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Organization of Turkic States: integration horizons and prospects for Russias participation

photo: azertag.az
16 November 2022

On November 11, the 9th Summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) took place in Samarkand (Uzbekistan). It was called «The new era of Turkic civilization: on the way of common development and prosperity» and was dedicated to the key issues of cooperation in the spheres of economy, trade, transportation and customs.

Let us remind here that the Organization of Turkic States unites Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, with Turkmenistan and Hungary as observers. The delegations embracing the full OTS members were represented at the level of their presidents. Hungary being the observer country sent its Prime Minister Victor Orban. Another observer country Turkmenistan participated in the person of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the ex-President and the incumbent Chairman of the Upper Chamber of Turkmenistan Parliament.

Experts noted that in the course of the OTS Summit another country received the status of observer that was the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (not recognized by anyone except for Turkey). This granting of observer status was initiated by Turkey. The expectations of Turkmenistan becoming a full member state of OTS this time were not satisfied, Ashkhabad preferred to  continue to adhere to the international neutrality policy. [1]

Discussion about the ancestral homeland

On the eve of the Summit, the participants visited the Eternal City in the international tourism center «The Great Silk Road». The President of Uzbekistan hosted an official reception here, and the OTS leaders marked the role of Samarkand as «one of the ancient cradles of Turkic civilization». [2] At the same time, Samarkand is traditionally perceived as one of the historical centers of Persian  spirituality and culture. For many historians, and even more importantly for modern Iran such an interpretation may seem disputable, but there are no accidental wordings in the big politics world. This political gesture was a quite transparent hint for Teheran that the Turkic states would not accept any change of the status-quo in the strategically important region spread from Istanbul to Bishkek.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of Uzbekistan, opened the plenary session of the Organization of Turkic States, and his speech was in the Uzbek language. This made it clear for everyone, that there was no need for interpreters at the Summit, because the Turkic languages are very much alike, hence, there are no problems for the politicians and average citizens to understand each other. It is instructive to recall that right now the possibility of developing a common Turkic alphabet for the OTS countries is under review. This should strengthen the foundations for expanding economic, political and information connections, i.e., for further rapprochement of the Turkic countries and peoples. This approach indicates that Turkic integration is targeted at the broad horizon of events and close interaction.

In his speech, President Tokayev claimed Kazakhstan to be the land of the fathers of Turkic world. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev emphasized: «The history of organizations uniting the Turkic countries demonstrates that the majority of them including the International Organization of Turkic Culture (Turksoy), the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States (TURKPA) and the Turkic Academy were established at the initiative of Kazakhstan. These organizations became the true agents of cultural and spiritual rapprochement of our fraternal nations». At the same time, regional experts emphasize that it is the territory of Turkmenistan is the ancestral homeland of the core Turkic tribes. From there they moved off to the West paving the way to forming the Turkic nation and Turkic states. Moreover, the ancient state Turan (this term is actively used by Turkish media) was in the territory of todays Turkmenistan, even though historically it is not related with the concept of «Great Turan». [3]

It is not accidental that in the course of the OTS Summit Shavkat Mirziyoyev awarded the order of Imam Bukhari to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for active promotion of the Turkic states interests. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, also received this high-ranking order. The President of Kazakhstan, in his turn, proposed to award the Highest Turkic World Order to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced: «I am sure that fraternal Turkey, which will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of proclaiming the Republic next year, will continue to contribute to strengthening our cooperation. In connection with this, I would like to propose to award the Highest Turkic World Order to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This proposal found unanimous support, for which I would like to express my appreciation». And immediately it became clear for everyone, who is the leader of the Turkic world today, and where the main OTS country is. [4]

Turkic integration priorities

In his keynote speech Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish President, emphasized that the Turkic states should develop the common security concept: «We are undergoing a very difficult period comprising both opportunities and threats for our countries. This is when it became especially important to strengthen our cooperation, solidarity and harmony in all areas». Thus, touching the situation in the South Caucasus, the President of Turkey said: «Ankara supports fraternal Azerbaijan in its search for peace in the region, just like it was standing by Bakus side in its fair struggle for de-occupation of its territories». [5] Let us remind here, that previously Erdoğan twice spoke about the readinness of Turkey to support Kazakhstan in protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Analysts believe that this new announcement by President Erdoğan was yet another indication of the leading role of Turkey in the Turkic world currently gaining momentum.

The Turkish leader clearly set the new Turkic integration priorities under the auspices of Ankara. According to him, the spheres of trade, transportation and energy are the most important for collaboration within the OTS. To resolve the tasks in these spheres he proposed to establish an investment fund at first in the modest amount of USD 500 mln. President Erdoğan emphasized that the OTS countries «are on the crossroads of strategically important routes», so the efforts in this sphere need to be stirred up.

The energy sphere is especially important for Turkey, because «Ankara since long ago has been implementing projects to assure energy security of Turkey and to contribute to energy security of the region». Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted the implementation Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan pipeline project as one of the most successful energy initiatives in the world. He also focused the attention of the audience to the Southern Gas Corridor designed as the fouth main to supply gas to Europe. This gas pipeline, of which the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP) is an important element, may be expanded for additional gas supplies. The Caspian Region is the first thing to come to mind when gas suuplies along this route are discussed, the Turkish President believes.

