Astana hosts 17th SCO Summit

Astana hosts 17th SCO Summit

The 17th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) opened in Astana today. It will focus on the SCO development, the fight against terrorism and the situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan, while the central event is the formal accession of India and Pakistan as the organization’s full-fledged members.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Astana will begin with bilateral meetings. After arriving in Astana, he will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, the meeting between the two leaders will be fairly brief, since they are to have large-scale negotiations in less than a month. Xi Jinping will pay a visit to Moscow on July 3-4.

The meeting will be the first one for Putin on the sidelines of this summit. On June 9 he will have talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Other meetings are not ruled out as well, the Kremlin aide noted.

The Russian presidential aide mentioned the SCO development, the fight against terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East among the main issues on the agenda. 

"The SCO summit will traditionally begin with the (leaders’) meeting to discuss the documents to be signed, the current state and priorities for further improving practical cooperation along with regional and international problems. Terrorism is one of the main topics, including in the context of the activities of the SCO regional anti-terrorist structure," TASS cited Ushakov as saying.

Another important issue to be brought up at the summit is the accession of India and Pakistan, which will become the organization’s full-fledged member-countries. 

According to the Kremlin aide, the SCO chairmanship will be transferred from Kazakhstan to China at the summit. China is expected to host the next meeting of the SCO member-countries’ leaders in the summer of 2018.

A total of 11 documents are planned to be signed at the summit. Specifically, the leaders are to adopt a statement on the joint fight against international terrorism. The Astana Declaration will become another important document.

The SCO member-countries’ leaders are also planning to approve the SCO Convention on countering extremism. In addition to that, two decisions will be made on India’s and Pakistan’s accession to the SCO. The heads of state will approve a report on the SCO’s performance in 2016 and a report of the council of the regional anti-terrorist structure.

Also on June 9, the leaders will have a reception. On the same day, the head of state will attend the opening ceremony of EXPO-2017.

The Deputy Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University, Andrey Korneev, speaking to Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that this summit will be mostly devoted to the formal accession of India and Pakistan as the SCO’s members, but in addition, it is expected to discuss the key economic projects for the region.

"Certainly, they will discuss the issue of the SCO helping to implement the conjugation of the EEU and the 'One Belt One Road' project. "The SCO internal economic projects are also important, in particular, progress has been achieved on the agreement on road traffic in the SCO countries," he said. .

"The summit is expected to give impetus to the organization in the field of economic cooperation. After India and Pakistan join the SCO, it will have many new questions: how not to lose the effectiveness of the organization, how to ensure the principle of consensus," Andrei Korneyev stressed.

He also noted that the accession of Iran as a full member of the organization became more real. "There have already been statements that there are fewer obstacles for Iran joining the SCO. There were some difficulties, but now their number has decreased, it is also clear that Tehran has at least Russia's support," the Deputy Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University noted.

The director of the EEU Institute, Vladimir Lepekhin, in turn, noted that this SCO summit is seen by China and partially Kazakhstan as a continuation of the recent international forum 'One Belt One Road' in Beijing. "They will discuss of the sidelines of the forum all possible aspects related to the project and transport corridors through Central Asia," he said, adding that the political agenda of the SCO heads of state will include the situation on the Asian continent as a whole.

"The current situation in the Middle East also affects Central Asia, as several Arab countries, primarily Saudi Arabia, are gaining ground in the region. Many experts now say that Iran is being surrounded by supporters of Saudi Arabia and the United States. Of course, it is not acceptable to China, so the Central Asian members of the SCO are turning into a very hot region with conflicting interests of China and Russia, on the one side, and the US and its allies in the Arab world on the other side," Vladimir Lepekhin explained.

The director of the EEU Institute noted that today "almost all the countries of Central Eurasia, which does not support Trump's policy, seek to join the SCO." "Now it is the most attractive organization in the region. The SCO is a very promising structure in the face of the deteriorating traditional conflicts in the region," the expert concluded.