The Armenian Genocide Still Denied by Turkey (and Azerbaijan)

April 27, 2013

Armenian as well other people around the world paid homage to the memory of 1.5 million innocent victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide implemented by the Ottoman Empire. 98 years after the Genocide the present Turkish nation not only deny that its predecessors plotted and committed the Genocide, but also continues its anti-Armenian policy, still retaining confiscated church estates and properties, and religious and cultural treasures of the Armenian people.

NYT 1915

Different views about history have their impact also today when the frozen conflict of Artsakh, better known as Nagorno-Karabakh, still waits its solution. Nineteen years after the ceasefire in 1994, an agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan is still not reached and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic continues its existence as a de facto independent republic recognized by no other state.

The Balkan Wars as background

The First Balkan War, which lasted from October 1912 to May 1913, pitted the Balkan League (Serbia, Greece, Montenegro and Bulgaria) against the Ottoman Empire. The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success. The Balkan Wars resulted in a defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the loss of 85% of its territory in Europe which were and partitioned among the allies.

An important consequence of the Balkan Wars was also the mass expulsion of Muslims from the Balkans. Already beginning in the mid-19th century, hundreds of thousands of Muslims were expelled or forced to flee from the Caucasus and the Balkans as a result of the Russo-Turkish wars and the conflicts in the Balkans. Muslim society in the empire was incensed by this flood of refugees and overcome by a desire for revenge.

After the Balkan Wars (1912-13) the Turkish nationalist movement in the country gradually came to view Anatolia as their last refuge. That the Armenian population formed a significant minority in this region would figure prominently in the calculations of the Young Turks who would eventually carry out the Armenian Genocide. During the First World War, the Turkish authorities accused Armenians of sympathizing with Russia and used it as a pretext to declare the entire Armenian population their enemy.

The Armenian Genocide

The Armenian Genocide, also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, among Armenians, the Great Crime was the Ottoman government’s systematic uprooting and extermination of its minority Armenian population from their historic homeland in Turkey. The starting date of the genocide is conventionally held to be April 24, 1915, the day when Ottoman authorities arrested and massacred some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Constantinople(Istanbul), on orders from the Turkish government. Tragic events took place during and after World War I, in two phases: the wholesale killing and enslavement of the able-bodied males, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. In addition women and children were placed on boats and drowned at sea, or crucified. There is also evidence that children were put to death with poison gas in schools that were converted to death camps.

The total number of Armenians killed as a result is estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million in period of 1915-1923. Armenia claims that the total number of dead exceeds 1.5 million people, the half of all Armenians at the beginning of the last century. The Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, as part of the same genocidal policy. It is considered by many to have been the first modern genocide, due to the organized manner in which the killings were carried out to eliminate the Armenians.

However the Armenian Genocide can also be seen otherwise, not as having begun in 1915, but rather as an ongoing genocide, from 1894, through 1908/9, through World War I and right up to 1923. For example 200,000-300,000 Armenians were massacred in Turkey on period 1894-1896.

Genocide is the organized killing of a people for the express purpose of putting an end to their collective existence. Because of its scope, genocide requires central planning and a machinery to implement it. This makes genocide the quintessential state crime as only a government has the resources to carry out such a scheme of destruction. The Armenian Genocide was centrally planned and administered by the Turkish government against the entire Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire, it was carried out during WWI between the years 1915 and 1918 and the atrocities were renewed between 1920 and 1923.

Recognize or deny

“The nearest successful example [of collective denial] in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governments of the 1915-17 genocide against the Armenians in which 1.5 million people lost their lives. This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda, lying and cover-ups, forging documents, suppression of archives, and bribing scholars.”

(Stanley Cohen, Professor of Criminology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

In recent years, parliaments of several countries have formally recognized the event as genocide. Turkish entry talks with the EU were met with a number of calls to consider the event as genocide though it never became a precondition (so far).

The fact of the Armenian Genocide is recognized by many states. It was first recognized in 1965 by Uruguay. In general, the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey has already been recognized e.g. by Russia, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, and 42 U.S. states. Armenian Genocide was recognized also by the Vatican, European Parliament and the World Council of Churches.

The position of Israel is most interesting or even ambivalent as the Jews have first hand experience about genocide/holocaust. From my perspective more than any other nation, Israel has the moral obligation to recognize the Armenian Genocide. On November 7, 1989 the Union for Reform Judaism passed a resolution on recognition of Armenian Genocide. This year the Knesset held a ceremony to mark the memory of the Turkish genocide of Armenians. MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said before the ceremony that he believes that “as human beings and as Jews, we must not ignore the catastrophe of another nation for any reason, including diplomatic considerations, important as they may be. We will mark the annual memorial day for the massacre of the Armenian people regardless of the relations with today’s Turkey, which is an ally.” Turkey was of course highly displeased with the Knesset’s decision to mark the day. Various events devoted to the subject, which were supposed to be held at the Knesset, were cancelled in recent years because of Turkish pressure. Anyway Israel progressing with this issue as the Knesset’s Education Committee will hold a discussion on Monday (29th Apr.2013) regarding two initiatives presented by Members of Knesset Professor Arieh Eldad (Hatikva) and Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) to recognize the Armenian genocide 1915.

Kurdish recognition of the Armenian Genocide is the recognition of the Kurdish participation in the ethnic cleansing of Armenians during WWI, when Kurdish tribal forces attacked and killed Armenian civilians and refugees. In several of the Kurdish regions, the Kurds participated in the genocide of the Armenians while others opposed the genocide, in many cases even hiding or adopting Armenian refugees.

On 2010 the Serbian Radical Party submitted a draft resolution to the Serbian parliament condemning the genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey against Armenians from 1915 to 1923. SRS submitted the draft so that Serbia can join the countries which have condemned the genocide. At the end of 2011, the Serbs in Bosnia started an initiative to make Armenian genocide denial illegal.

Turkey has consistently denied responsibility for the genocide, which is sometimes referred to as the Armenian Holocaust. Azerbaijan, being in deep strategic alliance with Turkey and in a state of war against Armenia, shares the position of Turkey.

Some countries, including Argentina, Armenia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Uruguay have adopted laws that punish genocide and also in October 2006, the French National Assembly passed a bill which will make Armenian Genocide denial a crime. Last week, France ratified a bill in parliament, according to which denying the 1915 Armenian genocide would be punishable by a jail sentence of up to one year and a 45,000 Euro fine. The bill has yet to receive final approval in the French senate.

Artsakh aka Nagorno-Karabakh

 Docent of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Alexander Perinjiyev believes that the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is inevitable. Moreover, Perinjiyev predicts when Azerbaijan will open hostilities. It would be logical if this military campaign would start immediately after the Olympic Games in Russia’s Sochi.

Old ethnic tensios take place in region also today. Artsakh was the tenth province of the Kingdom of Armenia from 189 BC until 387 AD. Much of historical Artsakh presently overlaps with the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Populated for centuries by Christian Armenian and Turkic Azeris, Karabakh became part of the Russian empire in the 19th century. The conflict has roots dating back well over a century into competition between Christian Armenian and Muslim Turkic and Persian influences.

The conflict started in 1989, when the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast, a predominantly Armenian territory within Soviet Azerbaijan, declared its independence from Azerbaijan and union with Armenia. The resulting tension between the Armenian and Azerbaijani residents soon turned into an ethnic conflict and finally to the 1991–1994 Nagorno-Karabakh War, which ended with a ceasefire that left the current borders. As the Azeris in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and surrounding territories fled to Azerbaijan, the Armenians in Azerbaijan moved to Armenia proper. The total number of displaced people is estimated to be one million. Today, Nagorno-Karabakh is a de facto independent state, calling itself the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It is closely tied to the Republic of Armenia and uses the same currency, the dram. On the other side according to reports as yet unconfirmed Turkey still trains Azerbaijani soldiers in Turkey for the purpose of attacking Armenia.

The political situation in region is quite confusing. Armenia accounts for the Russian military base. Russia sponsors Armenia, actively supports it in many issues one can say that the relations between Moscow and Yerevan have reached the level of allied partnership. It is clear that Russia would not want to lose such an important ally in such a serious and potentially explosive geopolitical region. Azerbaijan has close military ties with NATO member Turkey. Iran, which borders both, is the biggest wildcard; although Shiite Muslim like Azerbaijan, Tehran reviles Baku because of Azerbaijan’s secular orientation, its close ties with Israel, and fears about separatist tendencies among Iran’s large Azeri minority. Iran, ironically, has far better ties with Christian Armenia. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993.

