China says it would consider Turkey membership of Shanghai bloc

China says it would consider Turkey membership of Shanghai bloc

China says it would consider Turkey membership of Shanghai bloc

AP photo

China is willing to consider any application from NATO-member Turkey to join a Russian and Chinese-led security bloc, the Shanghai Pact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Nov. 21 after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said his country could join.

China, Russia and four Central Asian nations – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), also known as the Shanghai 5, in 2001 as a regional security bloc to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Turkey was already a dialogue partner of the bloc and has long closely cooperated with it, which China appreciates, according to Reuters.

China attaches great importance to Turkey’s wish to strengthen that cooperation, he told a daily news briefing.

“We are willing, together with other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and in accordance with the rules of its legal documents, to seriously study it on the basis of consensus consultation,” Geng said, without elaborating.

Erdoğan said Turkey should not be “fixated” on the idea of joining the European Union and should look at other opportunities, such as the Shanghai Pact.

“Turkey should first of all feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated” about joining it, Erdoğan told reporters on the presidential plane returning from Uzbekistan, daily Hürriyet reported.

Turkish membership of the bloc would likely alarm Western allies and fellow NATO members.

Having long been critical of Turkey’s record on democratic freedoms, European leaders were alarmed by the Turkish government’s crackdown on the alleged supporters of the July 15 failed coup attempt, which Turkey accuses of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating. 

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan speak Turkic languages, and Ankara signed up in 2013 as a “dialogue partner” saying it shared “the same destiny” as members of the bloc.

Mongolia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are observers, while Belarus, like Turkey, is a dialogue partner.