The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States is ready to welcome Uzbekistan as a new member while Turkmenistan expects to become an observer state.
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. 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.