Israel has been developing closer ties with Azerbaijan and have helped modernize the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan. It is claimed that with this cooperation Israel has ”bought” an airport for planned strike against Iranan nuclear facilities. On the other hand Armenian-Jewish relations date back to the time of Armenian emperor Tigranes the great , who, retreating from Judea, took 10,000 Jews with him on his return to the Kingdom of Armenia. Israel itself is home to the Armenian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

The final status of Nagorno-Karabakh is a matter of international mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, France and the United States. At present, the mediation process is at a standstill. Azerbaijan’s position has been that Armenian troops withdraw from all areas of Azerbaijan outside Nagorno-Karabakh and that all displaced persons be allowed to return to their homes before the status of Karabakh can be discussed. Armenia does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as being legally part of Azerbaijan, arguing that because the region declared independence at the same time that Azerbaijan became an independent state, both of them are equally successor states of the Soviet Union. The Armenian government insists that the government of Nagorno-Karabakh be part of any discussions on the region’s future, and rejects ceding occupied territory or allowing refugees to return before talks on the region’s status.

More background information from Genocide1915.info


Freedom 2010 in Balkans and Eastwards

May 1, 2010

“Freedom of the press, freedom of association, the inviolability of domicile, and all the rest of the rights of man are respected so long as no one tries to use them against the privileged class. On the day they are launched against the privileged they are overthrown.” (Prince Peter Kropotkin)

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Different aspects of freedom are globally fundamental value of human rights, civil liberties or human development in general. Human development has been described in UNDP as “a process of enlarging people’s choices”. This in turn requires the freedom of people to make their choices and the opportunities to realize them. Rankings or ratings are one kind of (process) benchmarking in which organizations or in this case states evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice.

In this article I make a short update about political rights and civil liberties, freedom of press and some economical aspects in mostly Balkans and Black Sea regions. As sources (described next paragraph) I have used last reports available. Besides regions mentioned I have included to table also top and worst scores, U.S. as old superpower and BRIC countries as rising superpowers.

Sources of this story:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is is the UN’s global development network. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights, cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change. The Human Development Index (HDI)Table HDR 2009 measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. More: UNDP http://hdr.undp.org/en/

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports the expansion of freedom around the world. Freedom House supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights. Founded in 1941 by prominent Americans organization’s viewpoint is mostly Anglo-American. Freedom House has been publishing its Freedom in the World reports since 1972 and it publishes also Freedom in the Press report since 1980. More: Freedom House

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Together with The Wall Street Journal they publish e.g. “Economic freedom index”. More: The Heritage Foundation.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an independent, international organization incorporated as a Swiss not-for-profit foundation. WEF believes that economic progress without social development is not sustainable, while social development without economic progress is not feasible. WEF aims to be: the foremost organization which builds and energizes leading global communities; the creative force shaping global, regional and industry strategies; the catalyst of choice for its communities when undertaking global initiatives to improve the state of the world. WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. World Economic Forum has published “The Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010” which gives an other viewpoint to economic freedom.

Reporters Without Borders is registered in France as a non-profit organisation and has consultant status at the United Nations. Reporters Without Borders is present in all five continents through its national branches. Reporters Without Borders: defends journalists and media assistants imprisoned or persecuted for doing their job, fights against censorship, gives financial aid to journalists in difficulty and works to improve the safety of journalists, especially those reporting in war zones. Reporters Without Borders has fought for press freedom on a daily basis since it was founded in 1985.

Summary table of Freedom in Balkans, Black Sea and some comparison data

(Note: the order below is made according UNDP’s “Human development index”, in other categories order can be checked from ranks)

Human development index

(UNDP)

Freedom Status

(Freedom House) Political Rights/ Civil Liberties

Economic Freedom (WSJ/THF) & Competitiveness (WEB) Press Freedom (Reporters w. borders/Freedom House)
Rank

(↑..↓

2006)

