SCO facilitates regional peace, development

(Xinhua) After the 11th annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Astana in June, the Russian city of St. Petersburg is gearing up for the upcoming 10th Meeting of Prime Ministers of the Member States of the SCO planned for Monday.

According to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will attend the meeting.

Prime ministers of other SCO member states, as well as representatives from SCO’s observer states of Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran and India will also attend the meeting.

The SCO, which groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, has been steadily promoted since its establishment in Shanghai in 2001.

Over the past decade, the SCO has been developing in the areas of security, economy and culture and has seen fruitful results in enhancing mutual trust and cooperation among member states.

Security cooperation among SCO member states is valued as one of the wheels of the organization, as it has been working upon establishment to get rid of menaces that may undermine regional peace and stability. Those include the rampant spread of “the three evil forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism as well as other threats like drug- and arms-trafficking across the region.

During the past 10 years, SCO members have maintained close contact and mutual support on those issues, as they inked declarations to combat the menaces and established mechanisms for regular meetings on regional security and stability.

SCO members have also staged successive joint drills to enhance the interoperability of their militaries and law enforcement agencies and deter potential troublemakers.

Meanwhile, the SCO’s regional anti-terror structure, the only other permanent organ besides the secretariat, was established in 2004 to combat the “three evil forces” as well as drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.

Besides security cooperation, economic cooperation is another top priority for SCO member states.

According to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping, the SCO, whose members cover 60 percent of the Eurasian landmass, has achieved deepened economic cooperation, identifying cooperative potential in the areas of finance, transportation, energy, agriculture and technology.

As a sign of the vitality in the SCO’s growing economic cooperation, China’s trade with other SCO members has shot up from 12.1 billion U.S. dollars to some 90 billion dollars during the past 10 years, recording a faster increase than China’s overall foreign trade, Cheng said.

The growing trade ties dovetail with the SCO’s ambitious integration endeavors to realize the free flow of goods, capital, services and technology by 2020.

Meanwhile, SCO members have also established the Business Council and the Interbank Association, two non-government organizations, to better promote and finance cooperation projects.

With regard to culture exchanges, people-to-people contacts have been more frequent among SCO member states and their relations have been strengthened.

Cheng said that cooperation in public health, culture, education and emergency relief has been vigorously carried out within the organization, which is considered as the axle-tree between the SCO’s two wheels of security and economic cooperation.

Diverse art festivals, youth festivals, exhibitions and forums have been carried out under the SCO framework, which have been consolidating the traditional friendship and win-win partnership within SCO member countries.

According to Cheng, complicated and profound changes in the international and regional situation, as well as a possible downturn in the global economy, will create challenges for the development of SCO member states and also create higher demands for the SCO.

Li Hui, the Chinese ambassador to Russia, echoed Cheng in an interview with Xinhua ahead of the 10th meeting of prime ministers of the SCO member states. Li said that China is willing to further coordinate and cooperate with other SCO member states to cope with the challenges.

Li raised three proposals: to persistently enhance political mutual trust in order to strengthen SCO’s capacity to deal with new challenges; to consolidate security cooperation to protect SCO member states from menaces; to further promote pragmatic cooperation in various fields, especially in the economic and trade field; to expand people-to-people contacts and culture exchanges.

At the upcoming gathering, Cheng said, leaders will review the organization’s development and cooperation over the past year, thoroughly analyze the current international and regional situations and make working plans for the SCO’s next phase of development.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the SCO’s establishment. The SCO’s Astana summit in June celebrated the 10th anniversary by summing up its achievements and outlining its future direction.

Xinhua