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NATO or Shanghai Cooperation Organization? Erdogan in Türkiye opts for both

NATO or Shanghai Cooperation Organization?  Erdogan in Türkiye opts for both


In the coming weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's schedule will be packed with international summits, reflecting Ankara's efforts to engage with Western and Asian powers.

As European analysts suggest Turkey's international influence is waning, Erdogan is embarking on a series of official visits to the continent's capitals. His trip begins Wednesday in Madrid, where he will meet Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

A crucial trading partner and NATO ally, Spain has grown closer to Turkey in recent years over shared interests in the Mediterranean.

Israel's war on Gaza has further strengthened these relations: last month, Spain recognized the state of Palestine and announced its intention to join the South African genocide case against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Turkey suggested last month that it could do the same.

After his visit to Spain, Erdogan will travel to Italy to attend the G7 summit in Puglia from June 13 to 15.

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Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni invited the Turkish president alongside other non-G7 leaders to bring diverse perspectives to the summit. Sources in Ankara note that Erdogan and Meloni enjoy good relations, underpinned by mutual interests in North Africa, where the Italian government is more interested in curbing immigration and striking energy deals.

On July 3-4, Erdogan plans to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

As an observer state, Turkey has shown keen interest in becoming a full member of the Eurasian group, although this aspiration has caused concern in the West. Turkish officials have previously told Middle East Eye that full membership is unlikely due to NATO's restrictions on alternative security-focused memberships.

From the Turkish perspective, Ankara's decision-makers see the world through the prism of Turkish interests, said Omer Ozkizilcik, an analyst at the Atlantic Council think tank. They believe Turkey is best served by 360-degree diplomacy and does not want to miss out on Asia's growing economic power.

Biden meeting expected

On July 6, Erdogan will also attend an informal summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) in Shusha, Azerbaijan. As a co-founder of the OTS in its current form, Erdogan places considerable importance on the organization.

Turkish officials are focusing on the Middle Corridor trade initiative aimed at transporting goods from China to Europe via Turkish states such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

In the east, particularly in Central Asia, Turkey is an important partner for Turkish states, not only because of its cultural ties, but also because of its ability to offer alternatives for certain critical needs, Özkizilcik said.

“Turkey has moved from being a security consumer to being a security provider”

– Omer Ozkizilcik, Atlantic Council

After the OTS meeting, Erdogan will travel to Washington July 9-11 to participate in a NATO summit celebrating the military alliance's 75th anniversary.

Although a planned meeting with US President Joe Biden in May was canceled due to concerns over domestic optics during Israel's US-backed invasion of Gaza, discussions of a bilateral meeting during of the summit continue.

Özkizilcik underlines Turkey's growing weight in international politics, particularly since the start of the war in Ukraine. Ankara has been an interlocutor in the conflict, while also providing Ukraine with essential military assistance, including armed drones.

Turkey has moved from being a security consumer to a security provider, Ozkizilcik told Middle East Eye. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Western allies need Turkey more than ever and also attach more importance to NATO than before.

The final stop of Erdogan's diplomatic tour will be the fourth meeting of the European Political Community in London on July 18. This French-led platform is important for Ankara because it facilitates informal negotiations with countries like Cyprus, with which Turkey has no formal diplomatic relations.

Turkey aims to strengthen its ties with Asia and seeks to participate in multilateral agreements, Ozkizilcik said. Erdogan's current visit program serves as an excellent example of Turkey's growing international role.




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