The first summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), which includes Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, was held in Samarkand on November 11-12,2022. Hungary and Turkmenistan participate as observers. Experts note that the influence of the member countries of the association is growing, as is the influence of Turkey and the ideas of the pan-Turkic world.
Let’s take a moment to consider the name of this organization. In the Russian version, the term “Turkic” (тюркских) is used in the name of the association of these states, which distinguishes it from “Turkish”(турецких). In other words, when we talk about Turkey and the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, organized on the territory of the Republic of Cyprus occupied by Turkey, we will call them “Turkish” states, although only to the extent that the concept of “state” is applicable to Northern Cyprus. Not everything is unambiguous with these ethnonyms in the countries of Central Asia. If you try to translate from Russian to Uzbek via Google, then for “турок” and “тюрок” in translation you will see the same ethnonym “turk”, whereas Turkish (турецкий) will be “turkcha” and Turkic (тюркский) “turkiy”. But even then there will be no such differentiation in some Uzbek documents. If we try to translate the ethnonyms “турок” and “тюрок”, “Turkish” and “Turkic” from Hungarian in Yandex, then we will get a single word for all of them “török. In Hungarian, the Summit of the Turkic States will sound like this: Török Államok csúcstalálkozója. So what will be the correct designation of Hungary in the mouth of Viktor Orban, which he voiced at the Summit: “Christian Turkic land”, or still “Turkish”?
When we address the states gathered in Samarkand and call them Turkic, it turns out that Turkey is also a “Turkic” state. On the other hand, if you enter the official government websites of Turkey and Azerbaijan, you will not find any such difference in the names of the states of this organization. All of them are designated as Turkish states! So this question is by no means idle and concerns to a greater extent not dictionaries and linguistics, but politics!
The leitmotif of the summit of the Organization of Turkic States was the idea of the unity of all Turkic peoples from the Pamirs to the Carpathians and the ways of its practical implementation in the political, economic, military and cultural fields. It turns out, as it was written at the time in the newspaper “The Essence of Time”, that the term for the “Great Turan” project — the state of all Turks — exists at the official level and is fixed in international documents signed by representatives of the Organization of Turkic States. One of the main objectives of the summit, according to Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Imamovich Norov, is the development of strategic cooperation in the transport sector. “The emerging new geo-economic situation in Eurasia opens up very favorable conditions for us to transform our region, connecting the strategic corridors of Eurasia, into a powerful transport and logistics link in the global supply chain,” Vladimir Imamovich said. According to him, in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to create a single transport space that will firmly connect the land and sea borders of the OTG countries with world markets.
Victoria Panfilova in the article “Ankara unites Central Asia” notes that “the OTS (Organization of Turkic States) in the near future has every chance to transform into a Turkic state.” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 10.11.2022). The idea of “two states (Turkey and Azerbaijan), one nation” gradually expanded its format according to Erdogan’s slogan “six states, one nation”, with the prospect of becoming “one state for all Turkic nations”. Such a “state” cannot exist without a military component. And it is no coincidence that immediately after the Samarkand summit, in Turkey, at the training center of special forces, joint exercises of military personnel of the member countries of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) began: Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and the so–called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which, as stated by Recep Erdogan, received observer status in the OTS.
The fact that the cooperation of the Central Asian countries with Turkey in the military sphere did not arise today, that it is based on serious contractual positions and is being actively implemented, is no secret to anyone. But according to many experts, today it is entering a new, integration phase, and possibly according to the concept of “Joint Turkic Forces” actively discussed in Turkey. As noted in the quoted article of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Nazim Kafersoy, Vice-president of the Caucasus Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (QAFSAM), established in Azerbaijan, made a similar initiative. He noted that the OTG needs to develop its institutional structure and “join the game” by creating a “political or security structure that can respond promptly in times of crisis.”
