Staunton, November 14 – Ankara’s role in the South Caucasus during the current Karabakh crisis has prompted officials and experts in Central Asia to focus on the potential role of the Council for the Cooperation of Turkic-Language States in advancing Turkish geopolitical interests.
Adinay Kurmanbekova, a Bishkek special on international relations, for example, notes that the council which has existed for a decade has three members in the region – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan – and works closely with a fourth – Turkmenistan. Only Persian-speaking Tajikistan is not involved (cabar.asia/ru/sstg-kak-instrument-geopolitiki-turtsii-v-tsentralnoj-azii).
Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of the Central Asian states, and before 2009 when the Council was created, it held nine summits with their leaders and also created the International Organization for Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) and the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Language Countries.
Many expected that with the creation of the Cooperation Council, relations would develop rapidly. But at least in the first years after that time, Ankara was focused on deepening its relations with Europe and downplayed its ties with Central Asia. Having been blocked in its hopes to integrate with the EU, it is turning again to the Turkic countries, Kurmanbekova says.
As a result, she continues, the Cooperation Council is properly viewed as “one of the main instruments of Ankara’s foreign policy,” although the pandemic has put some of its efforts on hold and trade has not grown as many had expected. In many cases, the member countries still prefer to deal with each other on a bilateral basis.
But culture, language and geography matter, and with the ebbing of the pandemic, the role of the Cooperation Council is likely to increase and become an important coordinating body for TURKSOY which has links beyond Central Asia and even with Hungary which in 2018 became an observer on the Council and then opened an office in Budapest.
Kurmanbekova reminds that the Hungarians consider themselves descendants of the Kipchaks, and she strongly implies that the Tajiks, who also have a complicated ethnogenesis may be drawn into the Cooperation Council’s orbit for the same reason, a development that could make the Council a key player in the region as a whole.