Egypt & Saudi Arabia To Join Shanghai Cooperation Organisation As Dialogue Partners

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Move helps plan Afghanistan restructuring and means increased regional dialogue exists to solve regional issues

Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are about to become Dialogue Partners of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). The SCO includes China, as well as three EAEU nations Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, the CIS nations of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in addition to Iran, India, and Pakistan. Afghanistan, Belarus,, and Mongolia are participating observer nations, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey dialogue partners, with Turkmenistan an official guest.

In addition to these countries, several others have applied for observer or dialogue status, including Bahrain, Bangladesh, East Timor, Israel, Iraq, Maldives, Syria, Qatar, and Ukraine.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are poised to formally join the Eurasian bloc later this month. Since its foundation on June 15, 2001, the SCO has expanded over the past two decades to now represent more than 70% of the Eurasian landmass and close to 50% of the world’s population. Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin said at the last SC heads of state meeting in Dushanbe in July that:

“The SCO has asserted itself as an authoritative interstate organization of a new type and an influential participant in the system of international relations.

We believe that reaching an early settlement in Afghanistan is a major factor in maintaining and strengthening security and stability in the SCO space.

In this context, we emphasize the need for the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to intensify their efforts to restore peace, promote national economic development and counter terrorism, extremism, and drug-related crime.

We confirm the position of the SCO members that the conflict in Afghanistan can only be settled by political dialogue and an inclusive peace process conducted and led by the Afghans themselves.”

He also stressed that the bloc would continue to extend its cooperation under the format of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.

Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia bring significant Islamic clout to the SCO, in dialogue, religious interpretation and influence, key aspects in assisting with the development of Afghanistan and helping to secure its immediate future without it descending into civil war. Iran, which shares a long border with Afghanistan and has strong economic relations with China, Russia and India was upgraded from a dialogue partner to full membership just last month.

Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia possess significant military capabilities as well as trade opportunities. Egypt represents a significant development into the MENA region for the SCO where again both China and Russia have significant investments in free trade zones and infrastructure. Egypt is a key member of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and has also applied to join the Eurasian Economic Union.

These developments effectively replace the NATO presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia while at the same time adding a multilateral trade perspective different from the United States unilateral ideology concerning its foreign involvement. This effectively places certainly Afghanistan back under regional rather than Western influences. The involvement of the SCO in the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan is an issue I previously discussed here; the addition of Egypt and Saudi Arabia into the mix will only strengthen the likelihood of success in these goals although undoubtedly a great deal of negotiations still need to take place.

The SCO however offers a more sophisticated multi-disciplinary approach to the region that is fundamentally different to the US and NATO’s military focus, adding in not just security, but infrastructure investment and trade potential to help this develop.

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About Us

Silk Road Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Asia, and assists foreign investors into the region. For strategic advisory and business intelligence issues please contact the firm at silkroad@dezshira.com or visit www.dezshira.com

 

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