This is a very serious statement by Ankara, especially with account of ambitious plans to create a major gas hub in the European part of Turkey. It is assumed that this hub will be operating based on gas volumes coming from Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, as well as Mediterranean gas from new fields in Israel and Lebanon. Turkmenistan, on which big hopes were placed, is not yet a part of this supply chain for delivering hydrocarbons from the Caspian Region. Previously Ankara was counting on pumping gas from Turkmenistan to Anatolia through the Southern Gas Corridor, however, the Turkmenistan authorities all of sudden lost interest in exporting their gas to Europe. Moscow is believed to play an important role in such decision-making upon achieving certain agreements with Ashkhabad. [6] However, with time, the issue of both gas supplies from Turkmenistan to Europe and building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline may again become relevant, and we need to be prepared for that. Analysts believe that thanks to the energy initiatives by Turkey, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, Ankara may become a leading player in the international hydrocarbons market in the long run and to seriously influence the energy situation in Southern Europe and the entire Mediterranean region.

Ilham Aliyev as the leader of the Azerbaijani of the whole world

At the OTS, Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan emphasized that «the Turkic world covers a vast geography with population over 200 mln people with great economic potential, energy resources, transport routes and modern military capabilities». He called his peers to «render mutual support and demonstrate solidarity». «The Turkic world is a family. The Turkic world comprises not just independent Turkic states, its geographical coverage is much broader. I believe, time has come to permanently keep such issues as rights, security, national identity and counteracting the assimilation of the compatriots living beyond the OTS countries on the Organizations radar», I. Aliyev remarked. [7]

The President of Azerbaijan is concerned with the fact that the young generation of the Turkic world is not always able to get education in their native languages in the countries of their residence. He paid special attention to the fact that «the majority of 40 mln Azerbaijanis living outside Azerbaijan is deprived of this possibility». «The right of numerous compatriots living beyond the Turkic countries to get education in their native languages should always be on our agenda. We need to undertake all the necessary steps along this vector», Ilham Aliyev stated. In essence, this was a blame of Iran, where the Azerbaijani population is three times more than in Azerbaijan. The regional experts say that Teheran is not paying sufficient attention to this issue and to development of Azeri culture in the Northern provinces of Iran in fear of separatism growth. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev supported the idea of Ilham Aliyev about receiving education in native languages. The head of Kazakhstan proposed to develop a common network of the Turkic universities in 2023 allowing students to study Turkic languages, the history and culture of fraternal nations.

The President of Azerbaijan I. Aliyev promised to assert the rights and freedoms of the Azerbaijani living abroad. «We will continue our efforts to assure that our compatriots who by a twist of hard luck found themselves separated from the Azerbaijani state are able to preserve their language, traditions and culture, to stay committed to the Azeri ideology, to never interrupt communications with their historical homeland», Ilham Aliyev proclaimed. On top of that, the leader of Azerbaijan criticized the neighboring country Armenia, where «anti-Islam and anti-Turk prejudice constitute the basis of todays politics». According to him, Armenia is in many ways hampering the opening of Zangezur corridor designed to connect Azerbaijan with its Nakhichevan exclave and further with Turkey. According to I. Aliyev, opening of this route would be beneficial for all the OTS countries. Analysts believe that Zangezur corridor is of strategic importance for Russia as well, especially in the environment of massive Western sanctions. That is why Moscow has to apply much more efforts to implement this project both in political and in economic spheres.

Logistics is key

Absolutely every one of the leaders speaking at the OTS Summit believes that strengthening the mutual connections in the sphere of transportation is the extremely important strategic issue. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of Kazakhstan, proposed the OTS countries to improve their relations along these lines. «Our countries represent the link between the West and the East, the North and the South. That is why in the current period of transition, the increased capacity of transport and transit communications and maximum utilization of their potential is of such big importance. The spectacular example is the Trans-Caspian international route through the territories of three fraternal states Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey», Tokayev said. According to him, Kazakhstan invested USD 35 bn into the development of its transportation infrastructure over the recent 15 years. «Our country is interested in diversification of transportation routes and in logistics development. To achieve this, we plan to invest USD 20 bn more until 2025», Tokayev announced. [8]

Just before the OTS Summit, Vladimir Norov, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Uzbekistan, made an important statement about the Trans-Caspian corridor being a platform for the Turkic countries integration. «Together we will be able to turn the Trans-Caspian corridor into the platform for future integration of the OTS members into a single transportation system», the head of Uzbek diplomacy said. [9] «The new geo-economic situation in Eurasia opens great horizons for the OTS countries to turn the region into a strong transportation and logistics element of the global value chain», V. Norov believes. The regional experts emphasize that Tashkent together with Bishkek and Beijing commenced the construction of Uzbekistan - Kyrgyzstan - China railway. This route will help to form a united network with the Trans-Caucasian International Transport Corridor (ITC) and Baku - Tbilisi - Kars railway to facilitate trade between the PRC and Europe. At present, over 80% of the in-land cargo transit between China and the EU goes through Kazakhstan, while the new competing route running through Uzbekistan will provide for higher speed and convenience.

In its turn, Turkmenistan is also focused on developing its transportation capabilities: a new sea port will be built in Turkmenbashi (Krasnovodsk). Today it is the most powerful containers transshipment hub at the Caspian Sea and the shortest route from China to Turkey. Different from the Northern route in the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, this one through Turkmenistan is significantly shorter. This is especially relevant for neighboring Afghanistan, to which Turkmenistan has already established two railway entry points: Serhetabat (Kushka) and Imamnazar-Aqina, with the prospect of reaching Herat, Balkh and Mazar-i-Sharif. Analysts believe that the joint project of Mazar-i-Sharif- Kabul - Peshawar railway, which will provide the shortest route for delivering cargos to the countries of South and South-East Asia.

