Afghanistan joins bloc as observer
The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) - a bloc comprising China, Russia and four Central Asia countries - accepted Afghanistan as an observer yesterday as it ended two days of talks in Beijing.
Member states also jointly criticised Nato for establishing a missile defence system, and opposed any use of force against Iran.
However, China, host of the bloc's summit this year, said it had no intention of replacing Nato's role in Afghanistan when foreign combat troops left the war-torn country in 2014.
President Hu Jintao announced that Afghanistan had been granted observer status and that Turkey had become a 'dialogue partner', while vowing that the bloc would jointly combat terrorism, separatism and extremism.
The bloc also includes Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia are also observers.
'Member states should establish a comprehensive security co-operation mechanism and take co-ordinated action to narrow down the space of activities of the three forces [terrorism, extremism and separatism], eradicate drug-trafficking and cross-border crimes,' Hu said. He will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai today, with the two countries expected to sign documents promising further co-operation.
In a speech at the China Foreign Affairs University on Wednesday, Karzai said China could play a significant role in helping Afghanistan and Pakistan combat terrorism. He said expanding ties with China was high on Kabul's agenda, and the forming of a strategic partnership with the US last month did not mean Kabul would pay less regard to Beijing.
Vice-Foreign Minster Cheng Guoping said after the summit that a stable Afghanistan was crucial for regional stability, and China and the bloc would continue to give economic support to Kabul.
'The SCO will not replace the troops,' he said. 'The SCO will promote co-operation with Afghanistan under the framework of the United Nations, and help Afghanistan to maintain peace and harmony.'
The bloc said in a joint statement the use of force against Iran because of concerns about its nuclear programme would be unacceptable and would lead to unpredictable circumstances in the region and the world. The six countries said the strengthening of missile defences by a country or a group of countries in a unilateral and unrestrained manner, in disregard of the legitimate interests of other countries, would damage international security.
The bloc also vowed to deepen economic ties, with China offering a US$10 billion loan for economic development in member states. The member states should establish railway, telecommunications and energy pipeline links, Hu said.