An interesting article titled “Will the Turan Union of Turkic states ever become a reality?” was published recently in the Indian edition of India Narrative (https://www.indianarrative.com/opinion-news/can-turan-an-alliance-of-turkic-states-ever-become-a-reality-73535.html) . According to the author of the article, Aditi Bhaduri, the organization is based on economic calculations and connections. While the former Soviet republics sought to establish regional cooperation to ensure stability, security and economic benefits, Turkey’s ambitions were to expand its influence in the post-Soviet space. The core of such cooperation has become a common cultural and linguistic heritage. The turning point, he writes, was the victory of Azerbaijan in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Azerbaijan, with broad assistance from Turkey, emerged victorious. This was seen as a moment of great Turkic solidarity and cooperation that was worth repeating to others. Former President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said that Azerbaijan’s victory in the “patriotic war” is important both for the entire region and for the Turkic world. And the then Secretary General of the Turkic Council, Bagdad Amreyev, wrote in an article for the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet that the consequences of the support provided to Azerbaijan during the Karabakh war strengthened the Turkic world and led to a huge advantage. The author of the above-mentioned article believes that this year cooperation has accelerated due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, as the Central Asian states are looking for alternative options, given Russia’s concern about the war and the inertia of the Moscow-led CSTO and the EAEU. The created Turkic bloc, the author writes, has every chance to become a powerful, formidable bloc, especially if Russia significantly weakens economically. India should closely monitor these processes, he urges.
For Turkey and Azerbaijan, as well as for the Central Asian states, according to the author and many other experts, transport corridors connecting the East with the Mediterranean Sea through the Caspian Sea are of particular interest. Due to Western sanctions against Russia, the need for alternative routes that do not cross the territory of Russia is now becoming much more important. And the development of close political, economic and military integration of the countries of the Organization of Turkic States is seen by Turkey and its satellite Azerbaijan as a serious factor in controlling the most important transport communications, the routes of gas and oil pipelines connecting Iran, India, and China with many other countries along the North-South, East-West routes. Opinions are also expressed that Turkey receives from the Anglo-Saxon world (the United States and Great Britain) a mandate for operational management in the Central Asian region not just as a representative of NATO, but also as an instrument of confrontation with Russia, Iran and China.
At the same time, an analysis of Azerbaijan’s requirements for the so-called “Zangezur Corridor” shows that they are aimed not so much at creating a transport corridor according to generally accepted standards and in accordance with the provisions and recommendations of the UN and other international bodies, as at implementing their territorial claims against Armenia. The Azerbaijani side not only openly declares these claims through the mouth of its President Aliyev, but since 2021 has repeatedly tried to implement them through armed aggression. Ilham Aliyev puts forward these demands as one of the main preconditions for negotiations that the parties are conducting with the aim of concluding a treaty on peaceful coexistence. His threats to use military force to pave the extraterritorial “corridor” he needs fit perfectly into Aliyev’s policy with claims to the sovereign territories of Armenia, including the Sevan region, Syunik and even the Armenian capital Yerevan. In addition, the extraterritorial “corridor” should cut off and isolate Armenia from Iran, deprive Armenia of the possibility of access through Iran to seaports and international transport communications passing through its territory. And for Iran, the South-North land route will be closed to the territory and control of Azerbaijan. And if Aliyev’s plans come true, Azerbaijan will be the main beneficiary of trade routes from China to the Mediterranean Sea, which can pass through the territory no longer subject to Armenia. Erdogan’s Turkey will be no less a beneficiary, having received additional opportunities for the implementation of its pan-Turanian project.
That is why the Chairman of the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran Alireza Peyman-Pak explained that two alternative transit routes Iran-Eurasia will replace the route of Azerbaijan. The first one should open through Armenia, and the second one by sea. This is Iran’s preferred INSTC (International North-South Transport Corridor) international North-South transport corridor: rail, road and water routes crossing 7,200 kilometers and connecting Russia, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, India and Western Europe. According to experts, it is 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than existing routes.
India is also very interested in the North-South transport route running through the territory of Armenia. It is no coincidence that a few months before Peyman-Pak’s statement, Indian Ambassador to Iran Gaddam Dharmendra announced that India plans to connect the Chabahar port on the east coast of Iran (a seaport in which India has invested heavily) and the Indian Ocean with Eurasia via INSTC. India specially invited not only its traditional partners, but also Armenia to the online meeting dedicated to Chabahar Day last year. India and Iran decided that the INSTC, which was originally planned to pass through the territory of Azerbaijan, should now pass through the territory of Armenia. Summarizing the above, it should be noted that the Organization of Turkic States can become a significant player in the geopolitical space, at one of the crossroads of which Armenia is located. Therefore, the Armenian diplomacy needs to calculate all the possible scenarios of the situation, possible challenges and risks, interests and plans of the main actors in relation to Armenia, and conduct active work with them. I would especially like to draw attention to the need for a significant intensification of work with the Central Asian states, with India and China.
Mihran Shahzadeyan, Ph.D. Political Scientist