SCO Presidents Urge Cooperation in Transit, Infrastructure, Counter-Terrorism

ASTANA – President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev visited  Tashkent to participate in a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), where discussions focused on cooperating to counter terrorism and the flow of illegal drugs and to support regional development. The summit marked the organisation’s 15th anniversary. Nazarbayev, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon joined the host Uzbek President Islam Karimov for the June 24 summit.

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The sides discussed concrete steps to develop cooperation in priority spheres including security, counterterrorism, and economic and humanitarian ties. The summit concluded with the adoption of the Tashkent Declaration, the approval of the 2016–2020 Action Plan for the SCO Development Strategy, and the signing of a package of other documents.

Nazarbayev noted that the jubilee summit was held amidst global challenges and threats.

According to him, the SCO’s response could be the effective implementation of the Cooperation Programme in the fight against the “three evil forces” for 2016–2018.

“We propose to develop and adopt a statement on the SCO’s joint counteraction against international terrorism. A further step is the adoption of the convention on the fight against extremism. It is important to note that religious extremism is not identified with peace-loving Islam and other religions,” Nazarbayev said, noting that his country had recently initiated the high-level dialogue, ‘Religions for Peace,’ under the auspices of the UN in New York and held the international “Religions against Terrorism” conference in Astana.

The SCO heads of state agreed that “fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism in their all forms, [as well as] the illegal production and turnover of drugs; illegal trade in weapons, munition and explosives; and distribution of arms of mass destruction and means of their delivery will remain a priority task of cooperation in the organisation.”

Nazarbayev also expressed support for the adoption of the SCO anti-drug strategy for 2017–2022 and its programme of action.

“The member states, expressing concern over the problem of international drugs, confirm their strict adherence to the line for keeping and improving the present international system of control over drugs, based on three major conventions of UN organisations,” the Tashkent Declaration reads.

The Kazakh leader proposed a joint preventive action by the SCO and the  Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre under the slogan, “Together against Drugs.” According to the declaration, the SCO leaders “consider that it is important to unite efforts under the auspices of the UN founded on a complex and balanced approach in order to stop the global production of drugs, including the elimination of illegal plantations of drug-containing plants and their processing,” the document reads.

The SCO leaders also witnessed the signing of memorandums on the procedures and timetable for India and Pakistan’s accession to the SCO. “As India and Pakistan gain the status of member countries, the organisation’s potential will be bigger by raising its role on the international arena as a multilateral mechanism for settling current problems and for providing security, stability and sustainable development in the region,” participants said.

The member states emphasised the role of cooperation in energy and transport, including by creating international transport corridors to connect Asia and Europe, joint infrastructure projects to expand economically attractive transport and communication opportunities and by generally trying to exploit the region’s transit potential.

“Cooperation between SCO member states through transport and logistics points, the opening of economic borders of our countries and the revival of the Great Silk Road will bring Kazakhstan great benefits in the future,” stressed Nazarbayev during a press briefing after the summit.

“Kazakhstan has already started the implementation of the Nurly Zhol infrastructure development programme, which is a distinct addition to the New Silk Road Economic Belt. It seems timely to use the potential of the Astana International Financial Centre, which aims to become a regional financial and investment hub with an independent legal system and a preferential tax regime. It is important to use the opportunities of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank to stimulate the macroeconomic development of the region. Deepening trade, economic, financial and investment cooperation will provide the necessary conditions for the creation in the future of a free trade zone within the SCO,” Nazarbayev said.

Summit participants also supported the idea of having common rules for the behaviour of countries in the information space, and expressed their intention to develop cooperation in managing the internet.

In addition, the Kazakh President spoke about the main results of bilateral talks held within the framework of the event.

“During a meeting [with Xi Jinping], we discussed prospects for the creation of more than 50 joint ventures, which will have an important role in the industrialisation of our country. During talks with the President of Afghanistan, we spoke about the situation in the country. Today, Kazakhstan continues to assist in training Afghan students. About 150 professionals have returned to Afghanistan and will soon start to work. Each year, we take in our universities 50 people; this is our help to the Afghan economy,” emphasised Nazarbayev.

He also announced that the next SCO summit will take place in Astana in June 2017. “With a great sense of responsibility Kazakhstan assumes the mission of chairmanship of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation this year. We intend to continue the large-scale work carried out by the Uzbek side and contribute to the development and strengthening of the organisation, increasing its role and weight in the world,” said Nazarbayev.

Leaders of Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan as well as the foreign minister of Iran and representatives of numerous international organisations participated in the side events of the summit as observers and partners for dialogue.

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