Ankara says wants to be ‘observer member' of Shanghai organization

Ankara says wants to be ‘observer member' of Shanghai organization

Ankara wants to become an "observer member state" in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as part of "Turkey's multilateral diplomacy," Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal said on Thursday Today`s Zaman reproted.

Ünal, in his last press briefing as the ministry spokesman, said that Turkey is already a "dialogue partner" of the Russian and Chinese-led group and that joining every international organization, becoming an observer state or following their activities is fundamental to Turkey's "multilateral diplomacy."

As Turkey and the European Union have failed to make substantial progress in accession talks, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan resurrected the possible membership in the SCO, saying Turkey is seriously considering becoming part of the organization, which he considers an alternative at a time when the EU's future looks increasingly dim.

The SCO is a mutual-security organization which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The other countries, with the exception of Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organization.

Ünal added that Turkey is already attending the organization's meetings, stressing that Ankara wants to upgrade its status by becoming an observer member state and advance cooperation with the SCO.

Syria crisis needs urgent solution

Asked about Ankara's comment on Wednesday's remarks by Syria's top opposition leader -- who said he is willing to negotiate with members of President Bashar al-Assad's regime to bring a peaceful end to the country's civil war -- Ünal said it is "very natural" for everyone to seek a solution to the Syrian crisis.

The remarks by Moaz al-Khatib marked a clear departure from the opposition line, which has been a categorical refusal to talk to the government. Al-Khatib said he was willing to talk with representatives of Assad's regime "in Egypt, Turkey or Tunisia" on condition the government releases tens of thousands of political prisoners and renews all expired passports held by Syrians abroad -- a reference to exiled opposition leaders and activists who have been stripped of their Syrian passports.

Ünal pointed to the fact that the Syrian regime didn't make any comments on the suggestion and that it is too early to speculate on whether the talks will take place and where.

Noting that it is up to the Syrian people to decide if there are any preconditions before starting the negotiations, Ünal said Ankara is constantly talking to the Syrian National Coalition.

Asked about an alleged Israeli air strike on a military convoy in Syria, the spokesman said Ankara has not received any official information regarding the strike, adding that the development is a clear indication that the situation in Syria is complicated and has become a threat to international and regional peace.

"For this reason, we believe that the Syrian issue should be immediately resolved in all its dimensions," Ünal underlined.

The spokesman also condemned this week's botched kidnapping attempt by four Syrians in accomplice with several Turkish nationals in the southern Turkish province of Hatay, saying it is an "unprecedently brazen act." He said this incident clearly shows how the Assad regime views its citizens.

Four Syrians entered into Turkey and stormed a house in Hatay district on Wednesday, attempting to kidnap a lawyer believed to be an important opposition figure. Turkish police, however, followed a vehicle carrying the kidnappers and the lawyer and clashed with the kidnappers, injuring two of them and detaining three. The lawyer was rescued unharmed.

Unal said the Foreign Ministry is closely monitoring the situation at every stage.

Ünal also announced that the ministry has issued a warning for Turkish nationals planning to travel to Niger, due to ongoing clashes in neighboring Mali.

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