Regional Bloc Summit Focuses on Afghanistan, Economic Cooperation

Posted June 6th, 2012 at 12:35 am (UTC-5)
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The future of Afghanistan is expected to be high on the agenda as the leaders of China, Russia and four central Asian states gather Wednesday for an annual summit in Beijing.

Ahead of the two-day meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Chinese President Hu Jintao said he envisions the regional bloc playing a deeper role in Afghanistan as foreign troops begin withdrawing.

Chinese state media quoted President Hu as saying the nations in the six-member grouping should work more closely with each other to safeguard peace and stability in the region. But he did not specifically mention how it could play a bigger role in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is expected to gain “observer” status at the grouping, whose member states fear growing instability spilling across the region as the pullout proceeds.

China and Afghanistan are also expected to deepen ties and sign a series of strategic agreements at the summit, which will see President Hu and Afghan President Hamid Karzai hold separate talks.

The SCO was established in 2001, in part to curb the influence of the Western military alliance NATO. But the often fractured grouping has since expanded its goals to include wider economic cooperation.

In addition to China and Russia, the group includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The four Central Asian states are former Soviet republics.

India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan also have observer status, which allows them to take part in sideline consultations during SCO meetings.