Iran’s President Hails Entry Into China, Russia-led Economic & Security Pact as ‘Diplomatic Success’
15:04 GMT 19.09.2021 (Updated: 16:40 GMT 19.09.2021)
Founded in 2001, The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a political, economic and security partnership which comprises most of the countries of Eurasia. The United States applied for observer status to the SCO in 2005, but its candidacy was rejected, and the alliance has demanded that Washington withdraw its troops from the region.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has hailed Iran’s newly won membership of the SCO as a diplomatic achievement, saying that this status would be certain to provide the country with immense new economic opportunities.
“Iran’s permanent membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which took place at the Tajikistan summit, was a diplomatic success,” Raisi said upon his return from Dushanbe on Saturday evening. His remarks appeared on the Iranian government’s official website.
“The presence of the Islamic Republic of Iran as [a full] member of the SCO creates a strong economic connection for the people of our country, which means connecting Iran to the economic infrastructure of Asia and the sustainable resources resulting from it,” Raisi added, stressing that “connecting to the Asian economic infrastructure is a valuable opportunity for Iran.”
Raisi asked the foreign ministry and other relevant ministries to make every effort to set the conditions to take full advantage of the new opportunities provided by SCO membership.
Iran announced Friday that it had accepted the SCO’s invitation to become the organisation’s ninth full member, joining China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Iran has expressed an interest in joining the SCO ever since the group was founded, but China, which was fostering friendly relations with the US at the time, expressed hesitation over the nation’s membership prospects because of Tehran’s alleged nuclear programme.
The SCO’s members constitute more than 20 percent of global GDP and more than 40 percent of Earth’s population. The bloc engages in a range of economic cooperation projects, and has worked to develop a number of other initiatives, including a free trade area, joint banking and proposals to use local currencies instead of dollars for trade. Iran’s annual trade with SCO members amounted to some $28 billion
in the period ending March 2021, with China accounting for $18.9 billion.
In addition to economic benefits, Iran hopes to gain other advantages from membership in the SCO. In a speech
in Dushanbe on Friday, Raisi suggested that the SCO could become a driving force for resistance to US unilateralism.
“The world has entered a new era. Hegemony and unilateralism [have] failed,” he said. “The Islamic Republic of Iran, while respecting the independent actions of the SCO member states and the non-recognition of US unilateral sanctions and non-compliance with its illegal sanctions policies, considers strengthening bilateral cooperation, especially in the economic field, as an important factor in promoting the SCO’s strategic role in the global economy,” the president added.
Raisi emphasised that Iran’s strategic position, bountiful supplies of energy, its human resources and culture could provide “significant stimulus” for transregional projects, including China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Blasting US efforts to “export” terrorism and instability throughout the region – from Afghanistan to Syria, Raisi noted in his speech that Iran “does not consider security to be segregated” and “believes in common security”.
“The way to ensure common security is an indigenous way, which is possible only with the participation of regional powers and without foreign intervention,” he stressed.
In his remarks on Saturday, the Iranian president also indicated that Tehran and other countries had made their position clear on the crisis in Afghanistan, with countries agreeing “that the formation of an inclusive government with the participation of all groups in the country that can represent all the good and dear people of Afghanistan should be pursued.”
Afghanistan received observer status of the SCO in 2012, but its status in the organisation has been called into question since the government in Kabul collapsed in mid-August during the chaotic withdrawal of US forces and their allies from the country.
Belarus and Mongolia are also observers of the SCO, with Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey acting as dialogue partners. As well as economic, political and cultural matters, the organisation is centered around security – namely combating terrorism, separatism, extremism, cyberwarfare, information warfare and transnational crime.