EghtesadOnline: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization began the technical process of officially admitting Iran as a full member on Friday.
The eight SCO member states gave their consent for upgrading Iran’s status from an observer to a full member and signed the relevant documents at the end of their 21st summit in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, President.ir reported.
Iran was an observer member for over 15 years, but had applied to join the organization as a full member in 2008.
According to a Russian diplomat, the process is expected to take a fair amount of time given its multiple stages.
“The accession process is not a one-time step. There is a certain procedure stipulated in the SCO documents,” Special Envoy of the Russian President for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyor Khakimov told TASS.
He, however, said the process can be sped up by a reciprocal countermove, adding that the main burden naturally falls on the applicant state.
SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance originally established to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region, join forces to counteract emerging challenges and threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation.
It has nine members, namely China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan, now plus Iran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed support for the start of Iran’s SCO membership process, saying it will undoubtedly contribute to enhancing the organization’s international authority.
“We have always been in favor of Iran’s full-fledged participation in the organization’s work because the country plays an important role in Eurasia and has long been fruitfully cooperating with the SCO,” he said, addressing an SCO summit via video link.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also welcomed Iran as a new member state, saying the expansion reflects the grouping’s growing influence.
The 21st SCO Summit kicked off on Friday with the participation of leaders of 12 member and observer countries.
In addition to the Tajik president, the summit was attended by the leaders of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and the presidents of Russia, China, India, and Mongolia, who also attended the meeting online.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi also attended the summit in person and delivered a speech, where he highlighted the role of SCO in promoting multilateralism.
“The SCO has proved well that it can turn into a driving force for global multilateralism by relying on its economic, political, and demographic capacities,” he said.
He also described the organization as a key instruments for maintaining peace in the 21st century, in view of threats targeting a wide range of countries around the world, especially members and partners of SCO.
“Maintaining and strengthening peace in this vast area is not a choice but a necessity,” Raeisi said.
He pointed to the One Belt-One Road Initiative, the Eurasian Economic Union and the North-South Corridor, as key projects that can serve the common interests of developing countries and strengthen peace in the region.
“Iran is the link between the three infrastructural projects,” he said.
The president expressed Iran’s readiness to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and extremism, calling for collective action to ensure security as a basis for development.
“The way to ensure common security is a local one and is only possible through the collaboration of regional powers and without foreign intervention,” he said.
Referring to the crisis in Afghanistan, Raeisi said regional countries must act as “facilitators” to help establish a government with the effective inclusion of all afghan ethnic groups.
Foreign “intervention”, however, will only add to problems and eventually increase instability in this country, according to him.
The president referred to sanctions and economic terrorism of hegemonic powers as an important obstacle to regional cooperation, stressing the need for SCO to design structures and mechanisms for collective fight against those restrictions.
Iran has been under sanctions by the United States which unilaterally exited the 2015 nuclear deal three years ago.
Raeisi emphasized that refusing to recognize and abide by the US cruel and illegal sanctions and enhancing bilateral economic cooperation within the SCO can effectively help promote the organization’s strategic role in global economy.