SCO Summit Vows to Ensure Stability in Asia

 

Central Asian states can ensure regional stability and energy security without outside assistance, leaders of the six Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries said at a summit in Kyrgyzstan, RIA-Novosti reported Thursday.

The SCO comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and has Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia as observers. The bloc, which primarily addresses security issues, is seen by many as a counterbalance to U.S. influence in the region.

Participants of the summit in the Central Asian nation's capital, Bishkek, signed eight documents, including a Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation, a Bishkek Declaration, a joint communique, and a plan of action to ensure international information security.

The leaders said in the declaration: "The SCO heads of state believe that stability and security in Central Asia can be ensured primarily by the regional states themselves, through existing regional associations."

Regional security and counter-terrorism

The document also said the organization's regional antiterrorism structure had sufficient resources to fight terrorism, separatism and extremism in Eurasia. Member states pledged to push forward with creating a joint mechanism to counter threats to regional peace, stability and security, and to deepen cooperation in fighting drug trafficking and illegal migration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed conducting holding regular counter-terrorism exercises, similar to the drills now underway in Russia.

Afghanistan and the drugs trade

Putin also proposed setting up financial security belts around Afghanistan to counter money laundering, and holding a special security conference on the country.

"It is essential to continue forming anti-drug security belts around Afghanistan, which could be complemented with financial security belts supervised by SCO financial monitors," Putin said. "This will improve the effectiveness of measures to counter both drug trafficking and money laundering."

The Russian president said that since all SCO member states were interested in ensuring stability in Afghanistan, a special conference should be held to discuss means of helping the volatile country. He proposed that SCO countries' foreign ministers make corresponding preparations.

According to the World Drug Report, Afghanistan accounts for more than 90% of the world's illegal opium production, which is used to produce heroin.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai  present at the summit called on the organization to prioritize measures against drug-trafficking, a major source of terrorist financing.

Oil and gas cooperation

Addressing SCO leaders, the he president of oil-rich Kazakhstan proposed creating an oil and gas regulating body and exchange to service member states.

Nursultan Nazarbayev presented a draft of strategy for creating an SCO oil and gas club, an idea which has been considered since February.

President Ahmadinejad, whose country has the world's second largest natural gas reserves behind Russia, reiterated his proposal to hold a meeting of SCO energy ministers.

Iran proposed in January establishing an international gas cartel similar to OPEC. Plans are still at the discussions stage, but have already angered the West, in particular the United States.

The ministers' meeting would "optimize cooperation in transportation, prospecting, development and refining. As before, Iran is ready to organize such a meeting," he said.

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