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Erdogan meets Xi, praises Turkey’s ties with China-led SCO bloc

The Turkish president reaffirmed his country’s commitment to deepening cooperation with the China-led bloc.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is in Astana for the 24th Summit of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, meets with President Xi Jinping of China, on July 4, 2024.

ANKARA — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Kazakhstan on Thursday, as he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to strengthening ties with the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) bloc after the pair's first meeting in nearly two years.

The two leaders, meeting on the margins of the SCO summit in the Kazakh capital, Astana, discussed bilateral as well as global issues, including the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, a readout from the Turkish Presidency said. 

Erdogan told Xi that his country aimed "to continue the increasing steps taken to improve Turkey's relations with China in every field," according to the readout. The pair’s last face-to-face talks were in September 2022, also held on the sidelines of the bloc’s summit. The Chinese side hasn't released a readout as of this writing.

Speaking at the summit following the meeting, Erdogan praised Turkey’s advancing ties with the SCO bloc.

“The organization has become one of our important dialogue channels with Asia owing to our dialogue partner status, which we’ve held since 2013,” he said. “Our many years of experience fighting terrorism show that international cooperation is essential to dealing with this threat. In this context, we are ready to further strengthen our dialogue with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization."

Founded by China, the Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan in 2001, the bloc identifies combating terrorism and radicalism as one of its goals.

Erdogan’s attendance at the SCO meeting comes days before his planned travel to the United States to join NATO’s leader summit next week. He signaled Turkey’s desire to become a full member of the SCO in 2022, raising eyebrows in Western capitals since it is widely believed that the SCO seeks to become a NATO rival.

Turkey will continue its cooperation with the alliance “in many areas, especially security, energy and connectivity,” in a bid to contribute to the bloc’s goal of multilateralism in Asia.

Ankara is in talks with the Asian powerhouse to build Turkey’s third nuclear power plant, to be constructed in the country’s northwest region, as well as to deepen the two countries’ cooperation in the energy field. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation on energy transition during Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar’s visit to Beijing in May. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also paid his first visit to China in June as the country’s top diplomat; he also traveled to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Erdogan, once an outspoken critic of Beijing due to its treatment of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority of Turkic origin, has muted his criticism over the past years, wary of derailing economic ties with its largest trade partner in Asia. China is also the third-largest trade partner of Turkey, with the two countries' trade volume exceeding $47 billion last year.