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23:37 GMT +3 hours22 December 2014
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Shanghai alliance interested in Turkmenistan membership - Russia

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The Shanghai security and economic alliance is interested in involving energy-rich Turkmenistan, which is not a member, in its activities, a deputy Russian foreign minister said Wednesday.
MOSCOW, August 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Shanghai security and economic alliance is interested in involving energy-rich Turkmenistan, which is not a member, in its activities, a deputy Russian foreign minister said Wednesday.

Turkmenistan has been invited to a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which includes six Central and East Asian states and Russia. The summit is scheduled to take place Thursday in Kyrgyzstan.

"The SCO has an objective interest in Turkmenistan as a regional nation," Andrei Denisov said in an interview with the Vremya Novostei popular daily. "In principle, Turkmenistan could apply for core membership in the organization."

The SCO currently has a moratorium on its expansion. The Russian diplomat said this move was designed to consolidate ties within the organization and to decide on ways of cooperation with other interested countries. Denisov said the moratorium was not politically motivated, "The SCO ... remains open to cooperation with all interested countries and international organizations."

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov will attend the meeting in Bishkek, which will gather presidents from Kazakhstan, China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Pakistan, India, Mongolia, and Iran have observer status.

When asked whether the alliance's ties with Iran, which Western countries suspect of pursuing a secret nuclear program, compromised the SCO, Denisov said Iran was an equal and respected member of the international community. He also said the Islamic Republic was present in the region as an energy producer and a vital transportation hub.

One of the issues on the summit's agenda could be establishing an energy club. The SCO, whose members include energy-rich Russia and Kazakhstan, has been mulling the idea since February when representatives of the member-countries and managers of the leading regional energy companies met to discuss a possible structure for it.