Türkiye seeks to be first Nato member to join China-led SCO

  • Türkiye has been affiliated with Shanghai Cooperation Organisation since 2013, full membership would give the country renewed leverage against the West
  • President Erdogan often cites disappointment, lack of solidarity within Nato and EU over security issues, mainly with Kurdish insurgents and Greece.

Türkiye is seeking membership to the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attempts to forge alliances with friendly countries in the East.

Erdogan made the announcement after attending the SCO summit in Uzbekistan on Friday where he held talks with leaders including China’s President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. A successful bid would make Türkiye the first member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to join the bloc.

“Our relationship with these countries will be moved to a much different position with this step,” Erdogan said about the SCO when he spoke with reporters in the city of Samarkand where the summit was held, according to Turkish state news agency Anadolu.

Türkiye has “historical and cultural” ties to the Asian continent and would like to play a role in the SCO which represents “30 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP),” Erdogan said.

His remarks on Turkey’s potential bid to join the SCO came as Erdogan sought, but could not yet secure, a one-on-one meeting with US President Joe Biden during the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, according to people familiar with the matter.

Türkiye has been affiliated with the SCO since 2013, when it signed a partnership agreement. Full membership of the bloc would give Erdogan renewed leverage against the West and the prospect of stronger economic ties as the government attempts to stabilise a troubled economy ahead of next year’s election. Apart from Russia and China, the eight-member SCO also includes India, Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

Ankara’s relationship with its Western allies has steadily deteriorated over the course of the nearly two-decade rule under Islamic-conservative Erdogan.

The Turkish leader often cites disappointment and lack of solidarity within Nato and the EU – where Ankara is a candidate – over security issues, mainly with Kurdish insurgents and Greece.

The EU, in response, cites worsening human rights and rule of law in Türkiye, particularly since the failed 2016 military coup.