Georgia proposes EU-like union for the caucasus in talks with Turkey
Georgia's president over the weekend urged Turkey to help realize the unification of the Southern Caucasus, but without Russia or Iran in the alliance. "The emergence of a united Caucasus is my aspiration," Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili reportedly told Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu during their meeting in Tbilisi on Saturday, the Georgian Presidency's press office said. Saakashvili reportedly expressed his belief in the concept of "open borders" across the region, saying this idea is already being discussed with the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides. The Georgian president also proposed a similar project during Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's visit to Georgia last year, but experts had little hope that it would be realized. Three countries in the South Caucasus established a federation following the 1917 revolution in Russia, but the union soon fell apart as Azerbaijan opposed going to war against the Ottomans at the time. Following the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan and Armenia also fought a full-scale armed conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan has resisted, thus far, cooperation with Armenia unless the country withdraws its troops from occupied territories. "There is a long way to materialization of the current idea, yet this is a positive proposed step," Saakashvili said, underlining the importance of an initiative enabling citizens of both Turkey and Georgia to travel with only state identity cards. Turkey proposed a similar initiative in 2008 following the August war between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway South Ossetia region, but Turkey said Russia should also be in the Caucasus Cooperation and Stability Platform.