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Turkey: Is The Bloom Off The SCO Rose?

Turkey's ties to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are complementary to its ties with the West, not a replacement for them, the country's minister in charge of European Union integration has said. This appears to be a step back from previous statements of then-prime minister, now president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he has repeatedly identified the China-led SCO as an "alternative" to the EU. 

From Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman:

Any cooperation between Turkey and the Shanghai Five is “complementary rather than alternative” and Turkey’s strengthened ties with the group of countries -- which is also known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) -- might add more to European Union, EU Minister Volkan Bozkır said in an exclusive interview with Deutsche Welle in Berlin.

“EU membership is Turkey’s primary strategic target since we have been struggling with it for 50 years already. However, the perception is that if Turkey forges a relationship with the SCO it would bring about the end of its EU bid. The world has already become globalized. Turkey has and will have ties with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC], the G20 and African and Latin American organizations. All these ties are complementary rather than alternative. Thus, Turkey having this kind of relationship might contribute more power to the EU,” Bozkır said in an interview on Wednesday, dismissing the fact that any close ties with the SCO might damage Turkey’s years-long EU efforts.

Turkey became a "dialogue partner" of the SCO in 2012, where it joins Sri Lanka and Belarus. (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are full members; Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, and Mongolia are observers.) It's never been very clear what "dialogue partner" means, and Turkey has been scarce at SCO events. If Ankara sent a representative to the most recent summit in Dushanbe, he or she kept a very low profile, and there was no evidence of any Turkish involvement in the event.

After heavy pressure from the United States and other NATO allies Turkey appears to be ready to abandon its plans to buy a missile defense system from China, which many had seen as evidence of Turkey's purported "turn to the east." And the fact that no Turkish official has publicly mentioned the SCO (except when asked directly by a journalist) in such a long time suggests that Ankara is rethinking its flirtation with the group. 

Turkey: Is The Bloom Off The SCO Rose?

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