11/05/2021, 13.13
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Bishkek is Erdogan's pawn in Central Asia

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In the coming days the "Turkish Council", which gathers Ankara and the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia, will meet. Erdogan wants to turn it into a "Turkish Union". Kyrgyz wooed with commercial promises and combat drones. Moscow's irritation.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Kyrgyzstan's President Sadyr Zaparov will travel to Istanbul in the coming days to attend the 8th summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking Countries (CCPT). In addition to Bishkek and Ankara, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are members of the group which is also also called the "Turkic Council". The Presidents of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan will also join the meeting. Žaparov will also have the opportunity for a bilateral with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kyrgyzstan is very interested in commercial and military cooperation with the Turks, and expects substantial investments from Ankara. Since becoming president in January, this is Žaparov's second visit to Turkey. The occasion of the summit is significant especially because of Erdogan's stated intention to transform it into a true "Turkish Union," with integration at all levels of Turkish-speaking nations.

As political scientist Mars Sariev explains to Nezavisimaja Gazeta, "Kyrgyzstan is the closest country to Turkey in all of Central Asia, especially after the recent conflicts on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, in which the Turks supported the reasons of Biškek." By June 2021, there were already very advanced negotiations for cooperation between the two governments, with the stated intention of increasing the trade budget to billion. So far, these goals appear rather unrealistic, as Sariev notes, "Ankara is capable of proposing itself to great effect, but Turkey's economic resources are actually limited."

Prior to the trip to Turkey, Žaparov was visited by the president of the Turkish Union of Courts and Exchanges, Mustafa Rifat Khisardjiklioglu, who reiterated Ankara's interest in investing in Kyrgyzstan. In turn, the Kyrgyz are ready to offer advantageous conditions to Turkish investors. As Žaparov reiterated, "Turkey and Kyrgyzstan are not only strategic partners, but brotherly countries".

Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan appear to be more cautious than Kyrgyzstan with regard to Turkey's plans, partly due to more stable economic conditions. The Kyrgyz have recently purchased from the Turks a large consignment of "Bayraktari" drones, a weapon with which few states in the world are equipped, and a group of Kyrgyz pilots is receiving special training in Turkey for piloting the unmanned aircraft. Recently, the Kyrgyz government has also purchased a certain amount of Russian "Orlan-10" drones, as explained by the head of the Biškek State Security Committee, Kamčibek Tašiev.

Kyrgyzstan is not actually preparing for war, not even in relation to potential threats from Afghanistan, which are taken seriously, due to the potential drift of radical groups in the Fergana Valley. For now, the drones will only serve as a means to control the area, while waiting for the outcome of the Afghan government's moves, thus far precarious and unable to face the real problems.

The Kyrgyz have not forgotten the times of the so-called "Batken conflict" of the years 1999-2000, when the guerrillas of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan tried to penetrate into Afghanistan through the territories of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, especially from the Fergana valley. With arms purchases from Russia and Turkey, the Kyrgyz are also trying to maintain some balance between friendly powers, despite the clear dissatisfaction of the Russians with Turkish enterprise in Central Asia.

Russia is effectively losing control of its post-Soviet "backyard" in Asia; Turkey is just one of the powers ready to take advantage of it, along with China and several Western countries. The games are still very much open.

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