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Members of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) should develop a common security concept and increase their cooperation when it comes to preventing and managing irregular migration, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday.

Speaking at the ninth OTS leaders' summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Erdogan said: “We are going through a sensitive period that bears opportunities as well as risks for our countries. During this period, it has become more critical to strengthen our cooperation, solidarity and harmony in all fields.”

“Since 2014, Türkiye has been the country hosting the largest number of refugees in the world. We believe it would be beneficial to expand cooperation in the prevention and management of irregular migration. Within this scope, it would be on target to develop a common security concept and continue security council secretary meetings.”

He added that it would be beneficial for the organization to implement the Turkish Investment Fund “as soon as possible.”

"It would be beneficial to implement the Turkish Investment Fund as soon as possible. I believe that the financial opportunities provided by the fund will strengthen our cooperation and accelerate our activities," Erdogan said.

Türkiye led the summit of Central Asian countries, aiming to strengthen economic ties with the region's resource-rich ex-Soviet states while Moscow is distracted by the war in Ukraine.

Erdogan presided over the OTS summit in Uzbekistan's historic city of Samarkand.

The OTS is an interstate bloc, established with the aim of expanding cooperation between Turkish-speaking countries in the fields of politics, economics, science, education, transport, and tourism.

The members of the organization are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Türkiye, and Uzbekistan. Hungary and Turkmenistan have observer status in the organization.

The group could expand further if isolated Turkmenistan becomes a fully-fledged member – an expansion announced by Türkiye's Foreign Ministry but not confirmed by Ashgabat.

If Turkmenistan does join, the union set up in 2009 will incorporate all the Central Asian countries that speak languages in the Turkic group.

The group last year dropped its former name, the Turkic Council, in favor of the Organization of Turkic States.

The presidents of Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Türkiye, the prime minister of Hungary and the head of the upper house of the Parliament of Turkmenistan participated in the event.

Fight against FETÖ

Erdogan underlined that Türkiye will pursue its struggle against the PKK terrorist organization and its Syrian offshoot, the YPG, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), Daesh and al-Qaida, pledging to not stop until the terrorist threat toward the country is eradicated, adding that Türkiye expects the support of the Turkic countries in its fight against FETÖ.

The summit took place under the slogan "A new era of Turkic civilization: On the way to common development and prosperity."

The participants of the meeting discussed economic cooperation and issues on the current international agenda.

Türkiye passed the chairmanship to Uzbekistan and the Samarkand Declaration was adopted as part of the event.

Ankara has for several years been pushing for closer cultural, linguistic and religious ties with several ex-Soviet countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

This is Erdogan's third trip to the region in less than two months.

"While transforming our council into an organization, we also laid the foundation for a unique and effective structure. The 2040 Turkic World Vision Document, which we accepted in Istanbul, forms the framework of our cooperation. We want to consolidate our cooperation in areas such as politics, security, trade, customs, transportation, energy, health, informatics, education, youth and sports," Erdogan continued.

The International Trade Center (ITC), a Geneva-based agency attached to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations, says that the volume of Turkish-Central Asian trade in 2019 amounted to some $7.3 billion.

That figure falls far behind Central Asia's volume of trade with the European Union and Russia, which the ITC says amounted that year to around $29 billion, and China ($25 billion).

Karabakh peace

On the second anniversary of Azerbaijan's Karabakh victory, the president reiterated Ankara's support to Baku.

Ankara stands by Baku in its pursuit of peace as well as in its struggle, Erdogan added. "The peace process in the South Caucasus is still fragile despite all the initiatives by Azerbaijan.”

Türkiye was a key backer of Azerbaijan during the 44-day Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia that erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, and ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire on Nov. 10.

Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military illegally occupied Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.

Clashes erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, with the Armenian Army attacking civilians and Azerbaijani forces, violating several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and around 300 settlements and villages that had been occupied by Armenia for almost 30 years.

The fighting ended with a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10, 2020, which was seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia.

However, the cease-fire has been broken several times since then.

After the conflict ended, Azerbaijan launched a massive reconstruction initiative in the liberated Karabakh region.

On another note, the president also touched upon Türkiye’s efforts to end the war in Ukraine and said: “Türkiye is making every effort to end the conflict going on for nine months in Ukraine with a fair peace while making the necessary interventions to prevent a food crisis.”

Supreme Order of Turkic World

Erdo?an also received the Supreme Order of the Turkic World award in Uzbekistan in recognition of his services to better the world of his Turkic brethren.

"As the Turkic world, we are stronger today than yesterday," Erdo?an said after receiving the honor, adding that the OTS has turned into an international organization that is taking "firm steps" towards the future.

He also congratulated Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban for his country serving as a bridge between Europe and the Turkic world with their observer member status in the group, as well as for Budapest's efforts for democracy in the EU.

The EU has stalled Türkiye's membership process for over 50 years, and Ankara will give "the necessary response when needed," Erdogan added.

The Supreme Order of the Turkic World honor places a "great responsibility on me," Erdogan said, and continued: "I am determined to continue our efforts to strengthen the solidarity between our peoples, to improve relations between our states, and to further enhance the international reputation of our organization."

Meanwhile, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev praised Türkiye's chairmanship in the OTS.

"I would like to emphasize that over the past year, during Türkiye's chairmanship in our organization, significant and multifaceted work has been done, and our cooperation has intensified even more," he told the leaders of the organization in Samarkand.

In face of the "alarming" global situation, difficult challenges related to the growing geopolitical confrontation, and negative consequences of the global economic crisis and climate change, Mirziyoyev called on the Turkic countries to identify common approaches and coordinate efforts in solving the most pressing problems.

The Uzbek president said, "a huge work" was done jointly to develop ties among the OTS members, however, the potential has not been completely unlocked -- the trade turnover among members mounts to only 4% of the total volume, partly due to high customs tariffs.

To address the situation, Mirziyoyev suggested organizing a "space of new economic opportunities" within the Turkic states, increasing trade and discussing common problems at an annual International Turkic Economic Forum.

He also urged to strengthen transport ties by building the infrastructure and developing capabilities of the Trans-Caspian corridor -- the route running via the Caspian Sea.

"We call on the member countries of the organization to join the system of electronic exchange of permits in the field of transport, recently introduced between Türkiye and Uzbekistan," he said.

Mirziyoyev also suggested ensuring food security, saying that adopting a multilateral agreement on the establishment of an effective food supply system within the OTS, holding an annual agricultural Turkic forum, and cooperation in agriculture and food production would contribute to achieving this goal.

The president voiced concern over the deteriorating security situation in the world, pointing out that Uzbekistan neighbors one of the most conflict-torn countries in the world -- Afghanistan.

"Of course, we are all seriously concerned about the situation in neighboring Afghanistan today. ... We advocate for a regular dialogue between the foreign ministers of the organization's member countries in order to develop common approaches to the Afghan issue," he stressed.

Mirziyoyev expressed gratitude for the designation of Samarkand "the capital of the Turkic civilization" and Bukhara the 2022 youth capital of the OTS.

"We are rightfully proud of our common great ancestors, who wrote bright pages in the ancient history of the Turkic world," he said.

The Uzbek president offered to hold an International Congress of Science and Innovation of the youth of the Turkic world in Uzbekistan next year and to establish a position of the OTS deputy secretary general for youth affairs.

He also suggested reforming the OTS Secretariat-General to make it an effective mechanism for implementing all OTS tasks and increasing its international role.

Mirziyoyev put forward two more initiatives in culture -- holding a Festival of Culture of the Turkic Peoples next year as part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the organization and publishing a 100-volume collection, Pearls of Turkic Literature, in the languages of all participating countries and observers.

He also said the Turkic states have entered into a completely new stage of development under the motto "A new era of Turkic civilization: On the way to common progress and prosperity," noting that preserving, studying, and passing Turkic heritage to future generations is among of the most important tasks of the OTS.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also suggested granting Erdo?an the Highest Order of the Turkic World.

Speaking at the summit, Tokayev praised Türkiye's chairmanship in the grouping last year, stressing that Erdogan personally made a significant contribution to increase the organization's authority and strengthen its influence.

