Sat, 16 Oct 2021

TEHRAN, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- The official launch of the procedures for Iran's accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) further marks Iran's shifting of foreign policy orientation towards the East and regional cooperation, which will benefit Iran in a variety of ways, experts here said.

The decision to start admitting Iran as a full member from an observer was declared on Friday in the 21st summit of the SCO leaders in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on Friday hailed Iran's membership as a new step towards regional convergence, saying that "we are fully satisfied that the document of Iran's permanent membership in the SCO has been approved in Dushanbe by the (member states) leaders."

The SCO was established in Shanghai in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and was joined by India and Pakistan in 2017.

ASIA-CENTERED POLICY

The membership in the SCO would have an "important impact" on Iran's multilateral cooperation within the framework of its foreign policy "oriented towards neighbors and Asia," Amir Abdollahian said after the members' votes.

Addressing the SCO summit on Friday, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi also expressed his gratitude for the permanent membership of Iran. He said that "neighborhood policy" in its broadest sense, and strengthening its presence in regional organizations are part of his foreign policy's orientation.

Upon his departure to Dushanbe on Thursday, Raisi reiterated much-stressed position of his government, sending a strong signal to the SCO leaders that "we attach great importance to regional cooperation, and the SCO is one of the active organizations for regional cooperation where Iran will have an active presence."

He pointed to the potentials for the development of relations among regional countries in different fields, particularly in economy.

Ali Asghar Zargar, an analyst of international affairs, said Saturday that by becoming a full SCO member, Iran has made a complementary eastward pace in its foreign policy strategy, according to Arman Melli daily.

ECONOMIC GAINS

Raisi said in his Friday address at the SCO meeting that the membership in the organization would provide opportunities for Iran to join economic and trade routes across Eurasia.

Iran is the link between infrastructure projects in Eurasian region, he said, adding that his country can connect south and north Eurasia.

The officials of Iran's new administration have also stressed prioritization of economy in foreign relations, especially with neighbors and regional states, by activating economic diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among other efforts.

Peyman Hassani, an expert of the Institute of Economic Diplomacy, said he believes that Iran's membership in the SCO will give it access to huge markets across the Asian continent.

"From an economic point of view, the permanent membership of Iran in this regional organization maintains and expands the large consumer market for oil and non-oil exports and also meets the technological needs and financial resources needed for industrial development" of the country, Kayhan daily reported on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the acceleration of Iran's accession to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and strengthening ties with states in Central Asia, are among other benefits of the membership, Hassani said.

POLITICAL PRIVILEGES

On Friday, Raisi asserted that Iran's foreign policy has always been based on active participation in international organizations, multilateralism and opposition to unilateralism in dealing with international and regional challenges.

By the same token, the SCO has shown well that it can become a driving force for global multilateralism by relying on its economic, political and demographic capabilities, and this demonstrates the provision of a platform for shaping a society based on the common values of developing countries, said Raisi.

In the current context, world peace and security are threatened by hegemony and challenges such as terrorism, extremism and separatism, which target a wide range of countries around the world, especially members and partners of the SCO, he noted.

The SCO and its governing spirit are key tools for maintaining peace in the 21st century, he added.

Asghar Ebrahimi Asl, former deputy minister of petroleum, said the government and the parliament's averting look from the West towards neighboring and friendly countries will be very useful in realizing national interests, according to Kayhan.

"We should put government strategy relating to our region on the agenda in order to develop and deepen our cooperation with our neighbors," Ebrahimi Asl pointed out, adding that the expanding of this cooperation will naturally help Iran "neutralize sanctions and develop cooperation."

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