Iran Moves to Join SCO

A00164404.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iran has lodged a bid to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that comprises Russia, China and the four ex-Soviet Central Asian states, Tehran’s foreign minister said on Monday.

The Islamic Republic, which currently holds an observer status in the regional security group, has long sought to become a full member of the SCO, seen as a counterbalance to US and NATO influence in the region.

“Tajikistan supports us in this issue,” Manouchehr Mottaki said after a meeting with the foreign ministers of SCO member Tajikistan and Afghanistan, which is another SCO observer along with India, Pakistan and Mongolia.

The bloc – which primarily addresses security issue but has recently moved to embrace energy projects – has indefinitely postponed accepting new members, but pledged closer cooperation with the observer states.

Speaking at the SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan in August 2007, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “Everyone agreed that the moratorium should be preserved for some time yet,” adding that the alliance “agreed to involve observer states more actively in practical projects.”

Yet, both China and Russia, as two key players in the SCO have major commercial interests in Iran. The energy-hungry Asian nation is in dire need of Iranian oil and gas exports. Moscow also hopes to boost economic ties with Tehran.

The Kremlin also needs Iran’s endorsement for a multinational arrangement to exploit the Caspian Sea’s energy resources.

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