On September 15-16, Central Asia’s most populated nation, Uzbekistan, took a further step towards solidifying its place as a central regional player when it hosted a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) heads of state, under the chairmanship of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the ancient Silk Road city of Samarkand.
For the first time in the history of the organization, the summit was held in a broad format as it was attended by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov, as well as Shehbaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan; President Emomali Rahmon from Tajikistan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Dialogue partners like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey, alongside a few candidates for dialogue partner status, also attended. The President of Turkmenistan, Serdar Berdymuhamedov, was the personal guest of Mirziyoyev.
The list of heads of state were joined by the Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Zhang Ming and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, Ruslan Mirzayev. During the summit, the Islamic Republic of Iran formally submitted its application to join the SCO as a full member state, which is expected to become effective within a year. In addition, Turkey also announced its intention to join the Organization in the future.
For Uzbekistan, hosting the summit of the world’s largest regional organization, which covers 40 per cent of the world’s population and more than 30 percent of the global GDP, has a particularly powerful connotation, one that was echoed by Mirziyoyev during his speech at the close of the summit.
Miziyoyev said, in accordance with the agenda of the meeting, that the attendees discussed the current state of regional and global affairs, as well as prospects for cooperation within the SCO. With regard to the day’s main regional and international topics, Mirziyoev said the main issues at hand were discussed in the context of both political and economic development, which were reflected in the package of documents – more than 40 agreements and decisions, in total – were prepared during the Samarkand Summit.
Each of these proposals reflects the common approaches of the SCO members pertaining to prospective areas of cooperation, including the strengthening of connectivity, industrial cooperation, the green economy, digitalization, trade and many others.
“Since ancient times, Samarkand has been a center of spiritual, economic, cultural and scientific exchange among the peoples living in the space from East Asia to North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Over the centuries a special culture of fruitful communication between the representatives of different civilizations has been created here … Its (the SCO Summit’s) goal is to involve in the global inter-civilizational dialogue all those who care about our common future, who are ready, regardless of differences, to seek agreed approaches and solutions ” said Mirziyoyev.
Mirziyoyev noted that the SCO has become an influential participant in both regional and global processes in a short period period of time and has significantly contributed to imporoved security and economic growth.
A key point in the Uzbek president’s speech was his call for the SCO to maintain its non-aligned status. This is of paramount importance for the organization, particualarly when taking into consideration the ongoing conflicts in areas that border SCO, or are within the territorial space of the organization itself.
This non-aligned status, as stated by the Uzbek president, is best illustrated by its openness and its focus on broad partnerships that are guided by its principles of equality and the building of a consensus.
Taking this into account, as well as relying on the productive experience of the multifaceted cooperation within the SCO, Mirziyoyev offered specific proposals towards developing the SCO’s enhanced cooperation in the areas of economy, trade and investment, the strengthening the transport connectivity, its environmental agenda, as well as cultural and humanitarian ties in the coming years; with special attention being paid to the ongoing problems of security and the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan.
The future of the SCO’s development depends largely on joint, well-coordinated and effective work, according to Mirziyoyev, who added, “Together, we are able to take the Organization to new frontiers to ensure regional and global security in the name of progress and prosperity for our countries and peoples … Samarkand is a living example of how the principles of tolerance and respect for the traditions and the values of different peoples, which we took as a basis when creating the SCO, have been put into practice for centuries … Now such a dialogue, free from geopolitical rivalry, ideological contradictions and disputes, is extremely in demand.”
In their own speeches, the attending heads of state touched upon the need for further developing cooperation as a part of the SCO, to deal with regional and international security, including in Afghanistan.
In the joint declaration at the conclusion of the summit, the SCO stated that a settlement of the situation in Afghanistan and the establishment of the country as an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state; free of terrorism, war and narcotics needs to be immediately resolved.
The Organization also declared that it would maintain its policy of supporting nuclear and chemical weapons non-proliferation, its opposition to the militarization of the SCO space and its advocacy for multilateral political and diplomatic responses to global and regional challenges and threats to global security.