Is Turkey the Western anchor of the New Silk Road?

Despite sharing growing strategic interests with Russia and China, Ankara remains economically much more closely integrated with the West, if not even dependent

Turkey’s attitude toward the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has raised much speculation ever since it obtained the status of Dialogue Partner in 2012. Conjectures intensified when then Prime Minister Erdoğan requested an upgraded status within the SCO just one year later. Was Ankara drifting away from the Euro-Atlantic fold? Was it living up to the “multi-dimensional and multi-track foreign policy” it had declared 10 years earlier? Or was it merely a provocation, intended to improve its bargaining leverage in the lingering negotiations on EU membership?

The answer to these questions has been as elusive as Turkey’s ambiguity. Statements from Ankara oscillate between the pursuit of observer status and full membership, but president Erdoğan’s latest remarks in November 2016 were perceived quite widely as if Turkey was seeking full membership. Nonetheless, what appears to be at stake remains the observer status. Yet, in December 2017 Xinhua quoted a Turkish diplomat stating his country has a pending full membership bid.

Whereas Turkey’s geopolitical and geo-cultural references have been swinging steadily eastwards in the last decade, entrenched historical and political realities appear to inhibit a deeper involvement with SCO.

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