The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which concluded its 21st summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Friday, approved the launch of the formal accession for Iran’s full membership in the organization and granting of dialogue partner status to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar.
Russia’s TASS news agency said that the leaders of the SCO approved the launch of a process for Iran’s accession to the organization. The country currently enjoys an observer status, along with Belarus, Afghanistan and Mongolia.
Iran applied to join the SCO early in 2008 with strong support from Russia. But consideration of its application has slowed due to sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations and Washington over its nuclear program. The accession of India and Pakistan to the organization in 2017 raised questions about the group’s future. Similarly, Iran’s accession is likely to create new geopolitical complications, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The organization currently includes eight countries: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka are partner countries of the organization, which is dominated by Russia and China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a speech delivered via a video link from Beijing, called for “involving Afghanistan in dialogues, and helping the Afghan people to overcome difficulties,” according to the Chinese news agency, Xinhua.
Reuters noted that the official Chinese media quoted Xi as saying at the summit that the “relevant parties” in Afghanistan should eradicate terrorism, and that China would provide more assistance to the country within its capabilities.
Notably, Xinhua, the official Chinese agency, published a comment saying that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the world’s largest and most populous regional institution, now bears “the responsibility and ability to play a more constructive role in promoting regional security and seeking common development.”
It added: “After two decades of growth, the organization, which now includes eight full members, four observer states and six dialogue partners, has become not only a strong pillar of regional peace and security, but also a major platform for enhancing cooperation and exchanges in the vast Eurasian region. Its members are working to join forces to fight the ‘three evil forces’ of terrorism, separatism and extremism, to promote trade and economic growth, and to advance people-to-people relations.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with Tass, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov said Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar would receive dialogue partner status following the SCO summit.
Khakimov was quoted as saying that this was a very important decision confirming that the organization was “developing and getting stronger.”