The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is set to expand at its upcoming summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, the host nation’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has announced. The SCO is the largest regional bloc in the world, comprising eight members including Russia, China and India.
In an article published on his official website on Monday, Mirziyoyev expressed confidence that the event scheduled for September 15-16 will “mark the birth of a new stage” in the organization’s history.
“The number of [SCO] members will grow, and its future agenda will be formed, and this is highly symbolic,” the leader of the Central Asian nation wrote.
There are currently eight full members of the group: India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Two countries – Iran and Belarus – are in the process of joining the SCO and have observer status, along with Afghanistan and Mongolia.
Mirziyoyev believes the Samarkand gathering will be remembered for the launch of “a new, inclusive dialogue.” In a world suffering from a “deep crisis of trust” and geopolitical confrontation, the SCO should become “a pole of attraction without dividing lines, in the name of peace, cooperation and progress,” he stated.
One of the key goals of the SCO is to expand its cooperation with Afghanistan which, Mirziyoyev believes, “should try on a new peaceful mission of connecting Central and South Asia.”
The SCO encompasses 40% of the world’s population, and more than 30% of global GDP.
In September 2021, the SCO launched technical procedures for Iran’s admission. The Russian President’s Special Envoy for SCO Affairs, Bakhtiyor Khakimov, said at the time that the accession process would take a considerable amount of time. Belarus was the latest country to apply for SCO membership. Its bid was announced by Khakimov in June this year.
On Tuesday, Uzbekistan’s national SCO coordinator, Rakhmatulla Nurimbetov, revealed that six countries, including four Arab nations, will receive the status of dialogue partners during the summit.
One of the leaders expected at the gathering is Chinese President Xi Jinping, making his first foreign trip in more than two years.
Though Turkey is not a member of the SCO, the country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also expected to arrive in Uzbekistan for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. The two leaders are set to discuss matters related to the Ukraine conflict and the UN-brokered “grain deal.”