As leaders meet in Uzbekistan, the eight-member regional body is poised to add Iran to its ranks.
Iran has signed a Memorandum of Obligations to become a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a central Asian security body, the Iranian foreign minister said.
“By signing the document to become a full member of the SCO, Iran has now entered a new stage of economic, trade, transit and energy cooperation,” Hossein Amirabdollahian wrote on social media.
The statement came as the leaders of China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan were on their way to the latter’s city of Samarkand for a summit of eight members of the SCO, a security group made up of Beijing and Moscow as a counterweight to the influence of the United States.
Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are observer countries, while the organization has six “dialogue partners”: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.
Last year, the rapidly expanding SCO approved Iran’s membership request, while Tehran’s government asked members to help it form a mechanism to avoid Western sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.
Reporting from the Silk Road oasis of Samarkand, Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar said Iran’s full membership is expected to take effect in April 2023.
He added that the SCO, the world’s largest regional organization consisting of 40 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), wants to expand further.
“Belarus is also going to officially sign the documents that its membership will start,” Serdar said. “Qatar and Saudi Arabia are also expected to become new dialogue partners.”
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was among the leaders who attended the summit in Samarkand and was expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, according to Iranian media.
Iran’s economy has been hit hard since 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers including Russia and China.
Months of indirect talks between Iran and the administration of US President Joe Biden have reached an impasse due to various obstacles to reviving the nuclear pact, under which the Iranian government agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. .
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