Institutional framework of Turkey’s relations with the Caspian region
Turkey has been trying to develop its relations with the Caspian Sea region through a multilateral institutional framework too. The main institutional framework for Ankara to project its influence regionally is the Turkic Council or the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (CCTS). This organization was created by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey in 2009. Among the Caspian States, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are already full members of the Turkic Council whose main aim is to deepen the level of cooperation among the Turkic speaking countries in the areas of common interest. Turkmenistan, which has an observer status at the Turkic Council, could join this organization in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, bearing in mind current foreign policy strategy of Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s membership is very unlikely in near future. Concerning Turkey’s relations with the Caspian countries, Uzbekistan’s non-membership cannot pose a significant challenge. However, the full membership of Turkmenistan is very critical since it is a littoral state of the Caspian Sea region.
The process leading to the formation of the Turkic Council originated from the summit meetings of the Turkic states. The first of these summits was held with the participation of the presidents of all Turkic states, - namely Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - in Ankara in 1992. Although five more summits were held with the full participation of all Turkic Presidents between 1994 and 2000, including the Istanbul summit in 1994, the Bishkek summit in 1995, the Tashkent summit in 1996, the Astana summit in 1998, the Baku summit in 2000. First Uzbekistan starting with the Istanbul summit in 2001 to be followed by Turkmenistan starting with the Antalya summit in 2006 stopped participating in these summits at the presidential levels. This is the main reason why Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Turkey established the Turkic Council during the ninth summit in Nakhchevan in 2009.
The founding document of this institutional framework for multilateral cooperation is the Nakhchevan Agreement on the Establishment of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States which was signed in the Azerbaijani city of Nakhchevan in 2009. This Agreement emphasized the commitment of the member states to the universal principles of peaceful international relations externally and democratic governance domestically in their attempts at realiz- ingthe common objectives of the Turkic speaking peoples who share common historical and cultural origins. According to Article 2 of this Agreement, the mandate of this institutional framework formultilateral cooperation covers a very wide agenda ranging from the issues of soft security and legal cooperation the issues of cooperation in the areas of economy, technology and culture.
In terms of its organizational structure, the Turkic Council resembles other regional cooperation in many ways. Its highest decision making organ is the Council of Heads of State, which is assisted by the Council of Foreign Ministers. Its Secretariat, which is based in Istanbul and headed by a Turkish diplomat Ambassador Halil Akinci, executes the policies and programs as agreed by the Council of Heads of State. Unlike other regional organizations, the Turkic Council includes the Council of Elders and the Senior Officials Committee as consultative bodies. In this way, the Turkic Council incorporates the leading figures from civil societies and bureaucracies of the member states into its decision-making system.
The Turkic Council is also keen on coordinating its activities with the already operational institutional frameworks for multinational cooperation among the Turkic-speaking countries, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic Speaking Countries (TURKPA) and the Turkic Business Council as well as the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY). If the member states of these organizations decide to join the Turkic Council, these organizations could be integrated into the formal organizational structure of the Turkic Council. Until that time, their relations with the Turkic Council will be coordinated through its Secretariat in Istanbul.
To summarize, the institutional dimension of Turkey’s policy towards the Caspian Sea region could be considered partially successful as it includes only Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan from the region. Turkmenistan’s observer status and the exclusion of Russia and Iran seem to be undermining the effectiveness of Turkey’s attempt at developing an institutional framework for multilateral cooperation in this region. Besides, the ethnic focus in the Turkic Council is another factor that limits the multilataralist claim of Ankara’s policies towards the region due to its exclusive character.
-  A. Bayaliyev, “The Turkic Council: Will the Turks Finally Unite?”, CACI Analyst, 19 February 2014.
-  “History of Summits”, available at: http://www.turkkon.org/eng/icerik.php?no=29 (last retrieved on 14 March2014).
-  “Nakhchivan Agreement on the Establishment of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States”, available at: http://www.turkkon.org/uploads/NahA§A±van%20AnlaAYmasA±-Angilizce.pdf (last retrieved on 14March 2014).
-  “The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States”, available at: http://www.mfa.gov.tr/turk-konseyi-en.en.mfa (last retrieved on 14 March 2014).
-  Ibid.