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SCO Foreign Ministers Debate Regional Challenges, Expanded Membership

Sept. 28, 2022 (EIRNS)—Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will wrap their July 28-29 meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, having discussed the agenda for the Sept. 15-16 summit of the heads of state and touching on several other topics of regional and international importance: the war in Ukraine, the Afghan situation, food and energy security, the threat of global recession, and the need to cooperate on regional issues, including on projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Given the increasingly complex international situation, the ministers stressed the importance of safeguarding regional security and stability.

One expert cited by Global Times noted the attractiveness of the SCO to many neighboring countries, given its emphasis on cooperation and regional development. Members also discussed ongoing cooperation for SCO expansion. Belarus’s application for full membership was discussed, reported Belarus’ official BelTA news agency. SCO Secretary General Zhang Ming reported that the SCO has received 11 applications to join the organization in one or another capacity, or to upgrade existing status. He mentioned that at the Sept. 15-16 heads of state summit in Samarkand, “we expect the SCO heads of state to adopt a memorandum of obligations for the Islamic Republic of Iran to receive SCO membership.”

It was stressed that SCO expansion is not a response to NATO expansion, as the latter had suggested, but rather related to SCO’s focus on regional cooperation.

On the sidelines of the conference, there were several bilateral meetings, including one between China’s Wang Yi and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov. A meeting between Wang Yi and Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had been mooted, but it is unknown at this writing whether it took place. The two have met twice before this year, in March during Wang’s March 25 visit to India, and on July 7 at the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting.

Jaishankar did meet with Lavrov. Wang also met with host Uzbek Acting Foreign Minister Vladimir Imamovich Norov to stress their excellent relationship.

Lavrov and Wang had a substantive discussion, TASS reported, stressing, among other things, the SCO’s leading role “in building a regional security architecture and its constructive contribution to the process of maintaining peace and stability and ensuring economic development in Eurasia,” according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Ministers from all eight member countries attended the ministerial: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Currently Belarus, Afghanistan, Iran, and Mongolia are observer nations. Dialogue partners are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.

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