MOSCOW/DUSHANBE, September 17. /TASS/. The leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s member-countries will speak at a jubilee summit in Dushanbe on Friday to discuss the organization’s activities over the past 20 years and crucial world problems, such as the novel coronavirus pandemic and the situation in Afghanistan.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has had to cancel his visit to Tajikistan due to self-isolation following contacts with covid-infected persons, will join the SCO Heads of State Council via a video channel.
This is going to be a second international summit in Dushanbe over the past two days. On Thursday, the city hosted a meeting of the leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Putin participated in a distance mode. On Friday, alongside the SCO summit, there will be the first joint meeting of the CSTO and SCO leaders.
Combined distance/face-to-face summit
The declaration on the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was signed in Shanghai in June 2001 by six countries - Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In 2017, India and Pakistan became the organization’s full-fledged members. Also participating in the organization are four observer countries (Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia) and six dialogue partners (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka).
Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedow will be present as an honorary guest. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the leaders of regional organizations will take part. Earlier, a source close to the SCO told TASS that Afghanistan would be absent.
In contrast to last year’s meeting of the SCO Heads of State Council, held in a videoconference mode, this one will have a combined format. Many leaders have arrived in Dushanbe personally, while some of their counterparts had to decide against travelling to Tajikistan’s capital. Alongside the Russian president the leaders of India, China and Mongolia and the UN Secretary-General will participate by video link.
Struggle against the coronavirus
The ongoing pandemic will be high on the SCO leaders’ agenda. It is expected that they will consider joint steps to overcome the effects of the crisis.
SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov has told TASS the organization has stood the test of the coronavirus, but the member-countries were still faced with common tasks of resisting the pandemic, restoring and developing their economies, eliminating poverty and ensuring decent living standards.
Situation in Afghanistan
The situation in Afghanistan, where the radical Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia) has risen to power after the US curtailed its operation, will be in focus at the SCO summit.
Afghanistan, one of the SCO observer states, borders on several countries affiliated with the organization. The SCO secretary-general believes that the organization’s role in achieving normalization in that country has soared following the pullout of US forces and their allies. Norov said that the SCO was prepared to promote the reconstruction of Afghanistan as a peaceful, stable and prospering country.
The CSTO has made a decision to reinforce the Tajik-Afghan border and conduct operations against drug trafficking and illegal migration.
The Central Asian leaders earlier said the situation in Afghanistan was a serious threat to the whole region.
The Russian president has repeatedly voiced concern over the situation in Afghanistan. Putin has discussed this issue with the heads of other countries and the leaders of international organizations to invariably stress the need for maintaining civil peace and preventing violence in Afghanistan. Also, the Russian leader pointed to the need for coordinating approaches to this issue on different platforms, including the United Nations and the G20. Putin believes that in the current situation international solidarity is more crucial than ever before.
The SCO summit will look back on the organization’s 20-year-history and consider current cooperation and its prospects.
Among the issues on the agenda will be the possibility of expanding the SCO membership. The organization’s leaders may agree to launch the procedure of incorporating Iran as a ninth full-fledged member. Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia may be granted the status of dialogue partners.
The summit is expected to adopt a Dushanbe Declaration summarizing the results of the SCO’s twenty-year-long activity.
At the Dushanbe summit Tajikistan will cede the rotating SCO presidency to Uzbekistan.
SCO plus CSTO
At a joint meeting with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (which alongside SCO members Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also includes Armenia and Belarus) the leaders will have a detailed exchange of opinion on the situation in Afghanistan. The foreign ministers of Russia and China met on Thursday to underscore the importance of concerted action by the SCO and CSTO for the sake of a settlement in and around Afghanistan and stability in Central Asia and the adjoining region.
At the joint meeting the leaders will confirm interest in wider cooperation in various fields, including security.