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October 24, 2011, Monday

Turkey-Azerbaijan High Level Strategic Cooperation Council

Azerbaijan marked the 20th anniversary of its independence on Oct. 18. One week following this happy event, the first meeting of the Turkey-Azerbaijan High Level Strategic Cooperation Council is being held in İzmir, on Tuesday.

The agreement on strategic partnership and mutual assistance, signed during Turkish President Abdullah Gül's visit to Baku between Aug. 16 and 17, 2010, and the joint declaration by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev at the 10th Summit of Turkic-Speaking Countries held Sept. 15-16, 2010, concerning the establishment of a High Level Strategic Council between Turkey and Azerbaijan, has formed the basis for this İzmir meeting.

Between Oct. 25-26, Erdoğan and Aliyev will in İzmir, accompanied by many ministers including economy, transportation, energy and foreign ministers for a joint cabinet meeting. There is a special reason for choosing İzmir as the venue of this meeting. Erdoğan and Aliyev will attend a ceremony to break ground at an Aegean oil refinery that is expected to be completed in 2015. The refinery, which will be built by state-owned Azerbaijani oil company SOCAR and its Turkish partner, Turcas, will cost $5 billion. Azerbaijan will have a 75 percent share of the new Petkim field refinery, which will help reduce Turkey's current account deficit (CAD) by enabling the production of jet fuel and other oils. In addition to this, the opening ceremony of the Haydar Aliyev Vocational High School, built by Petkim, will also be held.

The main agenda item at the Izmir meeting will be improving economic relations between the two countries. This is a good development because the bilateral relationship model based on exploiting a historical brotherhood is already locked in place. Indeed, Aliyev emphasized the importance of improving economic relationships among Turkic speaking countries in his recent speech at the First Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking Countries in Almaty. He stated that these countries should develop mutual investment projects to be able to properly use their potential. “Improving cultural relationships is as important as developing economic projects. We share a common culture [and] ethnic roots," he said. To ensure this, Aliyev suggested the establishment of the TURKSOY fund to restore historic monuments, publish books and organize cultural events. “We should pay more attention to real projects,” he added.

It is exciting to hear these sort of good initiatives from Aliyev. Of course, economic and cultural steps should be completed in line with legal steps. For example, the signing of visa exemption and readmission agreements, which was planned during Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov's visit to Ankara but was postponed, would have been a positive step. Moreover, the joint funds should be created in order to improve close relationships between the two peoples and bring together civil society organizations of both countries. This issue should be discussed at the Izmir meeting as well.

Turkey and Azerbaijan have always supported each other. This was so in the past and is still so today.

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