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Convention Spotlights
U.S.-Turkic Ties

by Sarah Alaoui

Energy, trade and development were the themes of the Turkic American Convention, which brought together different stakeholders from seven Turkic countries and the United States from March 12 to 13.

The Turkic peoples are ethnic groups that live in northern, eastern, central and western Asia, northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family.

Photos: Turkic American Alliance
Speakers pose for a group photo at the Turkic American Convention, which brought together ambassadors from Turkic nations, U.S. government officials, and members of parliament from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The annual gathering, hosted by the Turkic American Alliance and held at the JW Marriott, included government officials, parliamentary officials and diplomatic delegations from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as members of Congress. The convention, now its third year, provided them with a wide-ranging platform to network and exchange ideas to boost political, social and economic partnerships between the Turkic countries themselves and, of course, between the region and the United States.

House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was among dozens of congressional representatives at the third annual Turkic American Convention.

The event kicked off on Tuesday evening with a reception and cruise on the Potomac River. Around 400 guests joined the festivities organized by the Turkic American Alliance, the largest Turkic organization in the United States, encompassing more than 200 community organizations and businesses, cultural centers, and educational institutions and schools. Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, applauded the alliance’s initiative and stressed the importance of strengthening ties between the Turkic world — which encompasses broad swaths of Central and Eastern Asia and parts of Europe and China — and the United States.

Robert Blake, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, talks about the economic potential of Turkic cooperation, saying that, “The promise of regional connectivity and integration, and the potential rewards, are tremendous.”

“This relationship is important for stability and peace in our region,” he said, highlighting America’s diversity and its shared values with his own country.

Robert Blake, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, opened Wednesday’s breakfast session by discussing Turkish leadership in the region, citing the launch of the Istanbul Process in November 2011 that encouraged cooperation between the Turkic countries in supporting Afghanistan. Blake underlined the benefits of strengthening ties not only a means of stimulating the economy but also to preserve security.

From left, Ambassador of Turkmenistan Meret Bairamovich Orazov; Laurie Curry, the Central Asia director at the Office at the U.S. Trade Representative; Najia Badykova, executive director of international energy and development (Eurasia) at Antares Strategy; and Eric Stewart, president of the U.S.-Turkmenistan Business Council, headlined one of the panels at the March 12-13 Turkic American Convention.

“Almost two years ago, Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton articulated the New Silk Road vision of increased trade and economic integration in South and Central Asia,” he said. “The promise of regional connectivity and integration, and the potential rewards, are tremendous.”

Blake delved into the importance of trade liberalization in the region, including reducing non-tariff trade barriers, improving regulatory mechanisms, and ensuring that border clearance procedures are both efficient and transparent. He also reiterated his optimism that Turkic countries will be able to harness their efforts to tackle security and stability issues together.

Ambassador of Azerbaijan Elin Suleymanov talks about U.S.-Azerbaijan economic links at the third annual Turkic American Convention.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) echoed Blake’s comments about Turkey’s strategic role in the Middle East and in promoting national security. She also commended Turkey’s foreign policy toward Syria and its efforts in taking in refugees from the country.

“The development in human rights and democracy in the region will be possible only with strong efforts between the United States and Turkey. The leaders of both countries, although through different approaches, work together to purify Iran’s nuclear weapons,” Gillibrand said.

Different forums touched on specific issues between the United States and countries such as Uzbekistan, a critical supply line for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Azerbaijan, a geostrategic energy provider located along the Caspian Sea whose government has used oil revenues to modernize the former Soviet republic, although it lacks strong democratic institutions.

“We have been working to support civil society programs for the development of vibrant society. As Azerbaijan grew stronger, as her economy grows, standards of living will continue to rise and Azerbaijan will be more open to the contributions of its citizens in all areas,” said Eric Rubin, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

The event culminated in a gala dinner where many members of the U.S. Congress voiced their support for bolstering ties with Turkic countries — among them House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who delivered welcoming remarks. Last year’s convention hosted more 700 people, including 59 members of Congress and eight senators.

About the Author

Sarah Alaoui is a contributing writer for the Diplomatic Pouch.



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