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Turkey’s Erdoğan Seeks to Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization by Tristan Vanheuckelom

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Turkey’s Erdoğan Seeks to Join Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Turkish President Erdoğan is seeking membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), various Turkish media outlets reported on Saturday. Should that happen, it would be the first NATO country to do so. 

Erdoğan made the comment while speaking to reporters after having attended the SCO summit in Uzbekistan. On this occasion he had been invited as a ‘special guest’ by the president of Uzbekistan, Şevket Mirziyoyev. Since 2012, Ankara had been only a ‘dialogue partner’ of the Beijing-established group.

Reflecting on his experiences of the two-day event, he said that Turkey’s relations with these countries “will be moved to a much different position with this step.” When asked whether this could eventually materialize into Turkey’s membership of the SCO, he said “of course, that is the target.”

He went on to laud the initiative, which first started out as the Shanghai Five (S5) in 1996, as it had covered “serious distances in the fields of security, economy, and trade” since its founding and had “continued its expansion in this framework.” Noting that the “decisive role played by the Asian continent in the global economy is already evident,” he added that the organization represents 3.2 billion people, who inhabit 60% of the Eurasian continent. Its members, he concluded, together  “produce more than 30% of global GDP while its collective economies reach $20 trillion” in revenue.

As such, Turkey’s membership would grant it additional leverage against the West as well as bolster its economy through ties with Euroasian countries. Currently, Ankara is mired in efforts to bring down its inflation numbers ahead of next year’s elections. Additionally, its financial sector is being targeted by the U.S. and the EU, as some of its banks are helping Moscow evade sanctions through their integration into Russia’s domestic payments system, Mir

Since Russia’s exclusion from global banking systems such as SWIFT, alternatives like Mir have risen in popularity to fill the vacuum.

During bilateral talks with Russian President Putin at that same summit, Erdoğan claims to have reached an agreement with his interlocutor on a nuclear power plant being built in Akkuyu in southern Turkey. Formerly, there had been a dispute between Turkish contractor IC Ictas and Russian state-owned company Rosatom, which manages the project, and had terminated its contract with IC Ictas over what it called “numerous violations.” 

As a result of the talks, IC Ictas now is once again involved in the project, which had already been confirmed to Reuters by two other anonymous sources on Friday. “God willing we will be able to finish and inaugurate the first (Akkuyu) unit in 2023,” Erdoğan added.

He went on to note that almost all of the leaders he met thanked Turkey for its mediating role in the Russo-Ukrainian war. Erdoğan was especially proud of having helped establish a food corridor, so that much-needed wheat could be directed “towards underdeveloped countries” such as Ethiopia, which had been edging towards a food crisis. He said he wanted to perfect this in future, so that more underdeveloped countries could benefit from the arrangement.

The SCO counts among its members China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. During the recent summit, Iran formally applied, and is expected to gain full membership next year.

Tristan Vanheuckelom writes on film, literature, and comics for various Dutch publications. He is an avid student of history, political theory, and religion, and is a News Writer at The European Conservative.