian-American diaspora
won't accept that approach. Calling the Caucasus a
"transition corridor", he pointed out the inefficiencies of
running highways, railways or pipelines around Armenia.



5. (U) Speakers from co-sponsor INTA and other NGOs proposed
a variety of projects to develop regional contacts and
cooperation. Revitalizing Ani, which rivaled Byzantium as
one of the great Christian cities with over 100,000
inhabitants, as a major archeaological site is among the most
promising efforts. According to Governor Ufuk Erden,
preserving Ani is one of Turkey's cultural priorities. The
crumbling remains of churches and mosques scattered across an
open plain a stone's throw from Armenia are being charted and
scanned with the help of the Global Heritage Fund (GHF), a
California-based conservation group that invested $348,000 in
revitalizing the Kars Historic District in 2005. The GHF is
developing a master conservation plan and architectural
design for Ani and the district that ideally would include
sites in Armenia as well. Kars Municipality is also seeking
additional funding from the EU ($2 million) and the World
Bank ($500,000) for 2006 and 2007 revitalization projects.
Other proposals for increased regional cooperation include
organizing regional agricultural fairs and collaborative
research projects, developing winter and summer sports
festivals, and plugging Kars, which boasts a prominent
castle, into the global chain of fortress cities like
Edinburgh.

ANKARA 00005522 002 OF 002





6. (C) The conference and the cultural festival, which
featured performers from the Estonia, Cuba, Sudan, Russia and
Bangladesh as well as the Caucasus countries, succeeded in
turning the spotlight again, however briefly, on Kars and
Alibeyoglu's efforts to revitalize a neglected part of
Turkey's rural northeast. By expanding the guest list to
include representatives from Iran, Iraq, Serbia, Russia,
Europe and the US, the mayor's outreach on behalf of his city
and region may eventually raise awareness of the economic and
cultural opportunities. As PolOff and the Russian First
Secretary were waiting to depart, Alibeyoglu bemoaned the

SIPDIS
Azeris' refusal to perform due to a spat with the Armenian
musicians and made an impassioned plea for the US and Russia
to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh stalemate. Kars as a regional
hub may seem like a long shot now, but Alibeyoglu's
determination and persistence may even the odds in the long
run.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON