BEIJING, September 5. /TASS/. The expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is not a goal in itself, SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov said at a meeting with journalists on Thursday.
"Today there are quite a number of applications from states that are seeking to join the SCO framework under various statuses (starting from dialogue partner to permanent member) that the member states are considering," Norov explained. "Still, the SCO’s expansion is not a goal in and of itself. The main task in this case is the gradual, harmonious development of the association, ensuring momentum and bolstering the quality of cooperation."
"The SCO member states are constantly engaged in dialogue with the states aspiring to improve their status in the organization. All [their] applications are on the table, so to speak, and proper consensus decisions by the member states will be made on all of them," the secretary general stated. He pointed out that such practice reflects "the SCO’s openness and in it we see possible prospects for our friends who share the principles of the ‘Shanghai spirit.’"
Norov added that about 10 states submitted applications to join the "SCO family" under various statuses, but did not specify the countries.
Russia, in particular, like some other states, expressed support for Iran’s aspiration to obtain the status of an SCO member.
Russian Special Presidential Representative for the SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov said in an interview with TASS that "we respect, for example, Israel’s application to obtain the status of dialogue partner. We have applications from Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia [for dialogue partner status — TASS]," he added.
The organization currently includes eight countries namely, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Four states, specifically, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia, have observer status. That being said, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners.