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The Article published in CGTN Digital

What is your expectation of the upcoming SCO Summit? What outcome do you look forward to?

Preparations for the Summit are now in their final stage and, frankly, expectations are high. This will be the first SCO Heads of States Meeting since India and Pakistan joined last June. On the one hand, we have all been making efforts to integrate new members into the vast network of cooperation mechanisms existing in the Organization as smoothly as possible. On the other, it was important to maintain the pace of our joint work, not to let objective factors to slow it down. Today it is evident that both principal objectives have been achieved.

In practical terms a very serious set of documents is currently being finalized for approval by the SCO leaders at Qingdao. Let me name the most important ones.

First of all this is the Qingdao Declaration and Information Communiqué. They will contain a consolidated assessment of the current situation in the region and the world and prospects for its development, specify common approaches to the most pressing international issues, review basic achievements of SCO cooperation in the past year and outline priority steps for future work.

Another key document to be approved by the leaders is the Cooperation Program in the Fight Against Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism for 2019-2021. It envisages a series of specific and concrete measures to be carried out by competent agencies o our eight countries to counter security challenges and threats in SCO space.

The Joint Appeal of the SCO Heads of States to Youth and Action Program on its implementation address the vital task of building up immunity within the young people against increasing attempts of implanting terrorist and other radical ideology and luring them into various destructive activities.

An Action Plan for 2018-2022 on Implementation of the 2007 Bishkek Treaty on Long-Term Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation – one of the basic legal documents in SCO – will be adopted.

Two other documents – Concept of Cooperation in Environment Protection and Joint Action Plan on Implementation of the Cooperation Program in Tourism for 2019-2020 shall contribute to practical work of SCO Member States in these important areas.

A Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation Between the SCO Secretariat and UNESCO is intended to facilitate external contacts of the Organization and promote cooperation in the humanitarian and cultural areas.

On 31 December the term of office of the present SCO Secretary General Rashid K. Alimov (Tajikistan) and Director of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure Executive Committee Evgeny S. Sysoev (Russia) will expire. According to the principle of rotation existing in the Organization they will be succeeded for the next three-year period by representatives of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, accordingly. Nominations have been made and are currently under consideration by Member States. Relevant decisions will also be taken by the leaders in Qingdao.

There are other drafts as well. Experts and National Coordinators are still working on them.

One other thing – let’s not forget that President of the Russian Federation Mr. Vladimir Putin will conduct a state visit to China on the eve of the Qingdao Summit. This event will be of great significance for further advancement of Russia-China bilateral relations of comprehensive interaction and strategic partnership. This is another reason why next week is so important for us.

Personally I have no doubt that the Qingdao Summit – the culminating point of China’s chairmanship in the Organization in 2017-2018 – will be a successful one, laying another brick in the foundation of SCO development for years to come.

I wish our Chinese friend all the best in holding the most important event in the SCO political calendar this year.

There has been a rising tide of protectionism and anti-globalization starting from last year. Under this context what could China and Russia do to boost solidarity among the SCO members?

Issues of building an inclusive and just world trade system have been in the focus of attention of SCO Member States since the Organization was established in 2001. It is a permanent discussion point at meetings of SCO Heads of States and Governments as well as ministers responsible for foreign trade. Just a reminder – in December 2015 in Zhengzhou, China SCO Heads of Governments adopted a special Statement on Promoting Regional Economic Cooperation where this particular topic was duly reflected. It was on top of the agenda in Sochi last December at a similar meeting. It will also be present in the political documents of the upcoming SCO Summit in Qingdao.

A number of line expert groups in various areas of economic cooperation are tasked, among other things, with identifying an optimal solution of the above problem first on the regional level and then globally.

Russia, China and other Member States are united in the necessity to improve the architecture of global economic governance, develop trade, economic and investment cooperation based on principles of openness, inclusiveness, balance of interests and mutual gains. Our countries call for consistent enhancement and promotion of a transparent, non-discriminatory, open multilateral trade system with the World Trade Organization as its core and jointly work towards consolidating the WTO. We do not accept protectionism in any form whatsoever and coordinate efforts aimed at removing all existing and preventing the emergence of new protectionist barriers .

Last but not least – SCO Member States advocate setting up favorable conditions for trade and investment in order to ensure gradual free movement of goods, capital, services and technologies in SCO space – as stipulated in the SCO Charter. Currently we are working on trade simplification procedures, a framework agreement on trade in services and relevant legal documents.

This year’s SCO meeting is the first one after India and Pakistan were included in this big family. But there are also some concerns that the inclusion of more members will slow down the efficiency of decision-making and even turn the SCO into a symbolic organization. How do you think we can avoid this from happening?

You are absolutely correct in saying that a year has passed since India and Pakistan joined the SCO as full Members. This was preceded by a period of negotiations and consultations – among the SCO States themselves and with Indian and Pakistani representatives. There is nothing extraordinary about it. On the contrary, it is quite explainable and justified – the Organization expanded for the first time in its history and there were natural doubts about how the newcomers would fit into the existing vast network of cooperation mechanisms existing in the SCO as a result of 17 years’ work.

Today I can say with full responsibility, and I am sure my other SCO colleagues will concur, that the Organization lost nothing in terms of its effectiveness or efficiency. The gains, however, are obvious. The cumulative potential of the SCO increased significantly. Brief statistics – after expansion SCO Member States occupy about 23% of the planet’s surface, with 43% of the Earth’s population producing a quarter of the world’s GDP. In my humble opinion that is something to be impressed with.

SCO has acquired additional opportunities to advance practical cooperation in all areas. I am talking about political interaction and ensuring security, economic development and humanitarian contacts and exchanges. Indian and Pakistani colleagues have been participating in every event , every meeting since they joined – and I can assure you that there have been quite a few, especially in the last two month as the Qingdao summit is coming closer. And their attitude, their professional performance is always very positive and constructive. This year, for example, India and Pakistan hosted two SCO RATS (Regional Antiterrorist Structure) expert meetings on their territory, both very successful. This practice will continue.

Now about doubts and concerns. There have always been and always will be those who have doubts, concerns and hesitatuions. Reasons can be different – some just don’t know what the SCO is really about. Some over-exaggerate bilateral issues predicting they will slow the Organization down or even paralyze its performance. Some go even as far as view the SCO as an anti-Western, anti-NATO military bloc. All this has nothing to do whatsoever with the nature of cooperation within the SCO that has no military component, with how the SCO functions on a daily basis or how Member States make decisions.

The Organization comes to the Qingdao Summit consolidated and strong. Its positioning in the international arena has enhanced, its authority and reputation are as high as ever. SCO is regularly present at various multilateral fora – in 2017, for example, SCO General Secretary was invited for the first time to the ASEAN events in Manila – he participated in the Ministerial Meeting and the East Asia Summit. We hope this practice will continue this year under Singapore’s presidency in Association. SCO delegations are frequent guests and active participants at high-level UN events in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Paris, Bangkok, Ashgabad and other cities. And everywhere you can hear the consolidated voice of the expanded SCO.

Also worth mentioning is the long line of countries and organizations wanting to join the SCO cooperation process in one form or the other or upgrade their existing official status in the Organization. This is yet another acknowledgement of its attractiveness in the international community.

Final point – I have already noted the considerable package of documents aimed at promoting joint work within the SCO in priority areas that will be presented to SCO leaders for approval. This shows among other things that the pace of SCO cooperation following the admission of India and Pakistan has not in the least slowed down and proves that our leaders made a correct and wise decision by admitting two new members to the Organization.

So does the above-said anyhow justify allegations about the SCO being inefficient? I don’t think so.