Relations with the Central Asian Republics: The emergence of the Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) as independent states has added a new dimension to Turkish foreign policy. Turkey’s relations and cooperation with these countries which enjoy a common language, similar history and cultural bonds with Turkey, have rapidly developed on the basis of mutual benefits.
Turkey’s general policy regarding the Central Asian countries can be summed up as supporting the existence of independent states and nations which enjoy political and economic stability, cooperate with each other and their neighbors, and have adopted democratic norms. Turkey was the first country to recognize and establish Embassies in the Central Asian Republics. First high level visits to these countries were made by Turkish leaders and the government officials of these countries replied in kind.
The Summits of the Heads of State of Turkish-Speaking Countries form a multilateral platform bringing Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey together at the highest level. The 8th Summit held in Antalya on November 17th, 2006 showed the intention of the Turkic Republics to maintain solidarity and a consensus of understanding among themselves. The process of the Summits encourages cooperation in a geography including these six countries and demonstrates Eurasia’s importance and vast potential in the international platform. Attaching special importance to the continuation of this process of Summits, Turkey also gives importance to other regional activities. With this understanding, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan participated in the 11th Turkic States and Groups Friendship, Brotherhood and Cooperation Convention held in Baku on November 16th-17th 2007, and made important evaluations and suggestions.
Turkey has also done all it can to help these countries join international organizations such as the UN, OSCE and ECO and take part in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Turkey’s economic relations with these countries have rapidly developed and substantial ground has been covered in the fields of commerce, transportation and communications. In addition, the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) has been established to provide technical assistance to the Central Asian Republics.
The total volume of credits that Turkey has extended to these countries through Eximbank is above 1 billion USD. Through such loans, it is aimed to make this region an attractive investment area for Turkish businessmen. The annual trade volume with these countries is nearly 4.5 billion USD, and investments by Turkish companies in the region have totaled over 4.6 billion USD. Meanwhile, the total amount of work undertaken by Turkish contracting companies in the region has almost reached 20 billion USD.
Relations in the fields of culture and education have also developed rapidly. Turkey has launched a giant program of scholarships for students from these countries. There are Turkish schools affiliated with the Ministry of National Education in the Central Asian Republics. Moreover, there are also Turkish-Kazakh International Hoca Ahmet Yesevi University in the Turkistan city of Kazakhstan and the Turkish-Kyrgyz Manas University in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
Sharing from the outset the concerns of the Central Asian Republics regarding extremist movements, and terrorism as well as drugs and weapons trafficking which threaten their security and stability, Turkey has provided them with military raining opportunities and material aid within the framework of agreements on combating terrorism.Turkey believes that any step taken in these republics for the advancement of democratization, the rule of law and human rights would make positive contributions to the process of integration with the international community as well as their stability and security and therefore encourages all efforts exerted in this direction.
Afghanistan: Exerting substantial efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people before September 11th, Turkey continued its contributions during the post-Taleban period as well. Turkey exerts active efforts to support the protection of the national unity and territorial integrity, establishment of peace and stability, creation of a broad-based political structure, elimination of terrorism and extreme movements, and increasing the level of welfare of the people of Afghanistan, enjoying historical bonds of friendship with Turkey.
With this understanding, Turkey has been contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) since its inception. Turkey took over command of ISAF-II between June 2002 and February 2003 and of ISAF-VII between February and August 2005. Turkey, as well as continuing to contribute to ISAF, has decided to provide an operation guidance and com-munication team within the 201. Army Corps based in Kabul. Also, in turns with France and Italy, the Joint Command of the Kabul Central Region on August 2006 was assumed for a period of two years. This duty was executed by Turkey during the period of April-December 2007, with the participation of nearly 1,200 personnel.
Finally, the Turkish Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) that started to operate in November 2006 in the Vardak province of Afghanistan has formed an important part of the contributions towards the re-construction of Afghanistan. The Turkish PRT, which has constructed schools, health centers and cold storage depots, is also providing training to the national police force in the city and literacy classes for women and girls, and it is providing aid in kind to the people of Vardak. In the meantime, Turkey continues to provide training for the Afghan national army and police force to contribute to the establishment of security and stability in Afghanistan. It also provides special training to the Afghan Narcotic Police within the frame of combating drug production and trafficking. In this direction, it is also planned to implement projects focusing on alternative means of livelihood.
In its active stance towards reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, Turkey provides assistance particularly in the fields of education, health and agriculture. The number of Afghan patients who received free health care and treatment in the health centers established and operated by Turkey has exceeded 750 thousand and the number of students who are trained in the schools constructed by Turkey has exceeded 38 thousand.
Following the invitation of 10th President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Pervez Muserref and President Hamid Kazai of Afghanistan came to Ankara for a Turkey-Pakistan-Afghanistan Ankara Triple Summit on April 29th-30th, 2007.
In the “Ankara Declaration” following the summit, a strong will to continue dialogue and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan and to increase the prosperity of the nations was expressed. Also in the declaration, it was decided to form a Mutual Working Group with high level representatives from each of the three countries, in order to follow the issues agreed on and to provide coordination of the confidence building measures.
The first meeting of the Turkey-Pakistan-Afghanistan mutual working group was held in Ankara on July 6th, 2007, with the commissions headed by the Undersecretaries of Foreign Affairs of each country.
The “İstanbul Forum”, which will form cooperation between Pakistani and Afghan institutions under the roof of the relevant chambers of commerce and industry, under the leadership of TOBB, was founded in October 2007. In this cooperation, which was inspired by the “Ankara Forum” and founded between Israel and Palestine with TOBB, investments similar to those planned for Gaza and the West Bank are planned for this region. The second of the İstanbul Forum were held in İstanbul on January 28th, 2008.