Last week, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan hosted the leaders of many countries. The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and security bloc headed mainly by China. Although some view the SCO as an anti-Western and anti-NATO body, the Central Asian member-states have collaborative relationships with the US and Europe. At this year’s summit, Azerbaijan and Turkey attended as dialogue partners. There, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had talks with Russian President Putin, resolving a disagreement about a Turkish nuclear power plant.
On Saturday, President Erdogan said he wants SCO membership for Turkey; it would also be the first NATO country to join the bloc. So far, the SCO includes China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as members. Turkey has been affiliated with the bloc since 2013, when it signed a partnership agreement. But, getting full membership of the SCO would give Erdogan some leverage against the West and the potential for stronger economic ties as Turkey struggles with an unstable economy. Apparently, Erdogan made his announcement after attempting and failing to get a one-on-one meeting with US President Biden after the UN General Assembly meeting this week, according to inside sources.
“Our relations with these countries will be moved to a much different position with this step,” Erdogan said while leaving the conference.
“What Ankara is doing is not pursuing alternatives to the West, but establishing balanced relations with all over the world. It also aims to help the West to see more clearly who its interlocutor is in its relations [with Turkey],” tweeted Cagri Erhan, a professor of international relations and one of the Turkish president’s security advisors.