Country ///

Name & Score

P R C L Status HF/WSJ Rank/Scr

WEB Rank/

Trend

RWB

Rank/ Score

FH Rank
1. Norway (0.971) 1 1 Free 37./69.4 14 +

1./0,00

1
13. ↓ U.S.A. (0.956) 1 1 Free 8./78.0 2 – 20./4.00 24
25. Greece (0.942) 1 2 Free 73./62.7 71 — 35./ 9,00 29
29. Slovenia (0.929) 1 1 Free 61./64.7 37 ++ 37./ 9,50 25
45. Croatia (0.871) 1 2 Free 92./59.2 72 — 78./ 17,17 85
61. ↓ Bulgaria (0.840) 2 2 Free 75./62.3 76 68./15,61 76
63. ↑ Romania (0.837) 2 2 Free 63./64.2 64 + 50./12,50 88
65. Montenegro (0.834) 3 2 Free 68./ 63.6 62 + 77./17,00 80
67. Serbia (0.826) 2 2 Free 104./56.9 93 — 62./ 15,50 78
70. Albania (0.818) 3 3 Partly Free 53./66.0 96 + 82./21,75 102
71. ↑ Russia (0.817) 6 5 Not Free 143./50.3 63 – 153./60,88 175
72. Macedonia FYR (0.817) 3 3 Partly Free 56./65.7 84 + 34./ 8,75 94
75. Brazil (0.813) 2 2 Free 113./ 55.6 56 ++ 71./15,88 88
76. Bosnia-Herzegovina (0.812) 4 3 Partly Free 110./56.2 109 – 39./ 10,50 97
79. ↓ Turkey (0.806) 3 3 Partly Free 67./63.8 61 + 122./ 38,25 106
NA Kosovo (under UN 1244) 5 4 Partly Free NA NA 75./ 16,58 108
84. ↑ Armenia (0.798) 6 4 Partly Free 38./69.2 97 111./31,13 146
85. ↓ Ukraine (0.796) 3 2 Free 162./46.4 82 — 89./ 22,00 108
86. ↑ Azerbaijan (0.787) 6 5 Not Free 96./58.8 51 + 146./53,50 172
88. ↓ Iran (0.782) 6 6 Not Free 168./43.4 NA 172./104,14 187
89. ↑ Georgia (0.778) 4 4 Partly Free 26./70.4 90 81./18,83 126
92. ↑ China (0.772) 7 6 Not Free 140./51.0 29 + 168./84,50 181
117. Moldova (0.720) 3 4 Partly Free 125./53.7 NA 114./33,75 144
134. India (0.612) 2 3 Free 124./53.8 49 + 105./29,33 72
182. Niger (0.340) 5 4 Partly Free 129./52.9 NA 139./ 48,50 151

Full reports and country analysis from each category can be found from related organizations – see sources above.

Some remarks

UNDP’s methodology includes besides data collection a serial of background seminars and regional and thematic events. Due heavy preparation process the report 2009 is based to oldest data mostly from years 2006-2008. The UNDP 2010 report will launch around the world this autumn and will have three parts. First, a systematic assessment of progress and setbacks in human development since the 1970s, in which we discuss what has been achieved, what seems to work, and what are the key gaps and constraints. The second part will revisit the concept of human development – and its measurement (including the Human Development Index) – and propose the enhancements needed to help policy-makers ensure that people are at the centre of development. In this light, the third and final part would highlight concrete implications for policy and development strategies, and outline recommendations for a new development agenda.

Freedom House’s report “Freedom in the World 2010” reflects developments that took place in the calendar year 2009. The full survey, including the individual country reports, will be available in late spring 2010. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions and 15 civil liberties questions. The political rights questions are grouped into three subcategories: Electoral Process (3 questions), Political Pluralism and Participation (4), and Functioning of Government (3). The civil liberties questions are grouped into four subcategories: Freedom of Expression and Belief (4 questions), Associational and Organizational Rights (3), Rule of Law (4), and Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights (4).

Related to some disputed regions Freedom House ranks status of Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh as Partly Free, but South Ossetia and Transdnistria as Not Free.

WEF defines competitiveness as the set of institutions, policies, and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country. The level of productivity, in turn, sets the sustainable level of prosperity that can be earned by an economy. In other words, more-competitive economies tend to be able to produce higher levels of income for their citizens. The productivity level also determines the rates of return obtained by investments in an economy.

Freedom House’s examination of the level of press freedom in each country currently comprises 23 methodology questions and 109 indicators divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, the political environment, and the economic environment. The 2010 report did note some changes in the region that includes Western Balkan countries. Improvements were noted in several countries, including Bulgaria and Ukraine, primarily due to fewer cases of physical attacks and harassment, as well as greater editorial and ownership diversity. Meanwhile, Armenia and Moldova both saw numerical gains as a result of reduced censorship and restrictions on news coverage. The score improvement for Serbia in 2009 reflected the fact that Kosovo was scored separately for the first time in this edition of the survey. Croatia’s score “fell from 38 to 40 due to the removal of and legal action against journalists covering war crimes, organized crime, and corruption. There was also less diversity due to rising concentration of private media ownership.”

