Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s close friend, Ethem Sancak, who owns Turkey’s strategic Tank and Pallet Factory, said at a panel discussion organized by Turkey’s neo-nationalist Homeland Party (VP) in Ankara on May 29 that his company would inevitably knock on the doors of its Chinese counterparts since it was impossible to buy equipment from the West, Nordic Monitor has learned.
Chaired by VP’s leader, Doğu Perinçek, the panel discussion focused on Turkish-Chinese cooperation in production and joint investment opportunities. Among the speakers were Chinese Ambassador to Turkey Deng Li, food tycoon Murat Ülker, Onur Air Chairman Cakut Bagana, İşbank Deputy General Manager Gamze Yalçın and other representatives of top Turkish companies.
“Humanity needs to construct a new international order. This duty rests on the shoulders of the Chinese and the Turks,” Sancak said, calling on Perinçek to take responsibility at the governmental level.
Mentioning his parent company, BMC, an armored vehicle manufacturer, Sancak said: “BMC supplies almost all the needs of the Turkish Land Forces. We are committed to the ‘local and national strategy’ [an expression widely used by Erdoğan].”
Referring to the uneasy relations between Turkey and the Atlantic bloc during Erdoğan’s presidency, Sancak said: “It is impossible to buy from the West. So Asia is our inescapable destiny. We will inevitably knock on China’s doors. China will support us in this endeavor,” adding: “Turkey and China are mutually indispensable. Life and its developments will bring these two countries closer.”
For many in Turkey, it was surprising that Sancak participated in an event organized by Perinçek a friend-turned-enemy. Sancak and Perinçek were together in the violent, revolutionary, maoist Aydınlık movement between 1975 and 1985. Sancak later left the organization like many prominent figures who did not go along with Perinçek.
Perinçek and his followers often accuse militant-turned-businessman Sancak of being a comprador and capitalist, calling him a turncoat who sold out his friends.
During the trials concerning Ergenekon, a clandestine organization that was accused of plotting against the Turkish government, Sancak’s media outlets turned against the jailed Perinçek and his party members, between 2008 and 2013. Sancak himself was a witness in the trial and testified that he was pro-democracy and uncompromisingly against organizations like Ergenekon.
Then defendant, Adnan Akfırat, who is currently the Homeland Party’s China representative, filed a petition claiming that Sancak escaped justice, alleging that his name was removed from the Ergenekon indictment upon the order of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Strangely, Akfırat hosted Sancak in Shanghai in 2017 and organized an event on Turkish-Chinese relations in honor of his ex-comrade at the University of Shanghai.
It is no secret that Erdoğan approached anti-Western deep state actors who were once suspects in the Ergenekon trials during the December 17/25, 2013 corruption investigations. The probes, in which Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab was the prime suspect, had also incriminated some Cabinet ministers and President Erdoğan’s family members. Turkish prosecutors accused Zarrab and high-ranking Turkish officials of involvement in facilitating Iranian money transfers via gold smuggling, documents leaked at the time showed.
Particularly following a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Erdoğan government, after dismissing pro-NATO officers and pro-Western bureaucrats, has been pursuing a foreign policy in line with the idea promoted by the VP that Turkey, Russia and Iran should become allied powers along with China against the West.
Perinçek previously lobbied for the Turkish government during a workshop organized by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing in February, saying that Turkey under Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) had turned its face to Asia and that “we should handle this [policy shift] together and with care.”
“Turkey, geographically an Asian country, is now becoming an Asian country politically as well. Turkey will free itself from the Atlantic bloc. China’s support is extremely important at this crossroad. Turkey’s membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO] will incapacitate US efforts aimed at harming bilateral relations between China and Turkey,” Perinçek said at the workshop.
Perinçek was officially invited to Iran in 2017 and was received by Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser in international affairs to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He was also welcomed as a guest of honor at the Iranian parliament.
During a press conference in Tehran Perinçek praised the Erdoğan government’s purge of the Turkish military and told Iranian journalists that pro-NATO generals, officers and even military cadets were being dismissed from the armed forces after the controversial coup attempt in July 2016, hinting that Turkey was leaving the Atlantic alliance and taking its rightful place in Asia.
It is said that Erdoğan ally Sancak’s surprise support for an old enemy is a part of a strategy that he mediate between Erdoğan’s inner circle and Eurasianist groups.
At the panel discussion in May, Sancak called Perinçek “my old comrade,” but in the grand scheme of things, they seem to still be comrades today.