"I am sure that fraternal Türkiye, which will celebrate the centenary of the proclamation of the Republic next year, will continue to contribute to strengthening our cooperation. In this regard, I would like to propose to present Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the Highest Order of the Turkic World," Tokayev said.

According to him, the proposal found "unanimous support" among other leaders.

Tokayev said current geopolitical and economic contradictions have a negative impact on the economies, and transport and logistic systems of Eurasia, and urged solidarity to counter challenges and threats.

The Kazakh president also pledged commitment to the principle of territorial integrity of all states and respect to the U.N. Charter.

"This is a necessary principle that fully corresponds to the basic interests of our country. Therefore, we will give priority to this principle," he said.

Tokayev stressed the necessity to promote the OTS in the media to draw the attention of the world community to the Turkic civilization and supported the idea of Mirziyoyev about strengthening transport ties, pointing out that the Turkic states connect West and East, North and South.

"In the current transition period, it is very important to increase the potential of transport and transit communications and maximize the use of their capabilities," he said.

According to Tokayev, Kazakhstan spent $35 billion over the last 15 years on developing logistics and plans to attract $20 billion of investment by 2025 for further elaboration of transport arteries.

He called the Transcaspian route, running through the territories of three fraternal states-Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Türkiye-"a striking example" of successful cooperation in transport.

Another important area is cooperation in the IT sector, Tokayev said and offered to establish for this purpose the center of digitalization of the OTS and a venture fund of the Turkic states to attract investments in important IT startups.

He also said climate, science and education are "important issues" of the organization's agenda, moving forward an idea of forming "a unified chain of higher educational institutions."

"I propose to consider the establishment in 2023 of a unified network of universities of Turkic countries, which will allow our students to study Turkic languages and get acquainted with the history and culture of fraternal peoples," he said.


Since the breakdown of the Soviet Union, social, economic and political union of the Turkic Speaking states became one of the main issues in the agenda for the regional geopolitics.
[b]The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States is ready to welcome Uzbekistan as a new member while Turkmenistan expects to become an observer state.  Turkey's  position on

Central Asian countries during the Soviet years was clear. As a NATO member, Turkey was trying to cautiously flirt with Moscow while keeping in mind the potentially close cultural ties after the possible breakdown of the USSR.

Thus, dreams about the unity of the Turkic World remerged once again after the dissolution of the socialist empire and the famous motto “Unity in language, thought and action” by the Crimean intellectual Ismail Gaspirali became the ideological driving force for future actions.

In 1991, Turkey was the first country to recognise 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. Progressive ideas like the free movement of goods and services, foundation of common investment and development bank, integration of communication systems and the most importantly, using Turkey as main transit hub in the delivery of the hydrocarbon exports of newly independent states were set as a target.

However, these goals were not met due to several disruptions and noticeably because of the ongoing invasion in Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenian forces, isolationist foreign policy of Turkmenistan and low-level relationship between Ankara and Tashkent during the reign of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

However, cultural cooperation did not slow down. The foundation of the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) in 1993 was a big step towards future political cooperation attempts even though its mission is limited to the non-political bonding of Turkic speaking communities from all over the world. Nevertheless, a political and diplomatic entity was necessary to establish the economic and geopolitical goals 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 had high aspirations and tried to cover a wide range of issues from infrastructure and logistical projects between member states to cooperation in business, education and sports.

For example, along with its educational arm, the Turkic Academy, the council is preparing a common Turkic history textbook for the member states. It is a primary aim of the council’s to fulfill the huge gap between Turkic states that was created during the previous centuries of colonialism and oppressive communist regimes. Now, the organisation is on the edge of historical revival, which can bring forth new understanding to the relations between East and West.

Hungary, an EU member country, has shown a strong interest in the mission of the Council. Hungary's application to become an observer state, Prime Minister Orban’s attendance of the Sixth Summit of the Turkic Council and his declaration of respect to the Turkic roots of Hungary peaked with the opening of the Council’s Budapest office last Thursday. Having an EU member state on the board not just contributes to the elevated image of the council, but can give confidence to other nations, which share a common heritage with Turkic states to join the organisation.

