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Iran Gets Full Membership in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

By Orkhan Jalilov September 17, 2021

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Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon in Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe, during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. / Anadolu Agency

Iran has become a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance led by China and Russia.

“This strategic membership will have an important impact on the process of multilateral cooperation of Iran with neighbors and Asian countries,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian announced on Twitter on September 17.

Iran’s permanent membership was approved during the 21st Meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Tajik capital Dushanbe. The country obtained observer status in the organization in June 2005, and in 2008, applied for full membership.

The SCO was established as a multilateral association to ensure security and maintain stability across the vast Eurasian region, join forces to counteract emerging challenges, threats, and enhance trade, as well as cultural and humanitarian cooperation. 

Its permanent members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, and Iran. Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia have observer status, while Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have the status of SCO dialogue partners.

“Today, we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a member state of the SCO and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar as new dialogue partners. I am confident that the growing SCO family will stride ahead together with all the progressive forces of the world, and be the builders of world peace, contributors to global development and defenders of the international order,” Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China said at the SCO meeting on September 17.

Before leaving Tehran for Dushanbe to attend the SCO summit, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said that the country’s delegation accompanying him would sign a series of deals in the fields of economy and agriculture with other participating nations.

Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security, said in August that “fortunately, the political obstacles to Iran’s membership in the SCO have been removed, and Iran’s membership will be finalized.”

According to Tehran Times, the vast potential of the SCO members “will definitely provide a more suitable space for Iran’s international interactions given the determination of the Raisi administration in the “look to the East.” 

“And Iran, due to its rich energy resources such as oil and gas, will naturally be an important powerhouse in the SCO,” the newspaper wrote.

Membership would also bolster Tehran’s role in managing regional security, as the SCO is often portrayed as an anti-Western bloc, with some even calling it the “anti-NATO” organization.