Because freedom is so highly valued factor, there is constant debate over exactly what the word means. Disputes are often politically charged, and they are not likely ever to be completely resolved. James P.Young summarizes following:

Analysis of the idea is also complicated because it is impossible to consider freedom without taking into account related concepts such as democracy and constitutionalism, problems such as majority rule and minority rights, and the tension between liberty and equality. The American Declaration of Independence represents one of the climactic moments in the long development of the idea of freedom and arguably achieves universality, despite having grown out of the specific revolutionary situation in the colonies. Yet throughout their history, Americans have argued about how the principles found in the Declaration should be applied. For example, does the right to life rule out the death penalty?

(More e.g. in “A Short Historical Sketch on the Idea of Freedom” by James P. Young)

The bottom line

Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.”(Karl Marx)

While comparing different data it seems that there is some conflict between economic freedom and especially competitiveness and other political rights, civil liberties and press freedom. It remains to be seen whether present global and regional financial turmoil and environmental challenges will change the balance one way or the other.

We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.”(Sir Karl Popper)

Related articles:

Balkans and Failed States Index (Jan. 2009/failed state index based on social, economical and political inducators)

Competitiveness of Balkans (Oct. 2008)

Freedom in Balkans (Jan. 2009/political rights and civil liberties. Democracy, economy, poverty, movement)


EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?

May 15, 2009

Despite the efforts to save energy a strong scenario for near future is that the quantity of gas needed in EU region will remain same as today if not bigger.  sources of gas are widely known the essential question is how the gas is arriving to European markets.  Environmental and technical aspects can be handled as well economical ones; the real battlefield is (geo) political and it’s much more effective than energy issue itself.

In today’s Europe the core of energy war is the struggle between South Stream and Nabucco pipe lines, which also is one of the most divisive issue inside EU.  The Brussels bureaucracy favour the Nabucco project, a transit route bypassing both Russia and Ukraine, while a part of EU member states, EU energy giants and gas producers are favouring Russia’s South Stream.

Latest developments


EU, Russia as well companies interested about gas business have all activated when decisions are needed to define the final route of gas to European markets.

a) EU


The common factor with both pipelines is that they are eliminating Ukraine’s transit monopoly.  Publicly EU has probably due political motives planned update Ukraine’s gas pipeline network like during The International Investment Conference on March 23rd 2009 in Brussels. Russia has not been invited to discuss the terms of gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine’s gas pipeline network for three years but Ukraine is hoping part of requested $5.5 bn modernization costs from EU in name of EU energy security. Gas buyers and transit operators may have their views, but the question still remains what they can buy and on which terms.  EU bureaucrats are making a fatal miscalculation if they are building energy infrastructure without source of energy itself.

The EU Commission has included the Nabucco pipeline in its list of priority projects,  despite pressure from Germany and Italy. But the EU cut its budget funding of the project by 20% getting some 200 million euros for first stage of the project.Nabucco is likely to rely heavily on subsidies from the EU. Several member countries questioned the economics of the project.

The European Union and Turkey gave fresh political impetus on 8thMay 2009 in Prague to the Nabucco pipeline project, although key Central Asian gas suppliers held off on pledging their support. But it also needs gas, which may be a problem as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan refused to sign the final declaration in Prague, unlike two other suppliers — Azerbaijan and Egypt — and two key transit nations — Turkey and Georgia. But Mr Gul also made clear he expected some progress on Turkey’s stalled EU membership talks.  Earlier Turkey’s premier, in a rare visit to Brussels on January 19, tested Europe’s reaction, saying that he will review his support for Nabucco if the Energy Chapter of its EU accession talks is blocked. “If we are faced with a situation where the energy chapter is blocked, we would of course review our position,” he said. (Neweurope 26 January 2009) The Declaration of Southern Corridor Summit here .


b) Russia


Russia has floated plans for a new global treaty on trade in fossil and nuclear fuel in an attempt to consign to history an earlier pact, the 1991 Energy Charter Treaty. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled the project during his state visit in Finland on 20th April 209. “Our task today is to maintain, or rather ensure for the future, the balance of producers of energy resources, transit states and consumers of energy resources,” he said. The new pact is to cover oil, gas, nuclear fuel, coal and electricity and to include the US, China and India as well as European countries.

