Russia has lent weight to Iran joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an emerging economic and security alliance which is being touted as the counterweight to the West’s institutions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Iran is now ready to be a full-fledged SCO member and that negotiations will be taken up in summer to bring the Islamic Republic to the fold.
Tehran currently has an observer status in the organization which is led by China and Russia. Iran expected the SCO to give a serious reading to its bid at the bloc’s summit in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in June.
But the body did not, prompting Tehran to take a back seat on its attempt. Reports from the summit at the time said SCO members had failed to initiate the accession process for Iran which expected to make it into the group after the lifting of Western sanctions.
SCO members played for time on Iran’s membership, citing the sanctions but the country’s nuclear agreement in July 2016 removed that hurdle. In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there were no obstacles left for Iran to join the organization.
“We believe that after Iran’s nuclear problem was solved and United Nations sanctions lifted, there have been no obstacles left (for Iran’s membership in the SCO),” Putin said in a speech at the SCO summit in Tashkent.
Heads of the state of the SCO members pose for a photo group at their Tashkent summit in June 2016.
On Friday, Lavrov told journalists at the end of a meeting of the group’s foreign ministers that Iran
“has settled the problem of the UN Security Council sanctions and hence fully meets the SCO membership criteria.”
“We hope that during their June summit in Astana, the heads of our states will be able to discuss the possibility of launching the procedure for admitting Iran into the organization as a full member,” he added.
India and Pakistan joined the SCO in July 2015, giving the group added prominence and appeal. Lavrov said the SCO is about to account for 43 percent of the world’s population and 24 percent of the global GDP.
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are other full members of the SCO. Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus are also observer members.
Heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries, observers and dialog partners pose for a group photo at their summit in Ufa, Russia on 10 July 2015.
In recent years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has hinted at joining the bloc, expressing his frustration with the European Union for refusing to accept his country in the alliance.
Erdogan was reported to have said during a visit to Russia in 2013 that “if we get into the SCO, we will say goodbye to the European Union.”
“The SCO is better – much more powerful… If the SCO wants us, all of us will become members of this organization,” he said, according to the Newsweek magazine.