Thus, for the Turkish integration-related interests Turkmenistan is viewed as the key country in many aspects, hence, Ankara will be actively promoting the full membership of Ashkhabad in the OTS. This is associated with logistical interests the optimal route from Azerbaijan to Central Asia goes through Turkmenistan, and with energy interests, and even the sacred interests as the ancestral homeland for all the Turkic people.

The development of inner transportation corridors is very important for the OTS countries. It will allow for significant expansion of transit and export capabilities of the Caspian states and provide for accessing ITC hubs. However, to achieve that, a few problems need to be solved. First of all, upgrade of the border crossing points is required, as well as additional measures to enhance local railway and motorway routes.

The observers at the Summit noticed that Astana made a landmark decision on joining the simplified customs clearance mode established between the Turkic states. In addition to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan will become members of the «easy customs zone». The explanatory note to the respective RoK Government Resolution says, that «adoption of the simplified customs rules will allow for improving the efficiency of customs control by way of electronic exchange of data about the commodities and transportation vehicles moving between the territories of our states». [10] According to the World Bank, the transit and transportation potential development may contribute to the aggregate Central Asian GDP growth by 15%. 

Evaluating the OTS countries potential

The second most important basic interest for all the OTS counties is common trade within the Organization. The President of Uzbekistan proposed a new initiative if creating «The Economic Opportunities Space» within the OTS to «reverse the situation in the sphere of trade and economic cooperation». To implement this initiative into practice Tashkent proposed to establish an annual Turkic economic forum with participation of the OTS member countries and observers. «We need to recognize that our huge capabilities and opportunities are not utilized in full. Mutual sales turnover between our countries makes only 4% of total foreign trade», Shavkat Mirziyoyev admitted. [11] Some Russian experts hurried to declare that the OTS countries do not have sufficiently strong economic basis for serious rapprochement and integration; besides, they are members of other economic projects, EAEU in particular. Let us not make such hastily estimates of the Samarkand Summit outcomes, let us first take a closer look at the OTS countries potential.

Today the OTS aggregate GDP is noticeably above the USD 1 bn threshold. The overall sales turnover has the same metric. «The Turkic Seven» (in 5+2 format) accounts for 1.5% of global trade. [12] In particular, the 2021 aggregate GDP of the OTS members and observers was: circa USD 1.4 trn (1.4% of the global GDP) in nominal value, and circa USD 4.5 trn (3% of the global GDP) by the purchasing power parity. To compare: the 2021 Russian GDP was estimated as USD 1.78 trn.

Turkey, of course, is the biggest economy among the OTS members (19th position in the world), its GDP accounts for 60% of the aggregate GDP of all the OTS countries; then come Kazakhstan 14%, Hungary 13%, Uzbekistan 5%, Azerbaijan 4%, Turkmenistan 3.7% and Kyrgyzstan 0.6%. As we can see, the cumulative economic potential of the OTS countries is quite significant and accounts for approximately 70% of the cumulative economic potential of EAEU (which made USD 2.1 trn in 2021).

The Organization of Turkic States also has significant demographic and geo-economic potential. Thus, the total number of population of the OTS countries is about 170.7 mln people (2.2% of the global population), and their territory is almost 5 mln sq. m (3.2% of the global dry land). Turkey is Number One in terms of the population 54% of the total population of the OTS countries, then come Uzbekistan 23%, Kazakhstan 11.2%, Azerbaijan 5.9%, Hungary 5.7%, Kyrgyzstan 3.9% and Turkmenistan 3.6%. It is important to emphasize that all the OTS countries have positive demography trends with positive economic growth dynamics; their labor force market is young, growing and relatively low-paid, hence, it is of big interest for external investors, mainly from the EU and the PRC. Turkey is the key player in the Organization of the Turkic States, however, from the standpoint of its geo-economic parameters, Ankara is a closer and more equal partner for the OTS countries vs. Russia, China and the European Union.

On top of their serious demographic potential, the OTS countries have material resources of various natural reserves: iron ore, non-ferrous metals (including precious metals), energy, as well as developed industries including the hi-tec ones. In terms of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan holds the 4th position in the world, Azerbaijan the 17th position, Kazakhstan the 19th position, Uzbekistan the 22nd position. In terms of oil reserves, Kazakhstan holds the 11th position in the word, Azerbaijan the 20th position. Turkey is the 7th in world in terms of steel melting, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are major producers of copper. Uzbekistan holds the 5th position in the world in terms of growing cotton, Turkey the 7th position, Turkmenistan the 10th position, and Azerbaijan belongs to the «top 20» cotton-growing countries. Uzbekistan is the 8th globally in terms of gold mining; gold is also mined in Kyrgyzstan, where one of the biggest mines is located.

Processing and engineering industries are also developed in the OTS countries. For example, Turkey produces circa 1.5 mln cars annually, about 35 mln household appliances, it is part of top-10 global exporters of textiles (in 2021 its export brought USD 13 bn). Hungary is also a major automotive and electrical products manufacturer. On top of that, Hungary and Turkey are major pharmaceuticals manufacturers (e.g., in 2021 Hungary exported pharmaceuticals for USD 7 bn). Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are also developing their textile, electrotechnical and engineering industries. This allowed the Samarkand summit to claim favorable perspectives for tuning the OTS countries into a strong transportation and logistical element of the global value chain.

