0708 GMT October 17, 2021
Iran on Friday gained full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) at 21st summit of the Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe.
With decision to approve Iran’s permanent membership, the Islamic Republic become the ninth member state of the SCO.
Iran has held an observer status since 2005 in the SCO, which was founded in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and later joined by India and Pakistan.
Leaders from eight member states and four observer states attended the annual summit in Tajikistan's capital on Friday, with the Chinese leader addressing it virtually along with Russian, Indian and Mongolian presidents.
Shift toward multilateralism
Addressing the annual summit, Iranian President Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi said the world today has entered a new era, when hegemony and unilateralism are declining.
"The international order is shifting toward multilateralism and redistribution of power in favor of independent states," Raeisi told the gathering attended by leaders of member states and three observer states.
Raeisi called hegemonic powers, terrorism, extremism and separatism as immediate threats to global peace and security, targeting many countries, especially members and partners of the SCO, Press TV wrote.
"Maintaining and strengthening peace in this vast area is not a choice but a necessity," the Iranian president said.
The SCO, Raeisi added, and its governing spirit of mutual trust, common interests, equality, mutual consultation, respect for cultural diversity and common development are key tools for maintaining peace in the 21st century.
"I hope that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which has succeeded in gaining a prominent regional and international position in a short period of time will continue its growing path," he said.
Raeisi also called cultural development the first agenda of cooperation among civilized countries.
Cultural development, he said, "is a major part of the world's cultural and spiritual treasury in Asia, and Asia has been the cradle of human civilization and its beating heart in China, India, Tajikistan and Iran".
Asian culture and civilization "has always been associated with harmony, patience, politeness, mutual respect and benevolence, and in a word, wisdom and justice.”
He added that spirituality is the eternal need of humanity and the lost treasure of today's world.
"The crisis of spirituality is the foundation of all crises in the world. Monopolies, violence and human rights abuses are manifestations of the consequences of staying away from spirituality; Iran can play an important role in the development of cultural regionalism," the Iranian president said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his speech via videoconference, said Iran "plays an important role in our region and works closely with this organization" while endorsing Tehran's bid, Anadolu Agency reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping via video link welcomed Iran’s full membership, saying he is confident the "growing SCO family" would "be the builders of world peace, contributors to global development and defenders of the international order", Xinhua reported.
The SCO is the largest regional organization in the world in terms of geopolitical coverage and population, covering three-fifths of the Eurasian continent and nearly half of the human population.
Under the SCO Charter signed in 2002, the member nations cooperate on security and military issues, especially with respect to terrorism, as well as on economic, environmental, cultural, scientific, and other issues.
Iran has been a major trade partner of SCO member states as its trade volume reached nearly 15.8 million tons of goods, worth $9.82 billion, during the first four months of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 21).
The latest report by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) indicated that China accounted for the highest volume of imports from Iran among SCO states, with 9.89 million tons, valued at $4.36 billion.
On the sidelines of the summit, Raeisi held a number of meetings with his Turkmen, Kazakh, Belarusian and Uzbek counterparts, the prime ministers of Pakistan and Armenia and the Indian foreign minister on Thursday and Friday.
More than neighbors
In his meeting with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow on Friday, Raeisi said the friendly and brotherly relations between Iran and Turkmenistan are more than ties between two neighbors.
He added Tehran and Ashgabat have considerable capacities for increasing transactions and deepening their bilateral relations.
The Iranian president noted that of effective contribution to the development of bilateral ties can be the regular holding of meetings of the Iran-Turkmenistan Joint Economic Cooperation Committee.
He said energy exchanges as well as increasing goods transactions and transit between the two countries are among the fields capable of enhancing cooperation.
The two presidents also agreed on the resolution of the gas dispute between Iran and Turkmenistan.
Expressing satisfaction with the friendly ties between Ashgabat and Tehran, the Turkmen president said his country plans to hold regular joint economic committee meetings with Iran.
He stressed that using the two countries’ capacities in the field of transit will play a significant role in improving the level of their economic and trade exchanges.
Numerous, diverse capacities
In a meeting with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Friday, Raeisi said Tehran and Nur-Sultan have diverse and numerous economic capacities, based on which they can improve the level of their transactions and cooperation.
He added the two countries can set up joint task forces for identifying these capacities and using them for expanding their strategic relations in different fields.
Shifting to the situation in Afghanistan, Raeisi said the country’s developments are a common issue for all regional states.
He added Afghanistan’s problems can be resolved solely through the formation of an inclusive government, which is capable of restoring peace and stability, with the participation of all groups in the country and minimizing foreign interference in the Asian state’s internal affairs.
Turning to the Vienna talks between Iran and the remaining parties to the 2015 nuclear deal, namely Russia, China, Germany, France and the UK, on the restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Raeisi said Iran seeks to resolve the nuclear issue through dialogue.
He, however, added Iran “does not want negotiation for the sake of negotiation”, saying, “We are after negotiations that would result in the resolution of the problem and a tangible outcome.”
