While the EU is grappling with an unparalleled energy, industrial and economic crisis amid the Ukraine-Russia war, the spotlight was turned on the Eurasian space during the 9th summit of the Organisation of Turkic States (OTS), which took place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on 10-11th November, writes Dr. Ömer Kocaman, Deputy Secretary-General of the OTS.
The high-level summit themed «A new era of Turkic civilisation: towards common progress and prosperity» saw the launch of a deeper integration process of the Turkic world with the attendance of Heads of State from Türkiye, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan (OTS Member States), as well as the Prime Minister of Hungary and Chairman of the Senate and former President of Turkmenistan (OTS Observer States). This broad composition has a historic significance as it has brought all the independent Turkic States around the table for the first time in their history. At the meeting, which transferred the term presidency from Türkiye to Uzbekistan, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was also granted an observer status.
This unprecedented level of unity of the Turkic countries coincides with the growing geopolitical ambitions of the OTS, which became a full-fledged international organisation during the Istanbul Summit in 2021. OTS countries are increasingly acting as a group with one voice in the international fora. For instance, they showed unequivocal support for Azerbaijan’s restoration of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, endorsed the efforts of Kyrgyzstan to find a peaceful solution to the situation at the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, contributed to the “Astana Process” for the lasting political settlement in Syria and agreed on coordination action regarding the security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
During the Samarkand Summit, a joint declaration was adopted, and several agreements and protocols were concluded, including the Combined Freight Transportation Agreement, Transport Connectivity Program, Trade Facilitation Strategy, the Simplified Customs Corridor, the Digital Human Resources Systems. As such, the OTS aspires to achieve a deeper level of trade integration while tapping into the region’s full economic potential, whose global trade amounts to 700 billion dollars while intra-regional trade remains limited at some 20 billion dollars.
One of the most important outcomes of the summit was the Turkic Investment Fund, whose establishment agreement is expected to be inked by the end of this year. The Fund will ensure financing for industrial development and SME growth while increasing the volume of mutual trade, expanding access to global markets, and ensuring economic diversification in the region. The creation of a special economic zone called TURANSEZ in Türkistan, Kazakhstan was also decided upon during the Samarkand Summit.
The OTS, which originally emerged as a high-level platform among the Heads of Turkic States following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and eventually became the Turkic Council with the Nakhchivan Agreement of 2009, recently laid out its Turkic World Vision-2040 in an attempt to support Turkic countries’ integration efforts and long-term cooperation goals. The concept document is a testament to the commitment of the Turkic peoples to build a common home in a vast area of 4,5 million square kilometres with a population of 170 million people, and its implementation will be ensured by 5-year strategies, the first of which was completed during the presidential term of Türkiye.
Due to their rich energy sources and modern infrastructure and logistical capabilities connecting the EU and China, increasing attention is placed on the OTS, with more than 10 countries expressing interest in becoming Members. The development of export transport routes and energy corridors across the Caspian Sea from Central Asia are among the priorities of OTS Member States, as can be exemplified by the Trans-Caspian route, which will contribute to the European energy diversification by connecting Turkmenistan to the existing Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) and South Caucasus pipelines. The development of the Middle Corridor, stretching from China to Europe through OTS Member States, is another priority for the Organisation.
In addition to trade and investment, the OTS aims to create favourable conditions to expand cooperation in the area of science and technology, agriculture, education, health, culture, youth, sport, and tourism. To achieve these goals, the OTS oversees the activities of related and affiliated structures, such as the International Organisation of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY), the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States (TURKPA), the Turkic Academy, the Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation, the Turkic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the European Representation Office of the OTS in Hungary. In addition, the OTS works in close cooperation with the UN and its agencies, the OSCE, the OIC and the WCO, among others.
The current global instability, security concerns and the need for energy cooperation, underlines the importance of regional organisations, such as the OTS. Representing a GDP (PPP) of 4 trillion dollars, the Turkic region is at the heart of the Eurasian geography, at the crossroads of the South-North and East-West corridors on the ancient Silk Road. Thanks to their historical, linguistic, brotherly, and cultural ties and unique geographical position, a united Turkic front is emerging as a new geopolitical reality, which promises to produce tangible political and economic results while producing to peace, security, and stability in the Eurasian continent and beyond.
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