President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Turkey should not be "fixated" on joining the European Union (EU) and instead foster the idea of joining the Shanghai 5 bloc.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), also known as the Shanghai Pact, is a loose security and economic bloc led by Russia and China, which includes member states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

"Turkey should first of all feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated," about joining the EU, Erdogan told Turkish journalists on board a plane bound from Uzbekistan on Sunday (20 November).

Erdogan said that he had already discussed the idea of joining the bloc with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, reports Reuters

"Some may criticise me but I express my opinion. For example, I say why shouldn't Turkey be in the Shanghai 5?," he said.

India and Pakistan are set to join the group in 2016. Belarus, Afghanistan, Iran and Mongolia have observer status while Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Nepal are dialogue partners.

Erdogan Putin
Erdogan and Putin met in St Petersburg on 9 August Getty

It is not the first time Erdogan has raised the option of joining the Shanghai 5. However, after a Russian warplane was shot down by the Turkish air force in November 2015, the issue was not raised again.

Turkey formally applied to become an EU member in 1987. Accession talks only started in 2005. Erdogan has already warned Brussels to decide by the year end on its membership bid or it will call a referendum on the issue.

Despite Ankara and Brussels agreeing to speed up members talks in March 2016 as part of a deal to curb migrant flows into the EU via Greece, the EU came out strongly against the Turkish government's crackdown on alleged coup plotters and urged Ankara to comply with the rights and freedoms criteria.