The New Turkic Empire

Turkey's former President Suleyman Demirel made a speech last week at the European Society of Asian Studies conference held at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara. The Turkish Daily News ran a translated version of the speech entitled "Changing Central Asia in the New World Order." It is an interesting read because it outlines how, since the early 1990s, Turkey has involved itself in the economic development of the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. Demirel was in office during the negotiations to build the BTC and BTE pipelines and points out Turkey's ongoing importance as an energy corridor.

It is no secret either that the vast energy resources of Central Asia constitute one of the other major factors that come into play in the increased interest in the region.This comes as no surprise considering that 4 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and 5 percent of its proven natural gas reserves are located in this region.

These resources are of vital importance for the ever-increasing demand for energy and the current topic of concern for all nations of ensuring energy security through the diversification of energy supply sources and routes.

Thus, it does not take a soothsayer to say that the region will increasingly be one of competing interests for the transportation of these resources to consumer markets.

The Central Asian Republics are essentially land-locked countries. In their access to the sea Turkey is their only viable option. Turkey's geopolitical location presents a significant opportunity for access to the Black Sea and Mediterranean and beyond.

This is particularly valid in terms of supplying world markets with a safe and stable flow of energy resources through multiple oil and natural gas pipelines.

Our comparative advantage is not only limited to the East-West Energy Corridor but also land and rail corridors, which I refer to as the new age Silk Road of the current century reconnecting Europe to Asia once again.

It's also interesting how he soft-peddles Central Asia's democratic development.

However, we must also acknowledge that their process of transition is yet far from completed. They will require further time to catch up with the international standards of the universal values that we hold dear.But we must have patience, be soft spoken in our criticism and show understanding for their predicament.

I do not in any way underestimate the significance of democratization in Central Asia. On the contrary I have been and continue to be an outspoken advocate of this process and believe that the reforms to this end will not only contribute to their economic development and welfare but also accelerate their full integration with the rest of the world. In the final analysis, integration with the global community in the world that we live in today is all about adherence to universal values.

I merely wish to remind that the process of democratization is a dynamic, long and arduous one.

Yes, and democracy is not an apple one can buy at the store. While Turkey has certainly hit a few bumps on the road to democracy, hopefully the Turks will use their increasing influence in the region to encourage both democratic and economic development. Culturally, Uzbeks, Azeris and Kazakhs have a lot more in common with Turks than they do Poles, Ukrainians or Lithuanians. That's why Central Asian and Caucasian audiences might be more receptive to the Turkish model of democratic development than they are the Eastern European model.

When Turks speak, their Central Asian brethren might listen. At least a little bit.