Iran ready for Shanghai Pact full membership – Russian FM Lavrov

Iran ready for Shanghai Pact full membership – Russian FM Lavrov
Russia strongly backs Iranian membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), now that UN Security Council sanctions have been lifted from the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

Iran is ready to become a full-fledged member of the organization, Lavrov said Friday during an SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Astana. Tehran has “settled the problem of the UN Security Council sanctions and hence fully meets the SCO membership criteria,” according to Lavrov.

“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,” Lavrov said.

The political, economic and military organization was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Pakistan and India were granted membership status in 2016, and both are expected to become full-fledged members in 2017 during the June summit.

Iran currently has observer status in the organization. It submitted an official application for full-fledged SCO membership in 2008. The application, however, was blocked due to sanctions imposed on Iran by the UNSC.

After 2015 nuclear deal implementation, as Iran agreed to drastically limit its nuclear fuel enrichment capabilities in exchange for lifting the sanctions, both Russia and China expressed their support for country’s full membership.

“We believe that after Iran’s nuclear problem was solved and United Nations sanctions lifted, there have been no obstacles left,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said during the July 2016 SCO summit in Tashkent.

Russian-Iranian relations have been steadily progressing in recent years. Like Russia, Iran is fighting international terrorism in Syria with the Damascus government’s invitation, a contribution that has earned Moscow’s praise.

READ MORE: Russia to build 2 nuclear power plants in Iran

Together with Russia and Turkey, Iranian efforts were instrumental to launching Syrian peace talks in Astana, where representatives of Syria’s government and some rebel groups met for the first time outside of the battlefield.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Moscow last month to meet with Putin. The two leaders discussed joint economic projects, the issue of using national currencies as reciprocal payments, inter-bank cooperation, and boosting trade and investment.

The Iranian president floated the idea of creating a free trade zone between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.