Er­do­gan says Turkey can spurn EU and join the Shang­hai Pact

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan says Turkey should not be “fix­ated” on join­ing the EU and has re­it­er­ated the idea of join­ing Rus­sia and China in a Eurasian se­cu­rity group, lo­cal media re­ported yes­ter­day.

His com­ments come as Turkey’s decades-long hopes of join­ing the Euro­pean Union have reached a nadir, driven by the af­ter­math of the July 15 botched coup. “Turkey should first of all feel re­laxed about the EU and not be fix­ated” about join­ing it, Er­do­gan told Turk­ish jour­nal­ists on a plane from Uzbek­istan, Hur­riyet news­pa­per and other media re­ported. “Some may crit­i­cise me but I express my opin­ion. For ex­am­ple, I say ‘why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shang­hai 5?,” he said. The Shang­hai Co­op­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion (SCO) — also called the Shang­hai Pact-is a loose se­cu­rity and eco­nomic bloc led by Rus­sia and China. Other mem­bers are Kaza­khstan, Kyr­gyzs­tan and Ta­jik­istan. Er­do­gan said he had al­ready dis­cussed the idea with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and with Kazakh Pres­i­dent Nur­sul­tan Nazarbayev.

Float­ing plans

Er­do­gan has sev­eral times floated plans for Turkey to join the SCO, a move that could scup­per its long-stand­ing EU mem­ber­ship bid. The SOC op­tion be­came clouded, though, when a Rus­sian war­plane was downed by the Turk­ish air force last Novem­ber. Turk­ish media re­ported in Au­gust that Nazarbayev me­di­ated a deal be­tween Ankara and Moscow to smooth over the dis­pute. Turkey for­mally ap­plied to be­come an EU mem­ber in 1987 and ac­ces­sion talks only be­gan in 2005, even though Ankara’s as­pi­ra­tions to be­come part of the bloc dates back to the 1960s.

Brus­sels has harshly crit­i­cized the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment’s crack­down on al­leged coup plot­ters, urg­ing Ankara to com­ply with rights and free­doms cri­te­ria. Er­do­gan this week warned the EU to de­cide by year’s end on its mem­ber­ship bid, threat­en­ing to oth­er­wise call a ref­er­en­dum on this mat­ter.

Turkey and the EU agreed to speed up mem­ber­ship talks in March as part of an ac­cord on curb­ing mi­grant flows into Greece. The deal was clinched in re­turn for sev­eral in­cen­tives for Ankara in­clud­ing EU cash as­sis­tance for Syr­ian refugees in Turkey, as well as visa-free travel to Schen­gen area by Turks.

But the process, which was al­ready in dif­fi­culty, is on a sharp down­ward spi­ral fol­low­ing Ankara’s crack­down af­ter the at­tempted coup. Mass ar­rests and job dis­missals and mea­sures against the Turk­ish press have trig­gered a sharp re­ac­tion from EU politi­cians and rights watch­dogs. Some Euro­pean par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have even backed calls for mem­ber­ship talks with Ankara to be

SAMARKAND, Uzbek­istan: Turkey’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, front, vis­its the mau­soleum of Imam Bukhari, one of most re­spected Islamic schol­ars and in­tel­lec­tu­als by Sunni Mus­lims, on Fri­day.—AFP

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