On 15th May 2009 four agreements shall be signed in Sochi: the national companies of Serbia, , Bulgaria and Italy shall sign agreement with the Russian ‘Gazprom.  One of them is agreement between Serbia’s Srbijagas and Russia’s Gazprom on route of Southern Stream pipeline through Serbia with length about 450 kilometers.  There shall be also a fifth agreement – bilateral agreement between Russia and Italy, which shall be signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi. (Blic 13.5.2009)

c) Companies

The consortium behind the Nabucco now comprises six national energy companies: Botas (Turkey), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), Transgaz (Romania), MOL (Hungary), OMV (Austria), and RWE (Germany). However on Jan. 25, 2008 OMV sealed a deal for a joint venture with Gazprom for extending Baumgarten’s storage and distribution capacity. Accordingly, Gazprom holds a 50 percent stake there.  Moreover, OMV has been buying into Hungary’s MOL. Considering Russia’s significant share in OMV, any amount of OMV ownership of MOL again translates into stakes for Russia’s energy giant. Even further challenging the Nabucco project is the fact that OMV and MOL, together with yet a third consortium member, Bulgargaz, have already signed up to Gazprom’s South Stream project.

Nabucco


The pipeline that the EU hopes will bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Austria takes its name from Giuseppe Verdi’s 1842 opera, Nabucco. The work tells the story of the oppression and exile of Hebrew slaves by Nabucco, a Babylonian king, better known to the English world as Nebuchadnezzar. The opera deals with the eternal quest for freedom, but the choice of name may yet prove fateful for a project that is facing so many obstacles to its completion.
The pipeline is supposed to transport around 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually. In terms of gas suppliers the project’s backers have named Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

However Turkmenistan’s gas output is contracted to Russia up until 2028. Azerbaitzan also does not have the amounts required so as for the project to be profitable in the long run. The possibility of Iranian gas is far from realistic due to its nuclear program and the adamant denial by Israel and the opponent Sunni Arab states.  Nabucco is still counting on gas supplies from Azerbaijan despite a memorandum of understanding signed between Russia’s Gazprom and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan SOCAR signed on March 30th 2009 clearly shows the growing interest of Azerbaijan in cooperation with Russia.

32 European countries are clients of Russia’s Gazprom.  Despite EU declarations and investment plans the US-backed Nabucco natural gas pipeline is dying a slow death. Even its strongest supporters have a hard time demonstrating its commercial viability. The risk for Nabucco is that if the supply and funding issues are not sorted out, the EU’s dream of energy freedom will remain an aspiration rather than a reality.

South Stream


Its planned route would run from the Russian Black Sea coast across the seabed to Bulgaria, then bifurcate into a southern branch to Greece and southern Italy and a northern branch into Serbia, Hungary, and Austria, with a potential detour to Slovenia and northern Italy.

Bulgaria and Hungary have both signed government agreements on joining South Stream. Austria is also in talks and has already agreed to sell Gazprom 50 percent of the shares in Baumgarten, the gas hub where Nabucco is supposed to end, while Turkey already operates a direct sub-marine pipeline linking it to Russia – Blue Stream.  Also Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just the EU Nabucco project.

On December 2008, Russia and Serbia signed an umbrella agreement providing political guarantees that Serbia will receive a stretch of the South Stream gas pipeline and that the underground gas storage facility in Banatski Dvor will be finalized.  At the same time a 51 % stake of Serbian Oil Industry (NIS) was sold to Gazprom.Slovenia backed South Stream gas pipeline in the midst of a European gas crisis Jan. 2009 while Gazprom tried to secure pledges on the South Stream gas pipeline to Italy.  The Slovenian delegation said during the meeting the implementation of the South Stream project would both diversify the European energy sector and allow Russia to transit its gas without obstacles.  A portion of the pipeline would travel through Serbia and Hungary with options to include a leg through Slovenia to northern Italy.

In September 2008, Uzbekistan and Russia agreed to build a new pipeline with a capacity of 26 to 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually to pump Uzbek and Turkmen gas to Europe. Such a pipeline will again undermine the US efforts to pump trans-Caspian energy routes bypassing Russia.

