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RIA Novosti
June 16, 2009
SCO summit shows there is no alternative to international cooperation

MOSCOW. (Alexei Vlasov, director of Moscow State University’s Center for the Study of Political Processes in the post-Soviet Space, a member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council) ­ A summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which has ended in Yekaterinburg, adopted decisions that can seriously influence the organization’s future.

The SCO was initially known as the Shanghai Five, a group set up by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in Shanghai in 1996 to promote trans-border cooperation. After Uzbekistan joined the group in 2001, the organization addressed regional security issues.

Since then, the SCO has become an influential international organization focusing on global issues, from energy security to educational, social and cultural cooperation.

This unique organization is guided by the so-called “Shanghai Spirit,” one of resistance to any form of confrontation, hostile competition and disregard of each other’s interests.

More and more countries are keen on joining it, above all Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended the extended meeting of the SCO leaders despite the complicated political situation in his homeland. Ahmadinejad spoke at the meeting about the SCO’s role in resolving economic problems and positive changes in all spheres of its operation.

Possible enlargement of the SCO’s sphere of responsibility entails the use of more complex mechanisms for attaining its goals. During the ongoing global financial and economic crisis, the SCO should determine its place in the system of international integration. While trying to deal with arising challenges and risks, the SCO is also working to strengthen its consolidation and to encourage more effective interaction between its member states.

These principles have been sealed in the Yekaterinburg Declaration, the main political document adopted at the summit. It also provides a clear assessment of the current geopolitical and geoeconomic realities.

The key idea of the declaration is that there is no alternative to international cooperation. The document also seals the member states’ commitment to the principles of peace based on equal security for all countries without exception.

“We regard this meeting as the focal point of Russia’s presidency of the SCO,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in Yekaterinburg. “Active participation in the organization’s efforts, and the development of multifaceted cooperation within it, have long become the priorities of Russia’s foreign policy.”

The summit considered the proposals of the Russian and Kazakh leaders to develop cooperation in the financial sphere and create a common supranational currency for the SCO countries.

“Using a national currency as a regional and global reserve currency is an obsolete scheme that gives the country in question unilateral advantages,” said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

This seems like a very good idea, but are the SCO countries ready to implement it?

Arkady Dvorkovich, an economic aide to the Russian president, has said more than once that it would be premature to consider a common monetary unit for the SCO because of considerable structural and development differences between the economies of its member states.

However, the summit participants welcomed the proposal of the Kazakh president.

It was announced in Yekaterinburg that Belarus and Sri Lanka would be granted partner status, and that a package of documents would be adopted soon to regulate the admission of new members.

The SCO summit also discussed one of the most distressing problems, the Afghan conflict. Uzbek President Islam Karimov reaffirmed his country’s proposal on changing the format of peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan.

In his view, the UN Contact Group for Afghanistan should include the six states bordering on Afghanistan, the United States, Russia and NATO. The Uzbek president said that the new contact group could become a major consultative body facilitating conciliation in Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

And so, the SCO summit in Yekaterinburg has strengthened the organization’s stance as a collective international player, and showed that the SCO leaders address all global problems. Time will show how much the possible expansion of the zone of their responsibility will benefit the organization.

Currently, the underlying principles of the SCO boil down to a mutually acceptable ideology of interaction, uniting the countries which are prepared for constructive and equal cooperation. In this sense, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has no alternative.