The Turkish people are predominantly enlightened thinkers, progressive and democratic, who value art and beauty. They do not therefore generally favour the idea that has recently been brought up of our joining the Shanghai Five, known as the Shangai Corporation Organisation (SCO), as the Shanghai Five countries do not attach such importance to these values as do the European countries.
Turkey, whose geostrategic importance is well known to the world, should not aim to join a union such as the Shanghai Cooperation, an organization with limited and somewhat distant relations with non-member countries.
Turkey has enjoyed strong social, political, economic and cultural relations with both East and West and, as in the past, it will nurture equally strong relations with both European countries and those of the Middle East and Central Asia.
The reforms and improvements we have carried out to adhere to European Union criteria have considerably strengthened our democracy and secular understanding and our nation backs these developments and advancements.
Therefore, the interests of our nation require avoidance of any steps that might restrict our relations with the West.
The Shanghai Five has a poor human rights record. In 1996 China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan came together as the "Shanghai Five" to fill the power gap left in Central Asia in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, and particularly to challenge the presence of the USA in Asia. This union was established by anti-democratic, excessively authoritarian states reminiscent of the old Warsaw Pact.
Both the member and observer nations generally enjoy restricted relations with other countries, and have many drawbacks in terms of human rights, freedoms and lack democracy.
In a recently published report, The International Federation for Human Rights (IFHR) described the SCO as "a tool for human rights violations."
As a result of the authoritarian nature of the member countries of the SCO, religious, political and human rights activists, members of the political opposition and representatives of some national minorities are all under pressure.
Moreover, SCO governments frequently accuse groups or individuals of extremism and initiate politically-based legal proceedings. The result is laws and regulations open to abuse and broad interpretation by state officials.
This apart, the SCO made no contribution to world peace.
Another important point that requires consideration is that regional unions, or those including only a specific number of countries, have been found lagging in their contributions in enhancement of world peace, security and well-being.
Associations of that kind inevitably exclude, to a greater or lesser extent, other states that are not members. The risk is one of preparing the way for dangerous polarisation. The era of the Cold War is the best example of this.
The great majority of Turkish people, who have for years had far more in common with the peoples of Europe in commercial, social and cultural terms, are much more advanced than the Shanghai countries and feel much closer to the West when it comes to a modern life style.
The primary aim in Turkey's improving its relations with SCO countries can only be to help countries such as Russia and China, which are still under the influence of communism, and assisting them in moving to genuine democracy.
Turkey of course wishes to act as a kind of bridge by which those countries can see the good and fine aspects of the West. In the same way that we unite two continents, being instrumental in welding together different cultures is a strategy our nation will support as a whole.
However, we must achieve this not by joining the Shanghai Five, but by improving our country in democratic, social and cultural areas in order to bring Turkey to a leading position that will build a bridge between the East and the West and set an example for the rest of the world.
The author is a well-known author and a political commentator based in Turkey. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.