The OTS countries also produce significant volumes of agricultural products, including fruit and vegetables, grain, vegetable oils, meat and dairy products. This agricultural output covers all the needs of the OTS countries population in the main types of food products and assures their food security.

The above-listed statistics proves that the OTS countries have significant potential for development, and in case their integration plans come into practice, they have all the chances to become important players of global politics and economy. Strengthening of the political and economic position of Turkey, the growth of global interest towards the Trans-Caspian routes for delivering cargos and energy, the growing investment of the EU and the PRC into Central Asia, relocation of some businesses from Russia to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan these are the four new drivers for significant speed-up of the OTS countries integration.

Preliminary results

In general, the Samarkand Summit results should be viewed as a big success of Turkey implementing its own integration project. Step by step, Ankara is gaining the advantage in the OTS status and role, turning this Organization into a full-fledged economic and political block. Just like any other former empire, Turkey will always be thinking not by the current administrative borders, but by big political horizons. Ankara was able to successfully demonstrate the positive integration experience to its Turan partners based on the fraternal relations with Azerbaijan underpinned by the «two states one nation» principle. Turkey obviously displayed the support of Azerbaijan during the Second Karabakh War, and the rapid growth of its political and geo-political influence is becoming an attractive example for many post-Soviet states.

There are all the grounds to believe that the accumulated close interaction experience of Ankara and Baku will be further replicated. The observers noted that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed to establish the OTS Digitalization Center on the basis of international techno-park Astana Hab. This structure will allow for developing single digital solutions required for common trade, transport, use of water resources, information security and other important spheres. In future, the Digitalization Center may enhance its functionality based on the examples of Turkey and Kazakhstan, which integrated their e-government systems. Thus, there may be a chance to quickly switch from the well-tested arrangement «two states one nation» to the practically federal model of Turkic association.

After 2023, Turkey is expected to demonstrate the explosive growth of its global political and economic activity, especially in the former territories of the Ottoman empire. For that reason, Russia should not ignore the results of the OTS Summit as of the potentially competitive project for the EAEU. In our opinion, Moscow should be pursuing an assertive policy and join the Organization of the Turkic States, at first in the capacity of an observer. The Russian Federation (with such regions as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan) has no less grounds than Hungary. Besides, today the OTS comprises seven states, with which Moscow has established friendly and economically successful relations.

In principle, Russia should be striving for the full membership in the OTS, which will allow for resolving some very important issues of controlling the integration within this Organization. For example, participation in the new trade association supplementary to the EAEU format, especially useful in the lengthy regime of sanctions; active interaction within infrastructure and energy projects in the Caspian Region; implementation of joint projects within the strategic alliance of the Russian Federation with Turkey. The political activity of Russia along these lined will determine, whether the Turkic integration will be developing with us or against us.

1. OTS Summit: Turkmenistan keeps the observer status, G. Berdimuhamedov proposes to terminate the conflicts with the help of the UN Resolution. Khronika Turkmenistana, 11.11.2022. https://www.hronikatm.com/2022/11/ots-samarkand-summit/

2. Samarkand the cradle of Turkic civilization. UzA.uz, 11.11.2022. https://uza.uz/ru/posts/samarkand-kolybel-tyurkskoy-civilizacii_424533

3. «The Great Turan» trip over the real Turan. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 30.10.2022. https://www.ng.ru/dipkurer/2022-10-30/11_8578_turkmenistan.html

4. Tokayev proposed to award the Highest Turkic World Order to Erdoan. Tengrinews.kz, 11.11.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/tokaev-predlojil-vruchit-Erdoanu-vyisshiy-orden-tyurkskogo-482829/

5. Erdoan: Turkey is ready for active cooperation with the Turkic states. Anadolu Agency, 11.11.2022. https://www.aa.com.tr/ru/%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/%D1%8D%D1%80%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BD-%D1%82%D1%83%D1%80%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0-%D0%BA-%D0%B0%D0%BA%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%BC%D1%83-%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%82%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D1%83-%D1%81-%D1%82%D1%8E%D1%80%D0%BA%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%B8-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B8/2735061

6. Regional security problems, energy projects, humanitarian cooperation in the focus of priority attention of Moscow and Ashkhabad. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, 04.11.2022. https://caspian.institute/product/magda-viktoriya/problemy-regionalnoj-bezopasnosti-ehnergoproekty-gumanitarnoe-sotrudnichestvo-v-centre-vnimaniya-moskvy-i-ashkhabada-38351.shtml

7. The 9th Summit of the Organization of the Turkic States took place in Samarkand. AZERTAG, 11.11.2022. https://azertag.az/ru/xeber/V_Samarkande_prohodit_IX_Sammit_Organizacii_tyurkskih_gosudarstv__BUDET_OBNOVLENO-2370245

8. The President of Kazakhstan offered the OTS countries to cooperate in the transportation sphere. Financial One, 11.11.2022. https://fomag.ru/news-streem/prezident-kazakhstana-predlozhil-stranam-otg-usilit-sotrudnichestvo-v-sfere-transporta/

9. The Trans-Caspian corridor will contribute to the integration of the Turkic countries Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan. SPUTNIK Azerbaijan, 10.11.2022. https://az.sputniknews.ru/20221110/transkaspiyskiy-koridor-pomozhet-integratsii-tyurkskikh-stran--mid-uzbekistana-448403938.html

