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Central Asia news

Ankara counts on foreign political coordination with some other countries

26.11.2007 11:56 msk

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Politics Turkey, Republic of

The 11th Congress of the Turkic Friendship, Brotherhood, and Cooperation Organization took place in Baku (Azerbaijan) on November 17-19. Addressing the forum, Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested a political alliance of Turkic-speaking countries for coordination of efforts in pressing international affairs. As far as Turkey is concerned, Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian problem certainly deserve a coordinated effort.

Erdogan announced that absence of foreign political coordination of the Turkic countries sharing common cultural values and humanitarian ties cost them dearly. Delegations from other countries present at the forum backed his idea to institutionalize the annual Turkic summits and establish a permanent secretariat. The secretariat will be probably set up in Istanbul. Future structures of the informal alliance will be developed on its basis afterwards. Establishment of the secretariat will be officially announced at the Turkic summit two months from now. Speaking on behalf of Ankara, Allattin Allatiin of the Turkish parliament (faction of the ruling Justice and Development Party) suggested emulation of the European Parliament and establishment of the Turkic Parliament of 50 lawmakers also in Istanbul. National quotas in it will be appropriate to every country's population. The forum also discussed organization of Turkic Olympic Games and establishment of an international TV and radio corporation. Ankara even suggested making Turkish the working language of international Turkic organizations.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Mehmet Ali Talat, President of the so called Turkish Republic of the Northern Cyprus, were present at the forum.

The Turkish authorities first suggested a political alliance of this kind at the previous forum of the Organization in Antalia in September 2006. An international Turkic union is Erdogan's idee fixe. Since representatives of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were absent from the Baku forum, Erdogan intends to make visits to these countries in the near future.

Before the alliance is formed and in order to facilitate its establishment, Ankara hopes to become an intermediary between its would-be members and help them settle the existing disputes (say, between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in the Caspian Sea or between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan). Even though the project itself is going to be anything but economic, Turkey recognizes importance of economic issues for the proper functioning of the alliance. (The idea is to draw on the experience of the organizations of French speaking countries.) It is common knowledge that Turkey has aspired for establishment under its own leadership of an international organization comprising Turkic states of the Caucasus and Central Asia ever since disintegration of the Soviet Union. An emphasis was made on economic and military-political factors, but Turkey's own economic difficulties and domestic political problems frustrated this strategy and all but compromised the very idea of an international organization of Turkic states.

Economic successes of the last several years and consolidation of power in the country meanwhile revived interest in this political alliance in official Ankara. An additional impetus to the whole process was provided by foreign political problems like the Kurdish factor, problems with the Cyprus, and deterioration of the relations with the United States and European Union. Turkey finds itself in an ever increasing international isolation in the matters that mean so much to it (namely Kurds and the Cyprus).

Its foreign policy capitalizing on the Middle East and its problems, Ankara it trying to make Turkic states interested - and actually involved - in global politics via the problems of the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iraq. Meanwhile, there is no saying exactly what interest these problems may elicit in Azerbaijan or Central Asian countries apart from the threat to regional security they pose.

The Turkish authorities are convinced now that relations with the post-Soviet Central Asian region were underservingly pushed into the background during Ahmet Necdet Sezer's presidency. Official Ankara promises that these relations will be capitalized on now, the way they were when Suleiman Demirel was the president in the middle of the 1990s. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is hastily making arrangements for President Abdullah Gul's new visits to Central Asian countries (he was accompanied by an impressive delegation of 140 men on the recent three-day visit to Azerbaijan). Gul is to visit Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in early December and Uzbekistan in the wake of the presidential election there.

Aware of the absence of stable economic and military-political catalysts for unification, Ankara is trying to persuade other Turkic states to set up mechanisms of foreign political coordination. It stands to reason to suspect that Turkey needs this international organizations to add at least some legitimacy to its stand on the matters of the Cyprus and Iraqi Kurdistan. Some of the Turkic countries, however, may find an organization like that interesting from the standpoint of creation of an illusion of foreign political alternatives.

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The author: Historian Mosaki is Senior Research Assistant with the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Nodar Mosaki, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, November 27, 2007, p. 23. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru