Kazakhstan is at forefront of Turkic integration, says prominent Kazakh diplomat
Astana prepares to host the 10th anniversary summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) on November 3. In an interview with Kazinform agency, President of the Turkic Investment Fund Baghdad Amreyev spoke about Kazakhstan’s role in OTS, the priorities of the fund and shared his expectations of the upcoming summit.
Baghdad Amreyev is a veteran Kazakh diplomat, who served as the Secretary-General of the OTS between 2018 and 2022. Since 1996, he served as Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to foreign states, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Jordan, Libya, and Türkiye, among other countries.
What is OTS?
The OTS, formerly known as the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States, was established in 2009 as an intergovernmental organization to promote comprehensive cooperation among Turkic States. Its four founding member states are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Türkiye.
Uzbekistan joined as a full member during the 7th summit in Baku in October 2019. Hungary received observer status at the organization during its 6th Summit in Cholpon-Ata in September 2018, and Turkmenistan became an observer member during the 8th summit in November 2021 in Istanbul.
At the Istanbul summit, the Turkic Council got its new name – the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) – and became a full-fledged international organization. It was also when the leaders adopted the Turkic World Vision – 2040, which supports Turkic countries’ integration efforts and lays out their cooperation’s long-term goals.
What is the Turkic Investment Fund?
The fund was formally created in November last year at the summit in Samarkand. In a record time of four months, the Founding Treaty was completed and signed at the summit in Ankara on March 16.
Kazakhstan’s Senate approved the agreement in October.
“Literally tonight, taking into account the upcoming summit, at 12 a.m., the Turkish Parliament ratified the agreement on the fund, and yesterday the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a decree approving the fund. Almost all countries have ratified this agreement, we expect that Kyrgyzstan will ratify it one of these days,” said Amreyev.
He noted it usually takes several years to create such organizations.
The Turkic Investment Fund will be the first and main joint financial institution established aimed at mobilizing the economic potential of member states and strengthening the trade and economic cooperation.
“In order to have material well-being [in an organization], it is necessary to develop the economy and to achieve this together we need to develop economic cooperation. This has always been a priority from the very first days, but it’s one thing when we all encouraged our businesses to work together, created conditions, held forums, organized B2B meetings. This is good and should be done, but this is not enough,” said Amreyev.
The Investment Fund was created to financially support those projects that serve OTS countries and strengthen integration.
“Business always needs money. But we need to support those projects that promote economic integration, and economic integration is always one of the main tasks of any organization,” he said.
Capitalization of the fund
While initial capital of the fund was declared at $500 million - $100 million from each of permanent members, the volume could reach billions in the near future.
“The figure of $500 million was taken based on the investments of each permanent member of the organization at $100 million. Count also Hungary and Turkmenistan as observers at $100 million - a total of $700 million. Perhaps they will increase their contributions. In addition, there are international financial institutions with which our countries have been cooperating for a long time - the Islamic Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank - they are also ready to invest. We expect that we will have several billion dollars already in the coming years,” said Amreyev.
The fund will also be working to attract investments.
“In addition to financing projects from our own funds, we will actively cooperate with other regional financial institutions to finance our projects, so the capital can increase tenfold, because these institutions have great capabilities, for example, institutions such as the Qatar Fund, the Saudi Fund, the Emirates Fund. They are ready to work with us, so we expect large amounts of funds. Thus, we act not only as a financial institution, but also as an investment attraction institution. This is where its importance lies,” he explained.
Amreyev stressed the funds must be spent correctly, so that they benefit both those whom we want to help and the countries’ economic integration.
What projects will be eligible for finance?
Amreyev said that one of the key criteria is that the projects are joint ventures and serve two or more countries.
“Secondly, that the projects should have a payback period. Thirdly, that they contribute to the identification of new areas of cooperation and support small medium-sized businesses, because a lot of things are based on this. Of course, large projects will also be financed, such as logistics projects. It is difficult to finance such large projects alone,” he said.
Role of Kazakhstan in OTS
Discussing the development of the organization since its establishment in 2009, Amreyev described Kazakhstan’s role in OTS as “decisive.”
“It was Kazakhstan that initiated the creation of the Turkic Council. This united the Turkic states in their classical form. Prior to this, Kazakhstan initiated and contributed to the creation of the Interparliamentary Assembly of Turkic Countries. Back in the early years of 1991-92, Kazakhstan was one of the initiators of TÜRKSOY [The International Organization of Turkic Culture]. Later, Kazakhstan again initiated the creation of the Turkic Academy, another division,” he said.
The idea to establish the Turkic Investment Fund also belongs to Kazakhstan.
“Thus, we can firmly say that Kazakhstan is the initiator and founder of almost all currently existing organizations of Turkic states - this is a generally recognized fact,” he added.
Amreyev said that by nature, Kazakh people are “diplomatically oriented.”
“Kazakhs are open, and we have always wanted and want to build strong and trusting relationships with all partner countries. From time immemorial, we have been diplomatically oriented towards this. In addition, our geopolitical location also obliges us to pursue such a line of international activity. Kazakhstan is known for never opposing any countries or blocs. Geopolitical location and the need to balance serve as prerequisites for the initiation of such ideas,” he said.
Amreyev said the establishment of OTS is “justified by history” where each country plays its own role.
“We are like family. Whether someone likes it or not, a fact is a fact. We speak the same language and have same culture. That is why the role of Kazakhstan is very huge. Other Turkic countries could also play a big role. But each of us has a role that we cannot replace. That is, each country has its own role and it cannot be replaced by another country,” said Amreyev.
Amreyev noted that OTS will “never exhaust their potential.”
“Here we probably have one of those rare organizations that will never exhaust their potential, and the need for it will be, one might say, eternal. Is it possible to be temporary brothers and sisters with brothers and sisters?” he said.
Anniversary summit this week
The upcoming summit in Astana will be held under motto – Turk Time.
“It [the motto] absorbed all the meanings - strategic, ideological and political - of how we see the Turkic world in the future within the framework of the cooperation of OTS,” said Amreyev.
The summit is expected to gather presidents of Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Türkiye, and Uzbekistan. Additionally, heads of OTS observer states and the Secretary General of the OTS will be in attendance.
Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán arrived on November 1. President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov and President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are expected to arrive in Astana on November 3.
The summit will serve as a crucial platform for high-level discussions on the extensive agenda of the organization.
“I think that a number of documents will be adopted, which will be aimed at strengthening the existing format of the organization. I think that this summit will be very important. It is very symbolic that it is being held in Kazakhstan, because Kazakhstan was the initiator and think tank of Turkic integration,” Amreyev concluded.
Kazakhstan’s strides to strengthen Turkic integration is “not directed against anyone, but it is aimed at strengthening the country, its independence and sovereignty, economy and welfare growth,” he added.
During the summit, the chairpersonship-in-office will also pass from Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan.