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Shanghai Cooperation Organisation members to discuss Russia –Georgia conflict?
Shanghai Cooperation Organisation members to discuss Russia –Georgia conflict? - Central Asia News Afghanistan Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Tajikistan Turkmenistan-Sports Business and Entertainment
Twelve heads of state will gather on Aug. 28 in the Tajikistan's capital of Dushanbe to take part in the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which consists of six countries, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan..
The summit agenda was ironed out during a July 25 meeting of foreign ministers of member nations. Nine separate issues were addressed and agreed on over the course of the meeting.
A joint communiqué will provide an objective assessment of the results of the organisation's work over the past year, as well as outline new practical goals for deepening and expanding the multilateral ties of SCO member nations.
Taking centre stage during the summit will be the Dushanbe Declaration, a document that will reflect the views of the organisation's position and role in the contemporary world of international politics and Central Asia in particular. Special attention will be given to the problems of Afghanistan, and the threats emanating from that country in the form of drugs trafficking and terrorism. Also included in the summit agenda will be discussions of international outreach and SCO expansion, as well as evaluating areas of practical interest for further cooperation with observer nations.
At the same time, Russian military operations against Georgia will provide a backdrop for discussions during the Dushanbe summit. The stronger Russian army continues to maintain troops on Georgian territory under the pretext of a peacekeeping mission in the two unrecognised enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
"It's quite possible that certain appraisals of Russia's conflict with Georgia will be aired during the Dushanbe summit, but only in smoke-filled back rooms," Dinara Bisembina, correspondent for Kazakh newspaper Liter, believes. But, Russia's participation in the conflict makes the issue a relevant topic, despite the fact that the Caucuses region does not fall under the scope of the SCO. "That's why the Russian-Georgian military conflict will certainly prompt some backroom discussions," Bisembina said.
"The situation on the ground in Georgia is the internal affair of that country," General Secretary of the SCO Bolat Nurgaliyev said in an official statement. Nugaliyev is representing Kazakhstan during the country's rotating presidency of the organisation. "One of the founding principles of SCO activities is non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. We hope that the situation in the Caucuses will be resolved through existing international agreements and/or accords and within the framework of the law."
In making this statement, the Kazakh diplomat was making it clear that no official statements on the conflict would be forthcoming from the SCO.
The presence of Russian troops on the territory of sovereign Georgia, the recipient of significant investment from Kazakhstan, has caused some worry in Astana's government circles. In addition to the economic interests at stake, Kazakhstan's leadership is feeling apprehensive about Russia's military actions against another member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Furthermore, the population of Kazakhstan's regions bordering Russia are predominately ethnic Russian. This circumstance has intensified “Russophobic” sentiment in Kazakh circles.
Bisembina believes that China will resist any discussion of the Georgian situation during the summit, since the country is not interested in polarising the organisation with anti-American sentiments. In all likelihood, summit participants will concentrate instead on defining gradations in the SCO's observer-nation status. One possibility would be to institute the new designation of “Partner in Dialogue.” This would be a way to avoid offending those countries actively lobbying to be allowed into the organisation, such as Iran, India and Pakistan, who the SCO does not plan to put on equal footing with observer nations such as Mongolia and Turkmenistan.
Bisembina added that the role of Kazakhstan in the SCO will be strengthened thanks to the creation of an “energy club” within the organisation: "It's no secret that Kazakhstan possesses abundant energy resources and is looking for ways to turn them into an instrument of diplomatic influence. The SCO arena will be no exception."
Kazakhstan has consistently maintained a cautious position on the issue of SCO expansion. While it's believed that Russia is interested in allowing Iran into the “Shanghai Six,” Kazakhstan—the only Central Asian nation with broad bilateral ties with the U.S.—does not view the SCO as a counter to NATO. Instead, Kazakhstan sees the organisation as a way to maintain parity in Russian and Chinese influence in Central Asia.