In 2013, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then Turkey's prime minister, surprised many with his statement about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said, "Get us out of this suffering [of trying to join the European Union]. We are willing to finalize a free trade agreement with Eurasian countries. I talked about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization with [you] before. We care about it."
At that time, his statement sounded like a joke, as he himself described it, or perhaps a provocation — a message to Brussels meaning, "Look, we don't need you, we have other options." Few people in Turkey or Russia took it seriously.