Following the interest by Hungary, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan started to break the ice on their foreign policy towards Turkic countries. Turkmenistan already gave the green light for cooperation between Turkic states when the city of Mary was declared as the 'cultural capital' of the Turkic World by TURKSOY for 2015.

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu’s declaration on the full membership application by Uzbekistan and observer state application by Turkmenistan to the Council shows that on the 10th anniversary of Nakhichvan Agreement, the council is following the path it set out for itself. Obviously, the need of a new understanding and alternatives for East-West relations are the main driving force behind the interest to the council. Initiatives like the New Silk Road, Belt and Road Initiative or a potential future economic union of Turkic Speaking States can be a game change.

As the dissolution of the Soviet Union brought winds of change to the region, now it is time for the Turkic Council to build a new reality in regional geopolitics and accomplish the dreams of the unified Turkic cooperation in the name of the common good, peace and prosperity in the world.


A recent trilateral meeting between Türkiye, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan has shown that Ankara can play a critical role in connecting gas-rich Turkic Central Asia with the West.

Under the shadow of the raging Ukraine conflict that has disrupted energy markets worldwide, the gas-rich Turkic Central Asia has emerged as a critical region for the energy-hungry world. 

However, the predominantly Turkic-populated Central Asia – from Kazakhstan to Azerbaijan – played a crucial role in global geopolitics long before Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24. These Turkic nations – extending from China to the borders of Türkiye – were at the centre of what is known as the ‘Great Game’ of the 19th century, a fierce competition for dominance between the former Russian and British empires.

With both empires gone and their successor states not that powerful to dictate terms, the Central Asian republics are now turning to Türkiye as they seek to build a new mutually beneficial alliance – the empowered Organization of Turkic States (OTS). Increasing ties between Central Asia and Türkiye, which has recently moved towards becoming a potential gas hub for Europe following the Ukraine conflict, might have crucial effects on the West’s energy supply, according to experts.

“Gas flow to Europe from Russia has decreased to very low levels. Europe needs to diversify its resources and buy gas from different sources,” says Emre Erturk, a prominent energy expert and Founder and Managing Director at CEEN Energy Information Services and Consultancy. “One of the most probable sources of gas that can reach Europe in the shortest time can come from countries located east of Türkiye,” Erturk tells TRT World, referring to states like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Transporting Central Asia’s gas to Europe through Türkiye is a long pending project, dating back to the 1990s. But the recent trilateral meeting between Turkmen, Turkish and Azerbaijani leaders in Turkmenistan’s Awaza city has shown this project is not a dream anymore. 

“We now need to start working on transporting Turkmen natural gas to Western markets. We are ready to cooperate with our Turkmen and Azerbaijani brothers in the 'Dostluq' (Friendship) Field in the Caspian Sea,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after the summit last week. 

Turkish President Erdogan met Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev and Turkmen leader

 Serdar Berdimuhamedov last week in the western Turkmen city of Awaza to discuss energy cooperation between Central Asia and Ankara. (AA) Due to a maritime rights dispute, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan could not reach an agreement earlier to build a pipeline to carry Turkmen gas to Azerbaijan through the Caspian and then to Türkiye and Europe.

But last year, the two Turkic states reached a landmark deal that allows them to produce gas in wells across the disputed gas area, which they now call the Dostluq Field. Turkmenistan has the world’s second biggest gas field in Galkynysh located in its southeastern Mary province. 

Will Turkmen gas reach Europe?

The realisation of this joint production between Baku and Ashgabat has increased hopes that Turkmen gas could be carried to Azerbaijan via a pipeline with a Caspian crossing, according

to Erturk. Then, he adds, it can flow through TANAP (Türkiye-Azerbaijan Natural Gas Pipeline)

to Türkiye and Europe. TANAP is connected with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which carries gas to Europe from Türkiye.

“As a result, the recent energy negotiations between Türkiye, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are of great importance for both Ankara’s and Europe’s energy supply security,” Erturk says. 