The technical and economic assessment of the land where the pipeline will lie is planned to be completed by the end of 2009, while the assessment of facility’s underground stretches should be finished in early 2010.  Russia’s Gazprom plans to start gas deliveries to Europe through the future South Stream pipeline no later than 2015.

Iran

However, the whole situation is good for Iran. Some experts believe that without Iran the “Nabucco” project will remain unimplemented, while its participation could give an impulse to the process.  Iran has the  largest gas reserves in the world after Russia  and Turkmenistan (27,5 trillion cubic meters, or 18% of the world’s gas reserves and 33% of that of the OPEC).

But is there gas coming from Iran?  Iran uses the lion’s share of produced gas (360 million cubic meters daily) for civil purposes. By the year 2014 Tehran plans to provide gas to 93% of the population of 630 cities and to 18% of the rural population in more than 4,000 villages. Iran’s factories and electric power plants also need much gas. Another share of the produced gas Iran has to inject into its reserves to keep oil production at a high level (experts say this help Iran increase output by more than 30%). Iran has long been enjoying infrastructure for oil exports but yet has not such for exporting gas.

On February 21st 2009 the Iranian and Turkmeni governments signed an agreement that will give Iran the rights to develop the Yolotan gas field in Turkmenistan. The deal will help Iran resolve gas supply problems in its north-eastern provinces. Turkmenistan will sell Iran an additional 350 billion cubic feet of gas annually, more than doubling current supplies of almost 300 bcf a year, according to the agreement first disclosed by Iran’s official media and later confirmed by Turkmenistan.

Iran also recently offered to invest $1.7 billion for a 10 percent stake in the second phase of Azerbaijan’s huge Shah-Deniz gas field which will come on line by 2014. Iran already has a 10 percent share in the first phase and it wants to import large volumes of gas from the Azeri field. For Iran, the deals couldn’t be better suited to its objectives. It’s economically unviable currently to supply gas to its isolated, north-eastern third of the country. Getting gas from Turkmenistan would therefore make more Iranian gas available for export to Turkey. Also, connecting both Caspian countries to Iran via pipeline would allow Tehran to accomplish its long-held objective of transiting any gas production increases from its neighbours to customers in Europe, the Persian Gulf, or Asia.

Turkmenistan


Preliminary indications are the gas reserves in Turkmenistan is around 38.4 TCM – far more than Iran and just 20% lower than Russia. The biggest gas field discovery was in October 2008 – called the Yoloten Osman deposits. It is located near the Afghan – Turkmenistan border. Turkmenistan has contracts to supply Russia with 50 bcm annually, China with 40 bcm and Iran with 8 bcm annually. The Russian energy giant Gazprom requires this Turkmen gas to meet its export obligations in the European market, which accounts for 70% of the its total revenue. Gazprom sells 2/3 of Russia’s 550 bcm annual gas production in the rapidly growing domestic market. This compels it to secure Turkmen supplies to meet contracted European demands.

Nabucco vs. South Stream

Gazprom has received an invitation to join the Nabucco pipeline project to pump gas from Central Asia to Europe, but will not take up the offer, a deputy head of Russia’s energy giant said. In an interview with Vesti TV on Monday, Alexander Medvedev said Gazprom would stick with its South Stream project and stay out of Nabucco. “Unlike in the case of Nabucco, we have everything we need for this project [South Stream] to materialize,” he said. “We have gas, the market, experience in implementing complex projects, and corporate management.”

The Nabucco route does circumvent Ukraine, but it is from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, goes under Caspian Sea, passes across Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia. So many countries in pipeline are creating multiple political risk compared to South Stream which goes from Russia under Black Sea directly to EU zone.  Besides, Nabucco is going to lack the resource base adequate to its transit capacities unless the project is joined, for example, by Iran, but this is politically problematic.
The shareholders of the Nabucco consortium are: Botas (Turkey), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), MOL (Hungary), OMV(Austria), RWE(Germany) and Transgaz (Romania).  OMV, MOL and Bulgargaz have also signed up to South Stream pipeline, which bypasses Turkey. It is unrealistic to think that both South Stream and Nabucco will happen, but companies  want to make sure at least one of them happens and be part of that.

The current timeframe, assuming that the outstanding issues are resolved, is that Nabucco  would come on-stream in 2013, two years after Nord Stream, the planned Baltic pipeline, which has already secured both supplies and finance for the construction work.