The Kazakh president said his country is interested in improving ties and increasing interactions, particularly in the economic sector, with the Islamic Republic.
He stressed that transit routes, with the southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar playing a pivotal role, can be the basis for expansion of economic relations between Iran and the Central Asian states.
Tokayev confirmed that Kazakhstan agrees with Iran’s solution for Afghanistan’s problems.
New era of cooperation
In a Friday meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Raeisi said historical relations between Tehran and Yerevan have always been friendly and constructive.
He added in view of the will of the two countries’ leaders, Iran and Armenia can begin a new era of expanding economic cooperation.
Raeisi stressed the necessity of improving the current level of economic ties between the two countries, saying the formation of specialized task forces for the resolution of economic issues, including those pertaining to the field of energy exchanges, transportation, joint production and financial transactions, can be an effective move toward further increasing interactions and a turning point in this regard.
The Iranian president also highlighted the capabilities of Iran’s industrial and private sectors in supplying goods and providing services to Armenia.
The Armenian prime minister said that among his country’s main foreign policy principles is boosting ties with neighbors, adding, given that the Raeisi administration has also prioritized improvement of relations with neighboring states, a new and fruitful era in bilateral ties is ahead for the two sides.
He described as very constructive Iran’s role in regional relations, noting that Tehran has always played a stabilizing role in the region.
Pashinyan said his country welcomes Iran’s initiatives aimed at resolving regional issues.
Growth in economic ties expected
In a meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on Thursday, Raeisi said that the level of economic relations between the two countries must increase in proportion to that of their political ties.
He added the two countries’ private sectors as well as increased activities of the Iran-Uzbekistan Joint Economic Committee can help expand their economic relations.
Raeisi stressed that the US sanctions have never hindered Iran’s progress and will fail to produce that result, noting, however, that Tehran seeks to lift the cruel sanctions, imposed following US unilateral May 2018 withdrawal from the JCPOA.
Pointing to the Iranian president’s background as former Judiciary chief and brilliant record and performance in the fight against corruption, the Uzbek president voiced his country’s willingness to use Raeisi’s experience in these fields.
He added the two countries have a good understanding in the field of political relations, noting that their common civilizational and historical background can play an important role in facilitating the expansion of bilateral economic and cultural ties and improving the level of cooperation between their private businessmen.
Economic growth prioritized
In a Thursday meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Raeisi resented the unsatisfactory level of economic ties between Tehran and Minsk, saying the speedy completion of joint projects can accelerate and facilitate expansion of economic relations.
He stressed that developing the domestic economy is the Iranian administration’s top priority, noting that he seeks to boost economic ties with regional states.
Raeisi said Tehran and Minsk have numerous capacities for expansion of relations, adding good and constructive political ties can contribute to the speedy use of capacities.
The Iranian president noted that US officials have acknowledged that their “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic has ended in failure, saying expansion of regional relations is among ways to counteract the sanctions.
Raeisi said Iran and Belarus have found ways to overcome sanctions.
The Belarusian president said no country has ever managed to achieve the desired result through imposing sanctions, describing the pressure policy as a defeated strategy.
Lukashenko voiced his country’s willingness to expand ties with Iran, expressing dissatisfaction with the current level of trade.
Speaking to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday, Raeisi said Tehran and Islamabad have unused capacities for developing bilateral relations.
He added that the Islamic Republic is determined to expand its regional relations and cooperation, particularly with neighboring states.
Raeisi described as special Pakistan’s status in Iran’s foreign policy.
He said in view of their historical and cultural commonalities, relations between Iran and Pakistan are far beyond being merely neighborly ties, stressing that the two states must not allow other countries to impact their relationship through conspiracies and sedition.
The Iranian president called for ensured security in areas along the common border, noting that it can help the two countries use these regions’ considerable and untapped potential and capacities for economic and trade exchanges and create greater prosperity.
“The 20-year presence of the American and Western forces in Afghanistan had no result but destruction, homelessness, and massacre of more than 35,000 Afghan children and thousands of men and women,” Raeisi said, according to Press TV.
“The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan is an historic opportunity for the formation of a popular government in Afghanistan and the establishment of peace in this country and the region,” he added.
The Iranian president said efforts should be made to form a government in Afghanistan that includes all groups and ethnicities, and is based on the will of the people of this country.
“The key to solving Afghanistan’s problems is to form an inclusive government and prevent foreign interference in the country’s affairs,” Raeisi noted.
Imran Khan said Iran and Pakistan must work closely together to help Afghanistan successfully form an inclusive government.
Stressing that a safe and secure Afghanistan will be to the benefit of all countries in the region and the world, he said, “If an inclusive government is not formed in Afghanistan, the country’s woes will intensify, and Pakistan and Iran will suffer more than any other country.”
In addition, Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar tweeted on Friday that he had a short meeting with the Iranian president on the sidelines of the summit in Tajikistan.