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Russia, China headline regional security summit

July 4, 2024

Russian President Putin hailed a Central Asian summit as "one of the key pillars of a fair, multipolar world order." The summit is meant to counter Western alliances.

A meeting of the Heads of State Council at the 2024 SCO summit
The summit is being held in Kazakhstan’s capital city of AstanaImage: Sergei Savostyanov/Tass/dpa/picture alliance

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday attended a regional security summit created by the two countries to counter Western alliances. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit is being held in Kazakhstan's capital city of Astana.

Putin says SCO will promote 'multipolar world'

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's opening remarks hailed the SCO as "one of the most authoritative and influential international structures." 

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivers a speech at Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana
The states observing and participating include Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt Image: Turar Kazangapov/REUTERS

The alliance claims to represent 40% of the global population and about 30% of its GDP.

Chinese state television quoted Xi as telling meeting participants, "In the face of the real risks of small yards with high fences, we must safeguard the right to development."

The Chinese leader added that the bloc must handle "internal difference" with peace and by seeking common ground.

Putin said that a declaration, to be approved by the 10-member group, "emphasizes the commitment of all SCO participants to the formation of a just, multipolar world order."

While prime ministers and presidents of most member countries attended the summit, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent Foreign Minister S Jaishankar. Indian media speculated that this was because Modi was busy with the opening week of the Indian Parliament's monsoon session.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who is visiting Central Asia, also attended the summit.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was created in 2001 by China, Russia and four ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to discuss regional security and economic cooperation.

The grouping was later joined by India, Pakistan and Iran. On Thursday, Russian ally Belarus also joined.

Other states observing and participating include Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Several countries in the summit are regional competitors. India and China, neighbors, also have regional disputes which have led to skirmishes along their border.

On the agenda

On the security front, Afghanistan — which has observer status in the grouping — was likely to be a topic for the leaders to discuss.

Since the Taliban took power in 2021, the country has been absent from international summits. None of the member states has formally recognized the Taliban government, but China named an ambassador to Kabul in 2023 and removed the Taliban from its list of banned organizations.

On the economic front, the SCO's main focus is to encourage deals between member countries and develop projects linking China to Europe through Central Asia.

mk/sms (AP, AFP)