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MOSCOW, April 18. /TASS/. Member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are facing the task of boosting the economic aspect of cooperation, the Russian president’s special envoy on SCO affairs said in an interview with the Kommersant business daily.
According to ambassador-at-large Bakhtiyer Khakimov, political and security issues dominated the SCO cooperation agenda in recent years.
"The idea of creating favorable conditions for the free movement of goods, capitals, services and technologies within the framework of the SCO, or, in other words, the establishment of the free trade zone was mentioned in the SCO Charter," the diplomat said. "But the issue of its implementation has never been addressed in practice, because the emphasis was placed on security matters. And this made sense, because the early years of the organization coincided with very complicated processes on the SCO territory, especially in Central Asia."
He said that the member states are currently facing the task of "raising the economic aspect of SCO activities to the level of the joint work in the areas of politics and security."
"In addition to the program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation in the SCO and other documents on the issue, the heads of the SCO states adopted a statement at a meeting in China’s Zhengzhou to determine the main directions of the regional economic cooperation. Perspectives for establishing a free trade zone within the SCO were also discussed."
However, the sides "still differ in their approaches" to the issue, according to the diplomat.
"China and Kazakhstan favor active steps in this direction. Russia does not reject the possibility, but is convinced that all aspects should be carefully considered first. Other partners are more careful in their approaches. At the same time, discussions on the matter continue," Khakimov said.
However, the ambassador added that some of the partners signal that they are changing their stance on the matter - "from the total refusal to discuss this matter to the possibility of considering it, albeit in a long-term perspective."
The Declaration on the Establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was singed in China’s Shanghai in June 2001 by the six founding states - Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia currently enjoy observer status while Sri Lanka, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia and Nepal are dialogue partners.