10. Kazakhstan is ready to join the simplified customs corridor with the Turkic states. Kapital.kz, 11.11.2022. https://kapital.kz/economic/110334/kazakhstan-gotovit-sya-voyti-v-uproshchennyy-tamozhennyy-koridor-s-tyurkskimi-stranami.html

11. Uzbekistan offered «The Economic Opportunities Space» for OTS. Gazeta. uz, 11.11.2022. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2022/11/11/space/

12. Economy is key, or why does Uzbekistan need the Organization of the Turkic states. Expert opinion. Podrobno.uz, 09.11.2022. https://podrobno.uz/cat/economic/ekonomika-reshaet-vse-ili-zachem-uzbekistanu-nuzhna-organizatsiya-tyurkskikh-gosudarstv-mnenie-ekspe/

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Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies
Reports

Organization of Turkic States: integration horizons and prospects for Russias participation

photo: azertag.az
16 2022

On November 11, the 9th Summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) took place in Samarkand (Uzbekistan). It was called «The new era of Turkic civilization: on the way of common development and prosperity» and was dedicated to the key issues of cooperation in the spheres of economy, trade, transportation and customs.

Let us remind here that the Organization of Turkic States unites Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, with Turkmenistan and Hungary as observers. The delegations embracing the full OTS members were represented at the level of their presidents. Hungary being the observer country sent its Prime Minister Victor Orban. Another observer country Turkmenistan participated in the person of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the ex-President and the incumbent Chairman of the Upper Chamber of Turkmenistan Parliament.

Experts noted that in the course of the OTS Summit another country received the status of observer that was the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (not recognized by anyone except for Turkey). This granting of observer status was initiated by Turkey. The expectations of Turkmenistan becoming a full member state of OTS this time were not satisfied, Ashkhabad preferred to  continue to adhere to the international neutrality policy. [1]

Discussion about the ancestral homeland

On the eve of the Summit, the participants visited the Eternal City in the international tourism center «The Great Silk Road». The President of Uzbekistan hosted an official reception here, and the OTS leaders marked the role of Samarkand as «one of the ancient cradles of Turkic civilization». [2] At the same time, Samarkand is traditionally perceived as one of the historical centers of Persian  spirituality and culture. For many historians, and even more importantly for modern Iran such an interpretation may seem disputable, but there are no accidental wordings in the big politics world. This political gesture was a quite transparent hint for Teheran that the Turkic states would not accept any change of the status-quo in the strategically important region spread from Istanbul to Bishkek.

Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of Uzbekistan, opened the plenary session of the Organization of Turkic States, and his speech was in the Uzbek language. This made it clear for everyone, that there was no need for interpreters at the Summit, because the Turkic languages are very much alike, hence, there are no problems for the politicians and average citizens to understand each other. It is instructive to recall that right now the possibility of developing a common Turkic alphabet for the OTS countries is under review. This should strengthen the foundations for expanding economic, political and information connections, i.e., for further rapprochement of the Turkic countries and peoples. This approach indicates that Turkic integration is targeted at the broad horizon of events and close interaction.

In his speech, President Tokayev claimed Kazakhstan to be the land of the fathers of Turkic world. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev emphasized: «The history of organizations uniting the Turkic countries demonstrates that the majority of them including the International Organization of Turkic Culture (Turksoy), the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States (TURKPA) and the Turkic Academy were established at the initiative of Kazakhstan. These organizations became the true agents of cultural and spiritual rapprochement of our fraternal nations». At the same time, regional experts emphasize that it is the territory of Turkmenistan is the ancestral homeland of the core Turkic tribes. From there they moved off to the West paving the way to forming the Turkic nation and Turkic states. Moreover, the ancient state Turan (this term is actively used by Turkish media) was in the territory of todays Turkmenistan, even though historically it is not related with the concept of «Great Turan». [3]

It is not accidental that in the course of the OTS Summit Shavkat Mirziyoyev awarded the order of Imam Bukhari to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for active promotion of the Turkic states interests. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, also received this high-ranking order. The President of Kazakhstan, in his turn, proposed to award the Highest Turkic World Order to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced: «I am sure that fraternal Turkey, which will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of proclaiming the Republic next year, will continue to contribute to strengthening our cooperation. In connection with this, I would like to propose to award the Highest Turkic World Order to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This proposal found unanimous support, for which I would like to express my appreciation». And immediately it became clear for everyone, who is the leader of the Turkic world today, and where the main OTS country is. [4]

Turkic integration priorities

In his keynote speech Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish President, emphasized that the Turkic states should develop the common security concept: «We are undergoing a very difficult period comprising both opportunities and threats for our countries. This is when it became especially important to strengthen our cooperation, solidarity and harmony in all areas». Thus, touching the situation in the South Caucasus, the President of Turkey said: «Ankara supports fraternal Azerbaijan in its search for peace in the region, just like it was standing by Bakus side in its fair struggle for de-occupation of its territories». [5] Let us remind here, that previously Erdoğan twice spoke about the readinness of Turkey to support Kazakhstan in protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Analysts believe that this new announcement by President Erdoğan was yet another indication of the leading role of Turkey in the Turkic world currently gaining momentum.

The Turkish leader clearly set the new Turkic integration priorities under the auspices of Ankara. According to him, the spheres of trade, transportation and energy are the most important for collaboration within the OTS. To resolve the tasks in these spheres he proposed to establish an investment fund at first in the modest amount of USD 500 mln. President Erdoğan emphasized that the OTS countries «are on the crossroads of strategically important routes», so the efforts in this sphere need to be stirred up.

