Expansion and Iran on Table at SCO Summit

From June 6-7, China will be hosting the 2012 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Beijing. The SCO is an international mutual-security organization thought by some to be a collective attempt to counter NATO and limit influence in central Asia. Earlier this week, the future of Afghanistan was a major talking-point at the NATO summit in Chicago, and will likely also be addressed at the SCO summit. Afghanistan has been attending SCO summits as a guest since the organization’s beginning, and last year applied for observer status – a notion supported by Beijing, reflecting its desire for a stable Afghanistan. CRIEnglish notes that full observer status will likely be granted to Afghanistan at next month’s summit:

Afghanistan is expected to gain full observer status.

Chinese vice foreign minister Cheng Guoping says their respective applications will be decided upon by consensus.

“The security and stability of Afghanistan bordering the region of SCO states is closely related to the affairs of SCO members. And Turkey as an important country in this region has good ties with SCO members. The admission of the two countries will help them and SCO states to jointly counter terrorism, separatism and extremism as well as drug trafficking and cross-border crime.” Cheng says.

Cheng notes this would be the first time the SCO has admitted a new observer since 2005, and a new dialogue partner since 2009.

Also on the agenda – and likely to steal the spotlight – at the upcoming summit is Iran. An SCO observer since 2005, Iran has been denied member status, as the SCO limits any state under UN sanctions from full membership. In the midst of an ongoing EU oil embargo, and after the US Senate’s recent approval of new sanctions against Iran (which China characteristically and vocally opposed), Iranian President Ahmadinejad will attend the upcoming Summit in Beijing. From Reuters:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit China in June for a security summit and discuss his country’s disputed nuclear programme with Chinese President Hu Jintao, a senior diplomat said on Wednesday, criticizing new sanctions aimed at Iran.

[...]Ahmadinejad’s visit to China takes on particular significance as China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and has resisted U.S. demands for sanctions on Iran.

Iran, OPEC’s second-largest producer, exports most of its 2.2 million barrels of oil per day to Asia, home to its four main customers: China, Japan, India and South Korea.

All four nations have cut back on their purchases, dissuaded by a previous package of U.S. financial sanctions due to take effect at the end of June as well as an EU oil embargo and a ban on shipping insurance, which take effect on July 1.

The Economic Times notes that Beijing has expressed approval of India and Pakistan, both SCO Observers since 2005, eventually becoming members of the organization:

China, the host of the next Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, today welcomed the proposed accession of India andPakistan to the security grouping, but said no timetable should be set to grant them full membership.

“We welcome relevant countries to become members of the SCO,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Cheng Guoping told a media briefing on the summit scheduled to be held here on June 6-7.

“The relevant countries should work hard towards political, legal and technical preparations for [the membership],” he said answering a question about elevating India and Pakistan as members as proposed by Russia which is the biggest country in the forum along with China.

For more on the upcoming SCO summit, see Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi outlining the agenda, from CCTV:

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Also see prior CDT coverage of Iran, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and Central Asia.