Ten more countries want to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which promotes, among other things, security and economic cooperation in Central Asia, including the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
This was reported to Izvestia by two highly informed sources close to the organizing committee of the association.
Some experts describe this organization as a bulwark against the U.S. It is the world’s largest regional alliance, covering approximately 60% of the area of Eurasia, 40% of the world population, and more than 30% of global GDP.
They indicated that the UAE has asked to immediately become a member of the SCO and skip the bureaucratic procedure – the matter will be discussed at the summit in Samarkand on September 15-16.
Other candidates for SCO membership include Myanmar, Cambodia, and Nepal. The State Duma partially confirmed the information provided by the sources and clarified that Azerbaijan and Armenia could obtain membership status in the organization soon.
EXPANSION IN THE FALL
“There is a queue of those who want to join the SCO,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said when commenting on the organization’s success during the recent SCO Heads of State Council in Tashkent.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said after the talks in the Uzbek capital that at the Samarkand summit, “the signing of memoranda on granting a dialogical partnership to Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, as well as decisions on initiating the procedure for admitting Belarus to the SCO and granting the status of a dialogical partner to Bahrain (and the Maldives) are planned.
A high-ranking source told Izvestia that the SCO would see “a big wave of expansion” in the near future at the expense of Arab countries and the states of Southeast Asia (SE Asia). The Emirates, for example, have asked to join the organization directly.
– No fewer than ten countries have applied to join the SCO. Among them are representatives of the Arab world: Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates have asked to join the organization immediately. From Southeast Asia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Nepal want to become members. Armenia and Azerbaijan from near abroad. We see unprecedented interest in the SCO,” the source said.
He said that Uzbekistan plans to invite most of these “ten” candidates to the Samarkand summit.
Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry said it had invited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the September event. When asked by Izvestia which other world leaders had been invited, the ministry’s press office declined to comment.
Information about the planned expansion of the organization was also confirmed by a source close to the SCO organizing committee.
– There is a consensus, albeit nuanced, to grant observer status to Azerbaijan and Armenia, as they have been SCO dialogue partners since 2016. There is a similar proposal for Cambodia and Nepal,” the interlocutor told Izvestia. – Also, in Samarkand, the procedure for admitting Belarus to the SCO is being initiated.
The most unusual situation, he said, is the UAE’s application. This country has submitted an application for membership in the SCO. However, as the source explained to “Izvestia”, the regulation on the admission of new countries stipulates that an applicant must have either the status of an observer or a dialogue partner of the SCO before applying for membership.
– It is common practice to start with a dialogue partner. This issue has been discussed both at the ministerial level and at the level of national coordinators, but the prevailing opinion is that the SCO is interesting and attractive and that it is, therefore, most important for us not to get bogged down in bureaucracy, but to find solutions that allow for an appropriate response to all applications. And to respond by adapting the rules to the new conditions. So we will see what they will do – they will submit a request for an observer or a dialogue partner,” the source summarized to Izvestia.
The embassies of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar in the Russian Federation did not respond to Izvestia’s request.
WHAT IS THE SCO?
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an intergovernmental organization composed of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan founded in Shanghai in 2001.
Originally formed as a confidence-building forum to demilitarize borders, the organization’s goals and agenda have since broadened to include increased military and counterterrorism cooperation and intelligence sharing.
The SCO has also intensified its focus on regional economic initiatives like the recently announced integration of the China-led Silk Road Economic Belt and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.