Turkey seeks Central Asia inroads with Russia distracted
Credits: wikipedia

Turkey seeks Central Asia inroads with Russia distracted

Turkey on Friday will lead a summit of Central Asian countries, aiming to strengthen economic ties with the region's resource-rich ex-Soviet states while Moscow is distracted by war in Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will preside over the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) summit in Uzbekistan's historic city of Samarkand.

Erdogan has for several years been pushing for closer cultural, linguistic and religious ties with several ex-Soviet countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February spooked Moscow's neighbours in Central Asia and spurred Kazakhstan -- geographically the region's largest country -- and Uzbekistan, the most populous, to look for alliances elsewhere: both with China and also Europe.

In a sign of Ankara's determination to gain a foothold here while Moscow focuses on Ukraine, this is Erdogan's third trip to the region in less than two months.

The OTS group includes Azerbaijan -- a former Soviet republic with a Turkic language located in the Caucasus region bordering Turkey -- as well as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

Turkmenistan, also in Central Asia, and EU member state Hungary are observer members of the group.

The group last year dropped its former name, the Turkic Council, in favour of the Organization of Turkic States.

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