Erdogan: EU not everything, Turkey may join Shanghai Five
Turkey should not be "fixated" on the idea of joining the European Union and should look at other opportunities, such as the Russia-led Shanghai Pact, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily.
"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, Hurriyet Daily reported.
"Some may criticize me but I express my opinion. For example, I have said ‘why shouldn’t Turkey be in the Shanghai 5'?" he said.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), also known as the "Shanghai 5", is a loose security and economic bloc led by Russia and China. The other formal 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.
Read alsoTurkey does not recognize Russian elections in CrimeaErdogan has several times floated plans for Turkey to join the SCO, a move that could scupper its long-standing EU membership bid.
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 date back to the 1960s.
"The EU has been delaying us for 53 years. How can such a thing happen?" Erdogan said.
Turkey and the EU agreed to speed up membership talks in March as part of an accord on curbing migrant flows into Greece.
Read alsoMedia elaborate on Russia-Turkey gas agreementsThe deal was clinched in return for several incentives for Ankara, including EU cash assistance for Syrian refugees in Turkey and visa-free travel to the 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. Some European parliamentarians have even backed calls for membership talks with Ankara to be halted.