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OPINION - Turkic world on edge of historic revival

OPINION - Turkic world on edge of historic revival
Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council) is ready to greet its long awaited partner Uzbekistan as a new member while Turkmenistan is expected to be an observer state. On the other side of the world, another observer member of the Cou

By Turan Gafarli

- The writer is Assistant Researcher at TRT World Research Centre and focuses on the post-Soviet space and the Turkic World. He holds a B.A. in History and Politics from Queen Mary University of London and an M.A. in Transnational Studies from University College London.

ISTANBUL (AA) - Since the breakdown of the Soviet Union (USSR), the social, economic and political union of the Turkic-speaking states has been one of the main issues on the agenda regarding regional geopolitics.

Historically, Turkey’s position during the Soviet years of the Central Asian countries was clear. As a NATO member state, Turkey was taking cautious steps to be closer to Moscow while keeping in mind the potential of close cultural ties with the Turkic states after a possible breakdown of the USSR. Thus, dreams about the unity of the Turkic world emerged once again after the dissolution of the socialist empire, with the famous motto “Unity in language, thought and action” [1] by the Crimean intellectual Ismail Gaspirali becoming the ideological driving force for future actions.

In 1991, Turkey was the first country to recognize the independence of the Turkic states and promised political and economic guidance to Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

As a result, the very first Summit of the Heads of Turkic Speaking States in 1992 held in Ankara was quite promising. The Summit helped produce a number of very progressive ideas, such as the free movement of goods and services, the foundation of a common investment and development bank, the integration of communication systems, and most importantly, using Turkey as the main transit hub in the delivery of the hydrocarbon exports of the newly independent states. However, these goals fell short of coming to fruition because of some serious obstacles, first and foremost because of the still ongoing Armenian invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh, the isolationist foreign policy of Turkmenistan, and the low level of relations between Ankara and Tashkent during the reign of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

The cultural cooperation, however, did not slow down despite the hardships being experienced in the political sphere. The foundation of the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) in 1993 was a big step towards bettering the chances of political cooperation even though its mission has been limited to non-political binding of Turkic-speaking communities from all over the world sharing a common culture and heritage. Nevertheless, a political and diplomatic entity was necessary to act upon the economic and geopolitical vision stated in the final declaration of the Ankara Summit.

The process accelerated when the Nakhchivan Agreement of 2009 initiated the Turkic Council. Since its emergence, the Council set itself ambitious goals and has since been endeavoring to address a wide range of issues from infrastructure and logistic projects between member states to cooperation in business, education and sports.

For example, in tandem with its educational arm, the Turkic Academy, the Council has been preparing a Turkic history textbook for the member states [2]. The Council has very visibly been making effort to fill a yawning gap between Turkic states created over a very long period, during the era of colonialism and the communist regime.

Now, the organization is on the brink of a historical revival, which could engender a bright new understanding about the relations between the East and the West. Hungary, an EU-member country, shows strong interest in the mission of the Council. Hungarian application to become an observer state, Prime Minister Orban’s attendance in the Sixth Summit of the Turkic Council and his declaration of respect to the Turkic roots of Hungary [3] reached its zenith with the opening of the Council’s Budapest office [4]. Having an EU-member state on the board not just contributes to the improving image of the Council, but could boost the confidence of the other nations that share a common heritage with the Turkic states to consider joining the organization.

Following the strong interest they showed, Hungary, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan also began to soften in the foreign policy towards the other Turkic countries. Turkmenistan had already given the green light for the cooperation between the Turkic states with the declaration of Mary as the Cultural Capital of the Turkic World [5] by TURKSOY for 2015. In addition, positive attitudes of the new Uzbek president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, towards Ankara and his will to place Tashkent on a new foreign policy course became hugely beneficial for the Turkic World.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s announcement of Uzbekistan’s full membership application [6] and Turkmenistan’s application for observer state to the Council demonstrates that, on the 10th Anniversary of the Nakhchivan Agreement, the Council is taking firm steps along its declared path.

Obviously, the need for a new understanding and alternatives in the East-West relations is the main driving force behind the great interest shown in the Council. Initiatives like the Belt and Road, a.k.a. the “New Silk Road”, or the possibility of a future economic unity of Turkic-speaking states can be the real game changers for the Turkic world and its further development. As the dissolution of the Soviet Union brought a fresh breeze to the region, now it is time for the Turkic Council to build a new reality for regional geopolitics and accomplish the dreams of the Turkic Council in the name of common good, peace and prosperity in the world.

* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

Twitter: @aturanq

[1] http://www.iccrimea.org/gaspirali/gasptimeline.html
[2] https://www.turkkon.org/en/isbirligi-alanlari/education-science_4/common-turkic-history-textbook_18
[3] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/teoman-ertugrul-tulun/hungarian-rhapsody-for-turkic-council-137540
[4] https://www.trtworld.com/europe/turkic-council-inaugurates-office-in-budapest-29910
[5] https://akipress.com/news:552349:Mary_announced_cultural_capital_of_Turkic_World_in_2015/
[6] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/politics/uzbekistan-applied-to-join-turkic-council-turkey-s-cavusoglu/1580235

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