Some geopolitical aspects

The EU’s new “southern corridor” has been dubbed a version of U.S. “Silk Road Strategy” aimed to block Russia from gas fields around Caspian Sea and its connection to Iran (More in my article “Is GUUAM dead?).   The South Pars natural gas field brings a new element to change original U.S. plan as it is a sign of a long-term energy alliance between Moscow and Tehran and with active participation of the EU. Turkey and Armenia may be join the project as transit countries. Naturally, this leaves Washington very few chances to lobby its energy projects in the region aimed at using Azerbaijan and Georgia as the so-called ‘Caucasus communication corridor’.

In addition Russia, Iran and Qatar have taken the decision to form a “big gas troika”.  The idea is that three countries – with 60 % of global gas reserves – will work on joint projects accross the entire gas chain from geological exploration and production to distributionand marketing gas. Alexey Miller – Head of Gazprom – stated at the end the meeting that “we are united by the world’s largest gas reserves, common strategic interests and, which is very important, high potential for cooperation within tripartite projects.

There is also a question about Turkey.  The South Stream pipeline will run from Russia directly to Bulgaria across the Black Sea. Russia is diversifying its gas supply routes so as not to depend on one transport hub. It might perhaps be cheaper to build the new pipeline along existing route of the Blue Stream, which crosses the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey, than to lay a new route on the seabed. This, however, would increase the aggregate capacity of the two streams to about 48 billion cubic meters, giving the Turks a great deal of influence on Russian supplies.Russia and the EU countries do not want this to happen.  On the other side Greece, which is taking part in the construction of an oil pipeline from Burgas in Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis, has announced its readiness to join the South Stream project. This makes sense, as apart from bringing economic dividends it will make Greece an international energy hub on a par with Turkey.

Bottom line

In conclusion EC is pushing imaginary project of Nabucco pipes with support of drowning USA who’s last straw of Silk Road blocking strategy Nabucco is.  EU countries as well non-member states are pushing national interests;  Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are looking the best deal, Russia tries keep domination of gas markets and secure the resources, EU companies are playing with two cards to secure being with winners side and EP of course is bystander.

More my articles one may find from my BalkanBlog!


Is GUUAM dead?

November 4, 2008

After “Cold War” US has all the while expanded its influence post-Soviet territory with aim to guide those region’s natural resources under US companies.  As stakes have been control over the oil and gas  of the Caspian Sea/Black Sea/Caucasus basin, and the control of multiple key energy pipelines criss-crossing the region.  Economical interests have been linked to political game e.g. Nato enlargement.  While EU has been more bystander Russia has during last couple of years weight down the scale in favour of its own interests by series of successful operations.

GUUAM & SRS

GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.  GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically.

From its part GUUAM was designed to support sc. Silk Road Strategy Act – adopted by US Cogress March 1999 –  which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Silk Road Strategy (SRS) outlines a framework for the development of America’s business empire through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.  (More about this in my previous article “War on Pipes” Sep. 2008, in my Archive:Blog )

Cracks

Now GUUAM is coming to end of its short road.  Already earlier Uzbekistan withdraw from it leaving behind a stump GUAM.  Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today’s situation and possibility to escalate to “small intensity war” between present Georgian leadership and separatist regions Abkhazia and South-Ossetia.

Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives.  Russia has offered its help to solve Moldova’s long term problem with Transdnistria and if a federation model will be accepted by local stakeholders it probably neutralizes Moldova’s position between US/EU and Russia.

Last weekend was also highlight of tendency where political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other.  Russia again took the initiative acting as a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan to solve long term conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh and a common memorandum signed 2nd November 2008 is first step of solution.

The last piece of GUUAM is Ukraine, which is deeply divided pro-Russian East and pro-Nato/EU West.  When political struggle now has made cracks also inside western orientated part also this last fortress has degenerated to stagnation.

KO

Parallel with Russia’s able foreign policy the US actions have been short-sighted, weak and fruitless.  Waiting for elections and financial turmoil have took their part but in energy sector also some states in South-America have now more independent and selfish position than before.  Same time Iraq occupation is coming to end when also Alaska can keep its energy reserves when new US President takes his office the perspectives of US energy giants are more foggy than for a long time.

If one would like to see a bright side with this depression – or even knock out –  of US foreign/energy policy it could be the need to reduce pollutions and to support alternative energy solutions which at global scale could help to deal with clima change.


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