The energy sphere is especially important for Turkey, because «Ankara since long ago has been implementing projects to assure energy security of Turkey and to contribute to energy security of the region». Recep Tayyip Erdoğan highlighted the implementation Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan pipeline project as one of the most successful energy initiatives in the world. He also focused the attention of the audience to the Southern Gas Corridor designed as the fouth main to supply gas to Europe. This gas pipeline, of which the Trans-Anatolian pipeline (TANAP) is an important element, may be expanded for additional gas supplies. The Caspian Region is the first thing to come to mind when gas suuplies along this route are discussed, the Turkish President believes.

This is a very serious statement by Ankara, especially with account of ambitious plans to create a major gas hub in the European part of Turkey. It is assumed that this hub will be operating based on gas volumes coming from Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, as well as Mediterranean gas from new fields in Israel and Lebanon. Turkmenistan, on which big hopes were placed, is not yet a part of this supply chain for delivering hydrocarbons from the Caspian Region. Previously Ankara was counting on pumping gas from Turkmenistan to Anatolia through the Southern Gas Corridor, however, the Turkmenistan authorities all of sudden lost interest in exporting their gas to Europe. Moscow is believed to play an important role in such decision-making upon achieving certain agreements with Ashkhabad. [6] However, with time, the issue of both gas supplies from Turkmenistan to Europe and building the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline may again become relevant, and we need to be prepared for that. Analysts believe that thanks to the energy initiatives by Turkey, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, Ankara may become a leading player in the international hydrocarbons market in the long run and to seriously influence the energy situation in Southern Europe and the entire Mediterranean region.

Ilham Aliyev as the leader of the Azerbaijani of the whole world

At the OTS, Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan emphasized that «the Turkic world covers a vast geography with population over 200 mln people with great economic potential, energy resources, transport routes and modern military capabilities». He called his peers to «render mutual support and demonstrate solidarity». «The Turkic world is a family. The Turkic world comprises not just independent Turkic states, its geographical coverage is much broader. I believe, time has come to permanently keep such issues as rights, security, national identity and counteracting the assimilation of the compatriots living beyond the OTS countries on the Organizations radar», I. Aliyev remarked. [7]

The President of Azerbaijan is concerned with the fact that the young generation of the Turkic world is not always able to get education in their native languages in the countries of their residence. He paid special attention to the fact that «the majority of 40 mln Azerbaijanis living outside Azerbaijan is deprived of this possibility». «The right of numerous compatriots living beyond the Turkic countries to get education in their native languages should always be on our agenda. We need to undertake all the necessary steps along this vector», Ilham Aliyev stated. In essence, this was a blame of Iran, where the Azerbaijani population is three times more than in Azerbaijan. The regional experts say that Teheran is not paying sufficient attention to this issue and to development of Azeri culture in the Northern provinces of Iran in fear of separatism growth. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev supported the idea of Ilham Aliyev about receiving education in native languages. The head of Kazakhstan proposed to develop a common network of the Turkic universities in 2023 allowing students to study Turkic languages, the history and culture of fraternal nations.

The President of Azerbaijan I. Aliyev promised to assert the rights and freedoms of the Azerbaijani living abroad. «We will continue our efforts to assure that our compatriots who by a twist of hard luck found themselves separated from the Azerbaijani state are able to preserve their language, traditions and culture, to stay committed to the Azeri ideology, to never interrupt communications with their historical homeland», Ilham Aliyev proclaimed. On top of that, the leader of Azerbaijan criticized the neighboring country Armenia, where «anti-Islam and anti-Turk prejudice constitute the basis of todays politics». According to him, Armenia is in many ways hampering the opening of Zangezur corridor designed to connect Azerbaijan with its Nakhichevan exclave and further with Turkey. According to I. Aliyev, opening of this route would be beneficial for all the OTS countries. Analysts believe that Zangezur corridor is of strategic importance for Russia as well, especially in the environment of massive Western sanctions. That is why Moscow has to apply much more efforts to implement this project both in political and in economic spheres.

Logistics is key

Absolutely every one of the leaders speaking at the OTS Summit believes that strengthening the mutual connections in the sphere of transportation is the extremely important strategic issue. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of Kazakhstan, proposed the OTS countries to improve their relations along these lines. «Our countries represent the link between the West and the East, the North and the South. That is why in the current period of transition, the increased capacity of transport and transit communications and maximum utilization of their potential is of such big importance. The spectacular example is the Trans-Caspian international route through the territories of three fraternal states Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkey», Tokayev said. According to him, Kazakhstan invested USD 35 bn into the development of its transportation infrastructure over the recent 15 years. «Our country is interested in diversification of transportation routes and in logistics development. To achieve this, we plan to invest USD 20 bn more until 2025», Tokayev announced. [8]

Just before the OTS Summit, Vladimir Norov, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Uzbekistan, made an important statement about the Trans-Caspian corridor being a platform for the Turkic countries integration. «Together we will be able to turn the Trans-Caspian corridor into the platform for future integration of the OTS members into a single transportation system», the head of Uzbek diplomacy said. [9] «The new geo-economic situation in Eurasia opens great horizons for the OTS countries to turn the region into a strong transportation and logistics element of the global value chain», V. Norov believes. The regional experts emphasize that Tashkent together with Bishkek and Beijing commenced the construction of Uzbekistan - Kyrgyzstan - China railway. This route will help to form a united network with the Trans-Caucasian International Transport Corridor (ITC) and Baku - Tbilisi - Kars railway to facilitate trade between the PRC and Europe. At present, over 80% of the in-land cargo transit between China and the EU goes through Kazakhstan, while the new competing route running through Uzbekistan will provide for higher speed and convenience.

