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October 17, 2011, Monday

Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States summit

On Oct. 20-21, in Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, the first summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States will be held. The summit is important because it is being organized in line with the 20th anniversary of the independence of the Caucasus and the Central Asian Turkic republics.

The ninth summit of the heads of states from Turkic-speaking countries was held in Nakhchivan on Oct. 2-3, 2009 with the participation of President Abdullah Gül, Azerbaijan's President İlham Aliyev, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, then-Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev and Turkmenistan's Vice President Hidir Saparliyev. On the second day of the summit, the Nakhchivan Agreement on the Establishment of a Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking Countries was signed by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.

Also known as the Turkic Council, this entity consists of a heads of state council, a foreign ministers council, a board of wise men from participating countries, a senior officers committee and an İstanbul-based council secretariat. The council seeks to consolidate a state of mutual trust and confidence in the Turkic world, reinforce political solidarity, improve economic and technical cooperation, enhance popular relations and keep a record of the history and cultural accumulation of the Turkic world. Under a decision taken at the 10th summit of the Turkic Speaking Countries' heads of states held in İstanbul on Sept. 15-16, 2010, Oct. 3 was declared Turkic Speaking Countries Cooperation Day. The base agreement on the execution of the council, along with the relevant documents, has been prepared in order to be signed and approved at the summit in Almaty.

At the Almaty summit, which will carry the theme “economic cooperation,” a regional business council for Turkic-speaking countries is expected to be established. The preparatory meeting for this business council was held in the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) building, in Ankara on Oct. 3. A protocol was signed at the end of the meeting on institutionalizing the private sector, arbitration, transportation  and improving customs cooperation, as well as the creation of working groups on the establishment of development agencies and enhancing cooperation in such fields as agriculture, energy, contracting, tourism, health and education.

Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan did not take part in the Turkic Council. Uzbekistan seems determined not to join in any organization where Turkic identity is emphasized. This attitude of non-participation is consistent with Uzbekistan's policy of isolation and alienation under Islam Karimov.

Will the Turkic Council create a new synergy in Eurasia? After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey was nostalgic and emotional towards Turkic-speaking countries. However, today this approach is moving towards creating new state institutions between the Turkic states that will serve as permanent bridges such as the Turkic Culture and Arts Joint Administration (TÜRKSOY), the Turkic-Speaking Countries Parliamentary Assembly (TÜRKPA) and the Turkic Council. These state institutions even held events for the 20th anniversary of the independence of the Caucasus and the Central Asian Turkic republic.

However, civil society organizations are not included in this exchange between Turkic states. Institutions that will lead to the development of cooperation between Turkic countries and further trade and commerce is essential. However, what the Turkic peoples actually need is greater legal integration.

Azerbaijan imposes visa restrictions for Turkey, but does not for Russia. So do Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. While Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan only establish institutions in cooperation with Turkey, they have a customs union with Russia. Despite having been living in Turkey for many years, citizens of Turkic republics are still considered illegal. What they earn during their stay in Turkey through hard labor is seized in the form of punishments if their visa has expired. Those who travel from Turkic republics to Turkey are only allowed to stay for a brief period, from one to three months. According to the Turkish law, only those who travel from Europe to Turkey are counted as refugees and granted this status. Those who come from the East are considered asylum seekers. These are a few of the problems. The revision of the joint institutions that were created on good faith towards the establishment of a legal cooperation will ensure that the problems are eradicated.

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