Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev will make an official visit to Turkey on Oct. 21-24. This will bear a historic meaning in terms of content. Nazarbayev made his last official visit to Turkey in 2003; however, there have been significant changes in the content of bilateral relations between Turkey and Kazakhstan in the last six years.
Kazakhstan, which gained its independence 18 years ago, has become one of the most dynamic countries in the world. The Kazakh state has undergone great transformations and introduced bold reforms towards socio-economic modernization and political democratization under the leadership of Nazarbayev. Great achievements have been made in the fields of politics, economy and industry. A new political system based on democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights in the country is in place, and long-term development strategies have also been created.
During this period, a number of changes have taken place with respect to Turkish internal and external politics. Above all, the internal political landscape has been dramatically changed with the emergence of a new political elite in the country; political stability has been achieved and the great potential of the Turkish nation has contributed to the diversification of Turkey’s opportunities.
Secondly, as a consequence of its successful economic policies in recent times, Turkey has become the 16th largest economy in the world and the sixth in Europe, and it is estimated it will rise to 12th in the world in a decade. It has also enhanced its industrial potential; for instance, it ranks third in automobile production and up until the recent crisis, it has shown an impressive performance in this particular field. In addition, Turkey currently has a strong and stable banking system and well-planned fiscal and financial policy.
Thirdly, the status of the country has changed in the international arena. Turkey’s position has been further reinforced by the fact that US President Barack Obama made his first overseas visit to Turkey, which was well-noted by Western countries and NATO. In recent years, Turkey has played an active role in the Middle East, Southern Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans and further consolidated its status as a leader country in the region. Its principled approach towards the Gaza war also promoted its prestige in the Arab world. Turkey is now viewed in the Middle East as a country able to contribute extensively to the achievement of peace. At the same time, thanks to its position and role as mediator in the talks between Syria and Israel, Turkey is able to remain as the only country in the Muslim world that has a relationship of alliance with Israel. In addition, Turkey has secured a realistic partnership with Russia. The trade volume between Russia and Turkey reached $38 billion in 2008; considering that the trade volume between Turkey and the US remained at $16 billion, it could be concluded that this is a huge achievement to improve ties with Russia.
Because of these dramatic political, economic and social transformations in both countries and the reinforcement of their positions in regional and global politics, bilateral relations between Turkey and Kazakhstan should be revisited from a new perspective and new dimensions should be added to these relations as part of the mutual interests of both countries.
Above all, it should be stressed that the parties need to maintain close political cooperation envisaging the continuation of the endeavors seeking to integrate the Turkic states.
Special efforts have been made for years to ensure cooperation between the Turkic states in the fields of culture, politics and economy. There are close ties and relations between our countries. In addition to frequent gatherings attended by heads of state, four or five high-level official meetings are held. Moreover, our economic relations have contributed to the growth of our trade volume. We have an extensive network of cultural and personal relations. A number of projects are put into action in this field as well. However, our partnership has lacked a political body that would coordinate cultural, personal and economic relations and arrange occasional meetings and summits to be attended by heads of states in the Turkic world.
To fill this void, Kazakh President Nazarbayev has offered some initiatives, and his offers have attracted attention and support from Turkish President Abdullah Gül and other leaders of Turkic states. The most crucial of these offers was the establishment of a Council of Cooperation between Turkic-speaking countries at a political level. This council was officially launched at the ninth summit of the Turkic-speaking countries held in Nahcivan on Oct. 2-3, 2009. This is a genuine interstate union with a legal and organizational status displaying all the features of a political organization.
The second initiative is the creation of a Turkic-countries Parliamentary Assembly. The respective agreement was signed with the participation of Kazakhstan, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan on Nov. 21, 2008. The deputies met at the end of September of this year to discuss the current issues in Baku; the cooperative atmosphere in the meeting was commendable.
This process may be viewed as the beginning of work for a genuine integration between Turkic republics. However, this should not discourage these states from engaging in other attempts at integration. Kazakhstan supports Turkey’s EU bid; Turkey’s membership in the EU serves the interests of the Kazakh nation because of strategic relations with EU countries. Kazakhstan is an active member at the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as well as other international and regional organizations.
Strategic relations between Astana and Ankara
One of the factors that should be remembered in the assessment of this Turkic entity to be created through the joint efforts of Kazakhstan and Turkey is the ongoing strategic relations between Astana and Ankara. During Nazarbayev’s visit, the two states will sign a strategic partnership paper. Turkey, at Kazakhstan’s request, has recently taken over the chairmanship of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA). This is a striking move in the common Asian forum that has transformed the CICA into a genuine international actor.
The recent global crisis has forced our countries to introduce some changes to the existing commercial and economic plans. However, it is a reality that the trade volume between the two countries increased by $1 billion last year; this is a great achievement considering that half of 2008 was wasted because of the devastating global crisis. This proves that our trade and commerce potential is huge. One of the most important developments in the field of economy is the fact that Turkish capital will flow into the organized industrial zones that will be created in Astana and Almati. This will reduce imports, and Kazakhstan will increase its exports in times of crisis. Considering that Turkish producers have recently been suffering from a dearth of markets, this cooperation will also be useful for Turkish entrepreneurs as well.
In addition, we can talk about the huge potential for cooperation in the field of culture. I think that cooperation in this field will gain momentum after the Nazarbayev’s visit.
Nazarbayev’s visit to Turkey will consolidate relations between the two countries in the fields of politics, economy, military, technology, science and culture and reinforce the ties of friendship between the Turkish and Kazakh nations. For the first time in the history of their bilateral relations, a Kazakh president will address Turkish deputies at the Turkish Parliament.
*Baghdad Amreyev is the Kazakh ambassador to Turkey.