In its turn, Turkmenistan is also focused on developing its transportation capabilities: a new sea port will be built in Turkmenbashi (Krasnovodsk). Today it is the most powerful containers transshipment hub at the Caspian Sea and the shortest route from China to Turkey. Different from the Northern route in the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan, this one through Turkmenistan is significantly shorter. This is especially relevant for neighboring Afghanistan, to which Turkmenistan has already established two railway entry points: Serhetabat (Kushka) and Imamnazar-Aqina, with the prospect of reaching Herat, Balkh and Mazar-i-Sharif. Analysts believe that the joint project of Mazar-i-Sharif- Kabul - Peshawar railway, which will provide the shortest route for delivering cargos to the countries of South and South-East Asia.

Thus, for the Turkish integration-related interests Turkmenistan is viewed as the key country in many aspects, hence, Ankara will be actively promoting the full membership of Ashkhabad in the OTS. This is associated with logistical interests the optimal route from Azerbaijan to Central Asia goes through Turkmenistan, and with energy interests, and even the sacred interests as the ancestral homeland for all the Turkic people.

The development of inner transportation corridors is very important for the OTS countries. It will allow for significant expansion of transit and export capabilities of the Caspian states and provide for accessing ITC hubs. However, to achieve that, a few problems need to be solved. First of all, upgrade of the border crossing points is required, as well as additional measures to enhance local railway and motorway routes.

The observers at the Summit noticed that Astana made a landmark decision on joining the simplified customs clearance mode established between the Turkic states. In addition to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan will become members of the «easy customs zone». The explanatory note to the respective RoK Government Resolution says, that «adoption of the simplified customs rules will allow for improving the efficiency of customs control by way of electronic exchange of data about the commodities and transportation vehicles moving between the territories of our states». [10] According to the World Bank, the transit and transportation potential development may contribute to the aggregate Central Asian GDP growth by 15%. 

Evaluating the OTS countries potential

The second most important basic interest for all the OTS counties is common trade within the Organization. The President of Uzbekistan proposed a new initiative if creating «The Economic Opportunities Space» within the OTS to «reverse the situation in the sphere of trade and economic cooperation». To implement this initiative into practice Tashkent proposed to establish an annual Turkic economic forum with participation of the OTS member countries and observers. «We need to recognize that our huge capabilities and opportunities are not utilized in full. Mutual sales turnover between our countries makes only 4% of total foreign trade», Shavkat Mirziyoyev admitted. [11] Some Russian experts hurried to declare that the OTS countries do not have sufficiently strong economic basis for serious rapprochement and integration; besides, they are members of other economic projects, EAEU in particular. Let us not make such hastily estimates of the Samarkand Summit outcomes, let us first take a closer look at the OTS countries potential.

Today the OTS aggregate GDP is noticeably above the USD 1 bn threshold. The overall sales turnover has the same metric. «The Turkic Seven» (in 5+2 format) accounts for 1.5% of global trade. [12] In particular, the 2021 aggregate GDP of the OTS members and observers was: circa USD 1.4 trn (1.4% of the global GDP) in nominal value, and circa USD 4.5 trn (3% of the global GDP) by the purchasing power parity. To compare: the 2021 Russian GDP was estimated as USD 1.78 trn.

Turkey, of course, is the biggest economy among the OTS members (19th position in the world), its GDP accounts for 60% of the aggregate GDP of all the OTS countries; then come Kazakhstan 14%, Hungary 13%, Uzbekistan 5%, Azerbaijan 4%, Turkmenistan 3.7% and Kyrgyzstan 0.6%. As we can see, the cumulative economic potential of the OTS countries is quite significant and accounts for approximately 70% of the cumulative economic potential of EAEU (which made USD 2.1 trn in 2021).

The Organization of Turkic States also has significant demographic and geo-economic potential. Thus, the total number of population of the OTS countries is about 170.7 mln people (2.2% of the global population), and their territory is almost 5 mln sq. m (3.2% of the global dry land). Turkey is Number One in terms of the population 54% of the total population of the OTS countries, then come Uzbekistan 23%, Kazakhstan 11.2%, Azerbaijan 5.9%, Hungary 5.7%, Kyrgyzstan 3.9% and Turkmenistan 3.6%. It is important to emphasize that all the OTS countries have positive demography trends with positive economic growth dynamics; their labor force market is young, growing and relatively low-paid, hence, it is of big interest for external investors, mainly from the EU and the PRC. Turkey is the key player in the Organization of the Turkic States, however, from the standpoint of its geo-economic parameters, Ankara is a closer and more equal partner for the OTS countries vs. Russia, China and the European Union.

On top of their serious demographic potential, the OTS countries have material resources of various natural reserves: iron ore, non-ferrous metals (including precious metals), energy, as well as developed industries including the hi-tec ones. In terms of natural gas reserves, Turkmenistan holds the 4th position in the world, Azerbaijan the 17th position, Kazakhstan the 19th position, Uzbekistan the 22nd position. In terms of oil reserves, Kazakhstan holds the 11th position in the word, Azerbaijan the 20th position. Turkey is the 7th in world in terms of steel melting, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are major producers of copper. Uzbekistan holds the 5th position in the world in terms of growing cotton, Turkey the 7th position, Turkmenistan the 10th position, and Azerbaijan belongs to the «top 20» cotton-growing countries. Uzbekistan is the 8th globally in terms of gold mining; gold is also mined in Kyrgyzstan, where one of the biggest mines is located.

