Turkish PM Erdoğan to Putin: Take us to Shanghai

Turkish PM Erdoğan to Putin: Take us to Shanghai

Turkish PM Erdoğan to Putin: Take us to Shanghai

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) meets Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan in Strelna near St. Petersburg November 22, 2013. AA Photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has again opened up the debate on Turkey’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), this time demanding a seat from Russian President Vladimir Putin to save Ankara from “the troubles” of the EU accession process.

Responding to a question over Ukraine’s recent decision to halt a trade pact with the European Union, Putin said the issue had no political dimension and that they would learn from Turkey’s EU experiences.

“We will ask Turkey what we can do. Turkey has great experience in EU talks,” Putin said at a joint conference with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in St. Petersburg. Erdoğan replied: “You are right. Fifty years of experience is not easy. Allow us into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and save us from this trouble.”

Ukraine abruptly abandoned a historic new alliance with the EU on Nov. 21, halting plans for an imminent trade pact with the bloc and saying it would instead revive talks with Russia.

The prime minister said he had conveyed Turkey’s membership request to Putin before. “We care about this.”

Turkey became the first NATO member state to become a “dialogue partner” with the regional body – which is colloquially known as the Shanghai Five – in April. Turkey said the cooperation would strengthen Turkey’s ties with the organization, primarily in the domains of economy and transportation.

The SCO’s members include Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

The issue of SCO membership had come to the political agenda of Turkey earlier this year after Erdoğan said Turkey might opt to join the SCO. Erdoğan raised the issue in January at a time when hopes regarding the EU process were diminishing due to the adamant opposition of a number of members states toward Turkey’s membership.

“I said to Russian President Vladimir Putin, ‘You tease us, saying, ‘What [is Turkey] doing in the EU?’ Now I tease you: Include us in the Shanghai Five, and we will forget about the EU,’” Erdoğan said at the time. The prime minister’s remarks fueled debates on whether Turkey was moving away from its policy target of EU membership. President Abdullah Gül also reiterated that the SCO and the EU were not alternatives to each other at the time.

Accompanied by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, Erdoğan met Putin and co-chaired the fourth session of the High-Level Russian-Turkish Cooperation Council, where the two sides signed several agreements.

Meanwhile, Putin said Western states must persuade the Syrian opposition to attend talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government which he said should take place as soon as possible.

“Russia took on the responsibility of convincing the Syrian leadership. We did our part. It is up to our partners, who must convince the opposition to do the same,” Putin said at the press conference.

Erdoğan said delays to the peace conference were simply buying time for al-Assad. “The civilian population has been killed with planes, helicopters, tanks and shells. In Syria, the regime bears the primary responsibility for this. On the opposite side, extremist groups also bear responsibility. But they have only short- and long-range weapons. But the regime does not differentiate,” Erdoğan said.