While Russia has repeatedly backed Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), some other members, particularly Tajikistan, seem to be opposed to the accession.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday he hoped Iran’s SCO membership process would start in June.
“Next in line, many have said this today, is Iran, which as you know has settled the issues related with Security Council sanctions. It now fully meets the criteria for SCO membership,” Sputnik quoted Lavrov as saying.
“We hope that in Astana in June, the heads of state will consider the issue of how to launch the process of including Iran as a full member,” the Russian top diplomat said in Kazakhstan.
That would give Iran formal ties to Russia and China, the two leading powers in an organization often regarded as “a counterbalance to the Western-dominated international institutions that have held sway since the end of the Second World War,” as Newsweek put it.
SCO nations cooperate militarily and economically, although the organization doesn’t guarantee mutual defence the way NATO does.
Russian President Putin’s special envoy to SCO, however, said some other members of the organization oppose Iran’s accession, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
“We stand for this firmly and consistently, and we are open about it,” Bakhtiyer Khakimov said, but added that certain partners have a different stance on the matter, and a consensus is needed for the decision to be made.”
According to a report by IFP, Tajikistan is said to be one of the main opponents of Iran’s accession. The two countries have many commonalities, including their ancient Persian culture and language, and used to have the closest and most stable relations.
However, these warm relations took a nosedive in late December 2015 on the issue of the Islamic Movement of Tajikistan. While the Islamic Revival Party (IRP) was considered by the Tajik government as a banned party, its leader Muhiddin Kabiri was invited to an international conference in Tehran, and this outraged the Central Asian state.
That seems to be the reason why Tajikistan declared its opposition to Russia’s proposal to turn the issue of Iran’s status conversion before the plenary summit of heads.
Iran has held an observer status at SCO since 2005. Last June, SCO members failed to reach a consensus on Iran’s accession. But now Tehran is trying to leverage its improved ties with Moscow to become a full member.
The SCO is an intergovernmental economic, political and military alliance composed of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus are also observer members.
It was founded in China in 2001 to foster confidence-building between Central Asian republics to demilitarize borders and enhance cooperation in the fight against militant groups. But it has broadened its mandate beyond counterterrorism and intelligence sharing and also functions as a counterweight to similar Western allied organizations.
The formal process of India and Pakistan joining as full SCO members began last year.