Maria Zakharova to Vestnik Kavkaza on SCO future

Further expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is one of the most topical instruments to enhance the role and influence of this regional structure, as well as increase its political and economic potential, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said, answering a request of Vestnik Kavkaza.

According to her, a solid package of applications for accession to it in one way or another also indicates the growing authority of the organization. "I would like to remind you that it was decided at the SCO Heads of State Council meeting in Ufa in 2015 to start the reception of India and Pakistan to this association. Another important step - the signing of the Memorandum of Obligations by the Indian and Pakistani sides in order to obtain full membership - was made at the June summit in Tashkent, which was dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the SCO. This process is advancing, there is every reason to believe that these two countries will have a new status at the next SCO leaders meeting in Astana in June 2017," the diplomat said.

As for Iran, it has been actively involved in the SCO process as an observer since 2005. "Tehran has long been awaiting a decision on its application, which was filed in 2008. Following the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in July 2015 in Geneva to resolve the situation around the Iranian nuclear program all legal obstacles to Tehran's membership in the SCO have been removed," Maria Zakharova drew attention.

The number of candidates for the SCO membership also includes Afghanistan, which has applied for membership in the organization in the past year. "Today, Belarus and Mongolia have observer status in the SCO, along with India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The group of dialogue partners includes not only Turkey, but also Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka," the spokesperson for the Russian foreign Ministry.

The diplomat added that there are also many humanitarian and cultural projects, which are implemented both among members of the organization, and with the participation of observers and states, which are actively interact with the SCO.

In addition, Maria Zakharova told about the interaction between Russia and China.

"Russia and China have identical or similar positions on all major topics of the organization. We are actively working with our Chinese partners on the SCO Development Strategy until 2025, it was adopted at the summit in 2015 in Ufa. We closely cooperate on security issues in the region, first and foremost, in order to neutralize the threats and challenges that come from the territory of Afghanistan. In this regard, we seek to increase the efficiency of the SCO regional antiterrorist structure. Moscow and Beijing also advocates the creation of a universal center on the base of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) to counter challenges and threats to the security of the member states," the diplomat said.

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