The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (known as the Turkic Council) held its 8th summit on Friday in the Sea of Marmara’s Democracy and Freedoms Island. The council announced several “breakthroughs”, including a change of name to the Organisation of Turkic States.
Prior to the summit, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the leaders of the other member states inaugurated the Turkic Council’s secretariat in the historic Sultanahmet district of Istanbul. This was a move to link the new organisation to Istanbul, which was the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
The Turkic Council was established in October 2009 when Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan signed the Nakhchivan Agreement. Uzbekistan joined on 15 October 2019, in Baku. Hungary was granted observer status in 2018, as was Turkmenistan during the latest summit, which was held under the heading of “Green Technologies and Smart Cities in the Digital Age”.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev handed over the chairmanship of the organisation to Erdogan during the summit.
What is this organisation?
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed bringing the Turkic people under one umbrella body in 2006. When it was formed in 2009, retired Turkish diplomat Halil Akinci was chosen as the first Secretary General. “The Turkic Council has become the first voluntary alliance of Turkic states in history,” he declared.
Now known as the Organisation of Turkic States, it has six executive bodies to carry out its work and monitor the implementation of resolutions, one of which is the International Organisation of Turkic Culture (TÜRKSOY). Based in Ankara, it was established in 1993, 16 years before the council, and is similar to UNESCO.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic Speaking Countries (TURKPA) is also part of the organisation. It was established by the 2008 Istanbul Agreement and it’s based in Baku. The assembly seeks to strengthen cooperation between the Turkic parliaments.
The Turkish Business Council, as its name suggests, seeks to enhance economic cooperation. It was founded in 2011. The International Turkic Academy, established a year later, coordinates and supports scientific research in the Turkish language, literature, culture, history and ethnography.
The Turkic Cultural Heritage Fund was also founded in 2012. Along with the Turkic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI), which was founded two years ago, they complete the six executive bodies of what is now called the Organisation of Turkic States.
The Secretary-General of the organisation, Baghdad Amreyev, told Anadolu in April that, “In general, the Turkic Council does its best to develop multilateral cooperation among member states in politics, the economy, science, culture and education, as well as military issues, the law, the environment, energy matters, transportation, investment and finance.”
During the 8th summit, the organisation adopted Turkic World Vision – 2040 (Vision 2040) which, according to Amreyev, “offers the long-term context for development and the integration efforts of the member states.” This, he pointed out, relies on developing political cohesion to act as one on a wide range of international issues. “There will be support for more dynamic cooperation under the umbrella of the Turkic Council based on the convergence of economic policies and all relevant regulatory frameworks; achieving full trade integration; establishing a single Turkic investment space; the realisation of digital integration; the upgrading of transport and energy connectivity; and the enabling of intra-regional mobility.”
As a first step, the organisation has adopted the Turkic Council Strategy 2021-2026 (Strategy 2026), which has been prepared to set the context and identify clear targets for cooperation.
“These strategies,” said Amreyev, “mark a new and more dynamic partnership among member states where they shift the member state relations from cooperation to gradual economic integration. The economy is the most important priority. Market integration is impossible without close political cooperation.”
Turkish journalist Ismail Yasha told me that the organisation gives “a lot of power” to the member states because of the strategic, political, economic and cultural cooperation between them. “The formation of a unified body for the Turkic world will give them more political, economic and military power at the regional and international levels. The voices of the member states will be heard by others more than when they stand alone.”
The Nagorno-Karabakh war was a real test for this cooperation, noted Azerbaijani President Aliyev. He explained that the organisation “reacted immediately” from day one and gave “strong” support to his country. The organisation was the second power after Turkey to do so. Such support, he added, “strengthened” the Turkic world.
One of the most important post-war achievements has been an agreement among the organisation’s member and observer states to establish a “green corridor” to make it easier for people and essential consumer goods, medicines and medical equipment to cross borders.
Handing over the chairmanship of the organisation to Erdogan, Aliyev expressed his confidence that, under the Turkish president’s leadership, relations between the Turkic countries based on unity, solidarity and mutual respect will be strengthened further. “There is no doubt that the esteemed president, the leader of the Turkic world, will succeed in this.”
Erdogan told a post-summit press conference that, “The region of Turkestan [the lands of the Turkic people], the cradle of civilisation, will once again become a centre of attraction and enlightenment for all humanity.” The adoption of Vision 40, he added, should be regarded as a “fresh sign of eternal brotherhood” in the Turkic world.
The Turkish president reassured the world that, “No one should be disturbed by the Turkic Council. On the contrary, they should try to be a part of this unique structure based on ancient history and human relations.”
In fact, according to Amreyev, at least fifteen countries are seeking observer status of the organisation. It may well end up as the “United States of the Turkic World,” he concluded.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.