Eurasian Economic Summit Istanbul: “A Post-Coronavirus New World; Under the Guidance of Belt and Road Initiative.”

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The 23rd Eurasia Economic Summit has just finished and was hosted by Turkey’s Marmara Group in Istanbul. The Presidents of 45 countries, Senate and Chairmen, State People, Academicians and Clergy and officials of international high-level organizations came together via satellite; under the title “A Post-Coronavirus New World; Under the Guidance of Belt and Road Initiative.”

Regrettably, the forum was used as a platform to beat up Armenia concerning the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan, with speeches both by the Turkish hosts and Azerbaijan providing a not unbiased, and somewhat confrontational flavor to the proceedings. That is a shame, as the opportunity was essentially lost to restrict Armenian/Azerbaijani negotiations to the sidelines, important as they are, and momentum lost to regional political point scoring at the expense of the bigger interconnecting picture.

Akkan Suver, the Chair of the Marmara Foundation, said the world will be more global and multilateral after the Covid-19 pandemic, stating that the Belt & Road Initiative would be “more vital than ever as countries around the world have realized the importance of global cooperation in handling issues like COVID-19. Countries must support each other more than ever.” he said, emphasizing the importance of solidarity among them.

Turkish Mayor Turan Hancerli stated that “We believe that the world will be a place where all countries would intensify their cooperation in an atmosphere of peace and stability in the light of the BRI,” he said. While the agenda was supposed to deal with various issues in the post-pandemic era, including the new world economy, sustainable energy policies and regional conflicts, posturing over the Armenian/Azerbaijani conflict dominated meaning much momentum to explore multilateral ties and cooperation was lost. Lip service was given to the importance of the position of Eurasia in the post-pandemic world order in their presentations on economy and energy.

The need for a new normal was raised in the long-term sustainable energy policies sessions in Eurasia after the economic session and the coronavirus epidemic, which was held with the stated recognisary introduction to the new world economy and the new world. That will have pleased China, as attendees effectively endorsed a China, and to some extent Russia-centric new continent while implying criticism of the United States. This was underlined in the Presidents’ session, where the need for new statesmen in a new world was brought up. It was stated that the Belt and Road initiative is a new source of hope for peace in the need for a global principle after the pandemic.

This said, the conference ended with a decision to compose their own ‘Karabakh Declaration’ – a somewhat one-sided condemnation of Armenia with the exact same title as an 48 hour earlier EU missive but containing completely different sentiments. It was a deliberate attempt to hijack democratic sentiments.

It was also a lost opportunity to put a complex territorial issue to one side and concentrate on what should have been a rather more detailed discussion and platform concerning Eurasian interconnectivity and trade. As such it rather highlighted regional differences than cooperation. The development of Eurasia did not materialise, at least at this conference, into any meaningful or constructive dialogue. That is partially due to the hosts lack of objectivity – not a quality considered moderators should possess. The organisers need to consider how to reestablish credibility within a format that should be useful – but has instead descended into partisan realpolitik.

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