Ex-ambassador: SCO membership will force the West to provide facilities to Iran

September 14, 2021 - 22:13

TEHRAN – Iran is set to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which currently consists of China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

The SCO leaders will meet in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, September on Tuesday. President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran will participate at the summit. Iran’s membership of the organization is set to be endorsed in the summit. So far Iran has been an observer member. 

Mehdi Safari, the former Iranian ambassador to China and Russia, has said that with Iran's permanent membership in the SCO, the West will understand that the space for Iran will not be limited.

The comment by Safari comes as Iran has been subject to sanctions by the West, especially after the former Trump administration quit the 2015 nuclear agreement and slapped the harshest sanctions in history against Iran.

In an interview with the Sobh-e-Naw newspaper, Safari partly blames Iran for failing to become a full member of the SCO so far.

Part of the reason for Iran's non-permanent membership in the SCO has been Iran's own failure, and in the past eight years, there has been little willingness on the part of Iran to become a permanent member, the former diplomat stated.

Safari noted, "When I was ambassador to Russia, I stated in a telex to Tehran that we should become a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, but because the administration was looking to enhance ties with the West at that time, namely in 1997, my proposal was not taken into consideration."

The member countries of the organization are noticing that the foreign policy perspective of Raisi's administration is more focused on neighboring countries, Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and Asian countries in general, and for this reason, they have welcomed Iran's permanent membership, Safari highlighted.

The  SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance. It was founded on June 15, 2001 in Shanghai. The founders were China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Elsewhere in his interview, the former diplomat stated that the Shanghai pact was originally a security organization to ensure the security of the region against the United States and NATO. 

He said since after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States also sought a disintegration of Russia the countries of Russia, China and Central Asian republics “formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization".

The formation of this organization was a very strong barrier against the United States, Safari noted, stating that today Shanghai is the largest organization in the world, especially as China, Russia and India account for two-third of the world’s population.

The former diplomat believes that Iran's permanent membership in the Shanghai organization will bring security, political and economic benefits for Tehran, especially in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime.

"The main part of the current Shanghai organization is economic cooperation," Safari said, underlining that a bank has been established by China and Russia within the organization, and the Central Asian countries are using the bank's loans and other economic facilities of the organization. 

China and Russia are the founding fathers of the SCO.

According to the former ambassador, with Iran's permanent membership in the SCO, the West would understand that in case of sanctions, the space for Iran would not be limited as the world is very large.

"It has always been our mistake to never consider our neighbors and emerging economic powers. The look to the West and Europe is very good and should not be left out, but our view of the countries of the region and its neighbors has always been weak," Safari reiterated.

If the potential of the countries of the region and the East is not more than the West, it is not less, and Iran can solve many of its problems with neighboring countries and Central Asia and powerful emerging countries such as China, Russia and India, Safari further stated.

The former ambassador also noted, "With Iran's permanent membership in the Shanghai organization, the West will create many facilities for us."

"In my opinion, after Iran's permanent membership in Shanghai, Western countries will provide facilities to create a balance and will open the ground for cooperation with Iran in trade and economic fields," the former top diplomat said.

In his weekly presser on Monday, the spokesman of Iran's Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh also commented on Iran's imminent membership in the SCO and President Raisi participation in the SCO summit. 

"This is the president's first foreign trip. This trip has two aspects; one aspect is attending the Shanghai Summit and the other is the mutual capacity of the trip,” he explained.

In both respects, he stressed, extensive programs are being pursued by the Office of the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Necessary follow-ups have also been carried out in Dushanbe and the Iranian embassy in Tajikistan.”

The spokesman added: "Iran's request will be considered at the Shanghai summit, and we hope this review will lead to the result we expect.”

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