Beijing: The conflict in Afghanistan and
expanding its membership to include Iran and Pakistan are key
issues facing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the
coming year, its new head said.
"In the current global context, the top priority is
finding a solution to the Afghan issue," said
Secretary-General Muratbek Sansyzbayevich Imanaliev during a press conference in Beijing yesterday.
The fear is that instability within Afghanistan`s
borders, where Taliban fighters are challenging the US and
NATO-backed government of Hamid Karzai, could well spill over
into neighbouring countries.
The SCO is a security grouping dominated by Russia and
China that also includes the four Central Asian countries of
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
"All member countries of the SCO are making active
contributions to the Afghanistan issue, including economic
cooperation and energy support," he said.
Imanaliev said the security bloc is assessing membership
applications submitted by Tehran and Islamabad. The group is
currently reviewing its criteria for new membership. He did
not specify when a decision would be made on their bids.
He said member states are planning to step up cooperation
on regional security issues, particularly the anti-terrorism
effort, as well economic cooperation.
A summit among the six member nations is planned in
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, later this year, though no date has been