Following a war with Georgia in the early 1990s, Abkhazia adopted a new constitution in 1994 and formally declared independence in 1999. It has been recognized only by Russia. In the meantime, Turkey responded positively to a 1995 call by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) for imposing economic sanctions on Abkhazia and canceled direct cruises between the ports of Trabzon and Sukhumi.
According to figures provided by Bal, around 2 million Circassians live in Turkey, of whom 500,000 are Abkhaz. Tens of thousands of Abkhaz citizens of Turkey have been traveling to Abkhazia through Russia using transit visas.
"The absence of direct transportation between to Abkhazia is of no benefit to Turkey. This is harming Turkey commercially as well as leading to a loss of prestige," Bal told Today's Zaman, urging Turkish authorities to restart regular boat traffic between ports of Trabzon and Sukhumi.
Last week, in response to an official question from Tayfun Süner -- an Antalya deputy of the main opposition of the Republican People's Party (CHP) -- Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Ankara has conveyed to both Georgian and Abkhazian authorities its willingness to contribute to resolution of the Abkhazian issue.
"Within this framework and within the context of implementing confidence-building measures, our proposal for starting boat traffic between Trabzon and Sukhumi has been repeatedly put on the agenda. However, no progress has been made on this matter to date," Babacan said in his response, underlining that implementation of confidence-building measures would only be possible with the agreement of all parties.