Turkey eyes joining SCO

21 November 2016 14:57 (UTC+04:00)

By Gunay Hasanova

Turkey is not constrained to joining the European Union (EU), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could also be an option, said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“Turkey is discussing the issue of joining the SCO,” the Turkish Milliyet newspaper cited President Erdogan as saying on November 20.

Erdogan said he had already discussed the idea with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

This organization has become of special importance for Turkey following India’s and Pakistan’s decision to join the SCO, according to the president.

“Being a member of the SCO will allow Turkey to act more freely (in its EU bid),” Erdogan said.

The Turkish President once again warned the EU to decide by the year end on its membership bid and the deal for visa-free travel for Turks, vowing to otherwise call a referendum on this matter.

Turkey formally applied for an EU member in 1987 and accession talks in 2005, even though Ankara's aspirations to become part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s.

Relations between Turkey and the EU have been strained since the July 15 coup attempt. Ankara says it has not received enough support from its EU allies, while Brussels criticized the Turkish government's crackdown on alleged coup plotters, urging Ankara to comply with the EU's rights and freedoms criteria.

The SCO, established in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, conducts multilateral cooperation between the member states on national security, military, economy and culture.  In 2013, Turkey became a dialogue partner at the SCO.

The SCO members now are China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus are the SCO observer countries, while Turkey, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Armenia, Cambodia, and Nepal are dialogue partners.

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Gunay Hasanova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @gunhasanova

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