SCO agree on new partnership treaties

Security issues have dominated a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek. The heads of the member states – Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries – have discussed joint anti-terrorism

Several treaties were also signed outlining future priorities in health and education. One of the most important of them is the Agreement of Good Neighbourhood, Friendship and Co-Operation.

In the beginning of the day the leaders met for round-table talks and had several photo opportunities.

In his opening words, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said the organisation should expand its influence in the world arena.

“I believe that the organisation's area of influence cannot be limited to the region – it should expand because the SCO is gaining influence over more international processes,” Kyrgyz President said.

Leaders holding joint news conference
Leaders holding joint news conference

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on the SCO members to unite against the threat of terrorism in the region.

“The key task is to enhance security of the SCO member states. Above all, we should resist threats from terrorists, separatists and extremists That's why we should hold more consultations on that matter. We should focus on a better legal basis of the regional anti-terrorist structure. In particular, finalise documents on counter-terrorist exercises and training of counter-terrorist forces of the SCO member states,” pointed out Mr Putin.

Mr Putin also touched upon more 'light' issues such as the upcoming summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He noted Russia could draw useful experience from its partner in view of the preparation of the 2014 winter Olympics to be hosted by the Russian city of Sochi.

At the same time, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev addressed one of the most important problems on the SCO agenda, that is the situation in Afghanistan. He proposed that a special conference within the SCO be put together in order to discuss ways of stabilising the situation in the country.

Among others, the floor was given to the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjad, who was critical of the U.S. anti-missile plans.

“The U.S. plans to deploy elements of anti-missile shield in some areas of the world pose a threat not only to one country. This affects Eurasia, Asia and SCO member states. Unfortunately, some countries still speak the language of force and intimidation while, on the contrary, peace and security are needed,” said Mahmoud Ahmadinjad.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also attending the summit and is scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin later on Thursday.

Mr Putin will also hold talks with his Mongolian counterpart in the framework of bilateral meetings scheduled for the end of the day.

After that the leaders will travel to Russia, where they will witness military exercises taking place in the city of Cheliabinsk as part of the SCO summit agenda.

All sides will next come together at the 2009 summit to be held in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

The SCO was formed in 2001 by the leaders of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhastan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China. It was later joined by India, Mongolia, Iran and Pakistan having an observer status within the organisation.

Each year there is a rotating presidency, with Kyrgyzstan presiding at the SCO at the moment. The presidency of the next year will also be decided during Thursday's talks.

The SCO mission consists in improving relations between member states and tackling a number of regional problems such as fighting terrorism and curbing drug trafficking. Some experts believe, though, its main goal was to help China and Russia balance their interests in Central Asia.