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SCO embarks on key development stage
By Li Jing and Hu Xiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-14 07:32

New initiatives and an anti-terrorism organization will have "landmark significance" and put the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) on a "new stage of substantial development," said Zhang Deguang, the current secretary-general.

"The upcoming summit of SCO heads of state will be of great importance to find new opportunities and perspectives for co-operation and maintaining security and stability," said Zhang.

Chinese President Hu Jintao will arrive in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for a three-day state-visit Monday evening.

On Thursday, he will attend the summit with other heads of state of SCO member countries.

Representatives from the United Nations, European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States will be present at the launching ceremony of the anti-terror organ.

"The launch of permanent bodies of SCO of Regional Anti-terrorism Structure in Tashkent and Secretariat in Beijing marks that the SCO has ended its primary stage and entered its new stage of substantial co-operation," said Zhang.

The secretariat of the SCO was launched in January in Beijing.

During the summit, SCO members, which groups China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, will ink about 19 agreements on politics, economics, law and security.

Analysts said security collaboration is an important part of SCO's co-operative mechanism.

Xu Tao, deputy director of the Division for Eurasian Studies with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said forging stronger economic ties between member states is also based on security considerations because poverty is a major cause of turbulence.

The SCO was the first international organization to advocate the fight against the three evil forces - terrorism, separatism and extremism.

Military maneuvers in August of 2003 were the first staged by SCO.

Senior officials of security councils of member countries met in Tashkent on June 4.

They said it was necessary to develop mechanisms and programmes of co-operation of law enforcement bodies of SCO member countries in the fight against the three forces.

Participants said increased global terrorism activities are connected with the re-grouping of international terrorist organizations.

The Tashkent-based anti-terror structure has 30 security officials from the six member states.

Their main goal is to strengthen the effectiveness of members to collect and exchange security information and to enhance co-operation between other international anti-terrorism organizations, said Zhang.

"For example, the members have agreed to take joint action on drug trafficking in order to cut off the funds of terrorism," the secretary-general said.

China earlier announced that Afghan Transitional Government President Hamid Karzai will, as guest of Uzbek President Islam Abduganiyevich Karimov, attend the Tashkent summit.

"Central Asian countries have very close ties with Afghanistan especially in the security field. For instance, drug trafficking is very rampant along the borders of Afghanistan and Central Asian countries," said Xu, noting that it is probably the main reason of Karzai's participation in the upcoming summit.

Xu said Central Asia is a place where people of various nationalities and religions reside together, adding to the complexity of the security situation of the region.

"Regional organizations' strength will help handle the increasing religious extremism, terrorism and ethnic separatism," Xu said.

However, the SCO is not a military alliance, and it is not only a security organization, either, Zhang said.

It started from the security co-operation and later brought out comprehensive co-operation in various fields among the members.

Currently, members are also interested in seeing SCO develop a trade component.

Zhang described the SCO collaboration in security and economy and trade as "two wheels of a cart," saying he believed economic and trade co-operation will gradually become even more significant.

Economic and trade development are key areas of co-operation for the SCO and serve as the material foundation and guarantee for SCO's smooth development, Zhang said.

"Close economic and trade relationships will bring common prosperity to SCO members," said Zhang.

Xu also predicted that member countries would team on economic and trade issues by launching specific co-operation projects in energy and communications.

"Because of China's participation, the SCO is quite different in nature from other big powers and blocs in the region," said Xu.

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