Matthew Bryza, a former US ambassador to Azerbaijan who had been a leading voice in the formation of Washington’s Central Asia policy in the past, also thinks the recent meeting can have acute effects. “They agreed on something that includes moving Turkmenistan’s natural gas across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan,” Bryza tells TRT World. And from Azerbaijan through Türkiye, Turkmen gas could reach Europe, he says.

“That’s something which has never been agreed before,” says Bryza, indicating the changing mood across the Turkic world. Due partly to Russian pressure, he adds that Turkmenistan hesitated to join Türkiye and Azerbaijan on the plan to export its gas to Europe. 

Before the recent trilateral meeting, last month, Türkiye, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan also came together along with Georgia, a Caucasian state and one of the co-host states of the Baku-Ceyhan-Tbilisi pipeline (BTC). In the meeting, the three Turkic states discussed critical issues, like how to carry the Turkic world’s gas to the West.

Due to the Ukraine conflict and increasing cooperation among Turkic states, Kazakhstan has reportedly shown growing interest in carrying its oil through non-Russian routes, like the BTC, to Europe. Like Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan also aims to strengthen the Caspian crossing for both transportation and gas exportation purposes. “Our President [Kassym-Jomart Tokayev] has always emphasised that the Caspian crossing using the Middle Corridor [which extends from China to Türkiye] is one of our national priorities,” Abzal Saparbekuly, the former Kazakh ambassador to Türkiye, tells TRT World.

“We are very much interested in opening European Union markets without Russia through Azerbaijan, through Türkiye, our key partner in this region,” says Zhanibek Baidulla, Managing Partner of Center for Strategic Initiatives, a consulting company working with different energy firms, including state-funded enterprises in Kazakhstan.

Türkiye's pipeline network provides a good infrastructure for Ankara if it wants to move toward becoming a gas hub, experts say. (Fatih Uzun / TRTWorld)   Türkiye is now becoming "a very big energy hub in the region. And, of course, Kazakhstan is very much interested in becoming part of that major project,” Baidulla tells TRT World. On Friday, in Silivri, a European district of Istanbul, Erdogan inaugurated the continent’s largest natural gas storage, demonstrating another clear step toward Türkiye’s aim to be a gas hub for the West. 

Strengthening bond 

The past several weeks have witnessed not only the two energy-focussed trilateral meetings in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan but also the summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) in Uzbekistan’s Samarkand, demonstrating a trend of strengthening ties among Turkic-speaking member countries, which include Türkiye, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan. 

Last year, the Turkic Council, founded in 2009, changed its name to the Organization of Turkic States, signalling that political connectedness between Central Asia and Türkiye is taking root and moving forward to rediscover its historical path across Eurasia.

Turkmenistan has been an observer state in the OTS, like Hungary, a central European country, which has recently shown a strong willingness to discover its Turkic roots. The Central Asian state also signalled that it would join the political bloc soon, leading to the group’s increasing appeal in Central Asia.

“The Organization of Turkic States is kind of like the United Nations for the Turkic world,” says Uli Schamiloglu, professor and chair of the Department of Kazakh Language and Turkic Studies at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan.  In 2006, former Kazakh President Nur Sultan Nazarbayev was the first politician to propose forming the Turkic Council. Kazakhstan, like Türkiye, has long been a fierce defender of the Turkic alliance.

Experts like Schamiloglu point out that Turkic cooperation is more about peaceful integration projects than posing any threat to Russia. All of the Central Asian Turkic states were former Soviet republics, being under Moscow’s rule.  “People like to say that this is not designed against anybody. On the contrary, this is about promoting friendship, integration, cultural exchange and economic cooperation in the Turkic world,” Schamiloglu tells TRT World.

Omer Kocaman, the deputy secretary general of the OTS, also thinks similarly. “We are a very young organisation, and we are also a good-natured organisation,” Kocaman tells TRT World.  “We share what we do on our website and social media. We have no secret agenda,” Kocaman says. The OTS activities will contribute to regional peace and economic development as well as have a positive effect on stabilising Afghanistan, says the top OTS official.

“As a result, no one has to fear from our organisation’s activities,” he says. “We are not against anyone, but we also fear from no one,” he adds.

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