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Monday, July 15, 2024

Key Russian ally joins Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Belarus has become the tenth member of the bloc

Belarus has officially become a full-fledged member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an economic and security bloc covering most of Eurasia and accounting for more than 20% of global GDP.

Membership documents were signed during the opening of the organization’s summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday. The announcement was made by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, whose country is chairing the SCO in 2024. He noted that Belarus “completed all the necessary procedures on the way to full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in a short period of time.”

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Founded in 2001, the SCO includes India, Iran, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and now Belarus, with several other countries playing the role of observers.
The bloc’s goals are to strengthen relations between member states and promote cooperation in the political, economic, scientific, cultural, and educational fields.

On Wednesday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko described SCO membership as a “strategic perspective” for Minsk, especially in terms of economic and infrastructure development. He also emphasized that the SCO “by its very nature is a creative organization and is not directed against anyone.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is interested in acting “as a united front” with Minsk in international relations. “I think things are moving in the right direction here,” he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has welcomed Belarus’ accession to the SCO, describing the country as a “very important ally” for Moscow. Minsk’s membership “will be a great gain for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” he said, adding that Belarus will also benefit from the move.

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Peskov also did not rule out the possibility of new members joining the organization. “The expansion of the SCO is gradual, it takes time… The number of those who want to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is quite large,” he said, adding that the issue will be on the agenda at the summit in Astana.

However, Zhang Ming, the SCO secretary-general, signaled that admitting new members is not currently a priority. “We have received applications from several countries for dialogue partner status, as well as applications for upgraded observer status from some dialogue partners,” he said. “All these issues are discussed in the context of improving the organization’s activities.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the SCO as “one of the key pillars of a fair multipolar world order,” noting that its expansion only helps to strengthen the organization’s role in this regard.