Processing and engineering industries are also developed in the OTS countries. For example, Turkey produces circa 1.5 mln cars annually, about 35 mln household appliances, it is part of top-10 global exporters of textiles (in 2021 its export brought USD 13 bn). Hungary is also a major automotive and electrical products manufacturer. On top of that, Hungary and Turkey are major pharmaceuticals manufacturers (e.g., in 2021 Hungary exported pharmaceuticals for USD 7 bn). Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are also developing their textile, electrotechnical and engineering industries. This allowed the Samarkand summit to claim favorable perspectives for tuning the OTS countries into a strong transportation and logistical element of the global value chain.

The OTS countries also produce significant volumes of agricultural products, including fruit and vegetables, grain, vegetable oils, meat and dairy products. This agricultural output covers all the needs of the OTS countries population in the main types of food products and assures their food security.

The above-listed statistics proves that the OTS countries have significant potential for development, and in case their integration plans come into practice, they have all the chances to become important players of global politics and economy. Strengthening of the political and economic position of Turkey, the growth of global interest towards the Trans-Caspian routes for delivering cargos and energy, the growing investment of the EU and the PRC into Central Asia, relocation of some businesses from Russia to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan these are the four new drivers for significant speed-up of the OTS countries integration.

Preliminary results

In general, the Samarkand Summit results should be viewed as a big success of Turkey implementing its own integration project. Step by step, Ankara is gaining the advantage in the OTS status and role, turning this Organization into a full-fledged economic and political block. Just like any other former empire, Turkey will always be thinking not by the current administrative borders, but by big political horizons. Ankara was able to successfully demonstrate the positive integration experience to its Turan partners based on the fraternal relations with Azerbaijan underpinned by the «two states one nation» principle. Turkey obviously displayed the support of Azerbaijan during the Second Karabakh War, and the rapid growth of its political and geo-political influence is becoming an attractive example for many post-Soviet states.

There are all the grounds to believe that the accumulated close interaction experience of Ankara and Baku will be further replicated. The observers noted that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed to establish the OTS Digitalization Center on the basis of international techno-park Astana Hab. This structure will allow for developing single digital solutions required for common trade, transport, use of water resources, information security and other important spheres. In future, the Digitalization Center may enhance its functionality based on the examples of Turkey and Kazakhstan, which integrated their e-government systems. Thus, there may be a chance to quickly switch from the well-tested arrangement «two states one nation» to the practically federal model of Turkic association.

After 2023, Turkey is expected to demonstrate the explosive growth of its global political and economic activity, especially in the former territories of the Ottoman empire. For that reason, Russia should not ignore the results of the OTS Summit as of the potentially competitive project for the EAEU. In our opinion, Moscow should be pursuing an assertive policy and join the Organization of the Turkic States, at first in the capacity of an observer. The Russian Federation (with such regions as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan) has no less grounds than Hungary. Besides, today the OTS comprises seven states, with which Moscow has established friendly and economically successful relations.

In principle, Russia should be striving for the full membership in the OTS, which will allow for resolving some very important issues of controlling the integration within this Organization. For example, participation in the new trade association supplementary to the EAEU format, especially useful in the lengthy regime of sanctions; active interaction within infrastructure and energy projects in the Caspian Region; implementation of joint projects within the strategic alliance of the Russian Federation with Turkey. The political activity of Russia along these lined will determine, whether the Turkic integration will be developing with us or against us.

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2. Samarkand the cradle of Turkic civilization. UzA.uz, 11.11.2022. https://uza.uz/ru/posts/samarkand-kolybel-tyurkskoy-civilizacii_424533

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4. Tokayev proposed to award the Highest Turkic World Order to Erdoan. Tengrinews.kz, 11.11.2022. https://tengrinews.kz/kazakhstan_news/tokaev-predlojil-vruchit-Erdoanu-vyisshiy-orden-tyurkskogo-482829/

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6. Regional security problems, energy projects, humanitarian cooperation in the focus of priority attention of Moscow and Ashkhabad. Caspian Institute for Strategic Studies, 04.11.2022. https://caspian.institute/product/magda-viktoriya/problemy-regionalnoj-bezopasnosti-ehnergoproekty-gumanitarnoe-sotrudnichestvo-v-centre-vnimaniya-moskvy-i-ashkhabada-38351.shtml

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8. The President of Kazakhstan offered the OTS countries to cooperate in the transportation sphere. Financial One, 11.11.2022. https://fomag.ru/news-streem/prezident-kazakhstana-predlozhil-stranam-otg-usilit-sotrudnichestvo-v-sfere-transporta/

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11. Uzbekistan offered «The Economic Opportunities Space» for OTS. Gazeta. uz, 11.11.2022. https://www.gazeta.uz/ru/2022/11/11/space/

12. Economy is key, or why does Uzbekistan need the Organization of the Turkic states. Expert opinion. Podrobno.uz, 09.11.2022. https://podrobno.uz/cat/economic/ekonomika-reshaet-vse-ili-zachem-uzbekistanu-nuzhna-organizatsiya-tyurkskikh-gosudarstv-mnenie-ekspe/