Azerbaijan becomes SCO dialogue partner

By Aynur Karimova

Azerbaijan's status of a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has been officially approved.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov and SCO Secretary General Rashid Alimov inked a Memorandum on granting the SCO partner dialogue status to the country on March 14 at the organization’s head office in Beijing, RIA Novosti reported.

The SCO is a permanent intergovernmental organization founded on June 15, 2001. The members of the organization are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, while Belarus, Mongolia, India, Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan enjoy observer status.

"Today, Azerbaijan has gained, exactly approved the status of a dialogue partner. It is a great honor for us. The path of our relationship started back in 2012, when President Ilham Aliyev sent an official letter to the SCO with the idea of Azerbaijan to gain an observer status of the SCO. So, as you know, Azerbaijan has much higher ambitions than just a dialogue partner... I think that today's document, signed here, gives us an opportunity to start a dialogue with such a very important, very interesting organization," Mammadyarov said.

Alimov, in turn, said the SCO considers the signing of the Memorandum "as an important contribution to the further development of the organization."

"A dialogue partner status will allow Azerbaijan to actively involve in the multi-faceted and diverse activities of the organization through participation in existing mechanisms of interaction," he noted.

A decision on providing Azerbaijan with the status of SCO dialogue partner was taken at the Ufa summit in July 2015.

The heads of the SCO member states signed documents providing Azerbaijan with the status of SCO dialogue partner at an expanded meeting of SCO Council of Heads of State held in Ufa, Russia on July 10.

Baku believes that cooperation with the SCO will create new opportunities for the country. Being one of the newest dialogue partners to the SCO, Azerbaijan will take advantage of its position to strengthen the economic, trade, and political ties with the organization that represents a significant majority of the Eurasian territories.

SCO members, together with observer countries and dialogue partners, have a combined population of 3.3 billion and GDP worth $15.5 trillion in 2014, representing 20 percent of the global GDP.

Azerbaijan’s foreign policy is multi-vector, and in this respect the country is further expanding cooperation on bilateral and multilateral bases. Given this, this membership is beneficial for the country.

All the SCO member countries will get an opportunity to learn from the best practices of Azerbaijan, which has invested so much of its own resources in connecting Europe and Asia by developing regional projects in the energy, agriculture, logistics infrastructure, and public transportation sectors.

Azerbaijan can also play a significant role in the development of relations – particularly in expanding the transportation corridor – between the SCO and the EU countries via Central Asia and Turkey. It is also expected that Azerbaijan's membership in the SCO would give the country more opportunities to interact with China and Central Asian countries much more closely.

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Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova

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