SCO Afghanistan Contact group meets in Moscow, next session in Beijing

SCO Afghanistan Contact group meets in Moscow, next session in Beijing

MOSCOW - After a seven-year pause, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) resumed its Afghanistan Contact Group meeting, which was hosted by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday. 

The meeting was attended by the SCO member-states at the deputy foreign ministerial level. As SCO observer-state, the Afghan delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai. 

In their last summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, in June, SCO member-states decided to re-launch the Afghanistan Contact Group meetings as a consultative process to support Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism, drugs, and criminality, as well as helping the country with its sustainable development process within the SCO’s economic cooperation framework. 

According to a statement issued by the Afghan ministry of foreign affairs, Karzai outlined five specific ways as to how the Contact Group could engage with and support Afghanistan based on mutual issues of concern and interest.

First, Karzai asked the SCO member-states to grant Afghanistan permanent co-chairmanship of future Contact Group meetings, since the Group’s primary goal is to enhance cooperation with the country and to help address the challenges that confront Afghanistan and the region. 

Most countries agreed with the proposal for consideration before the next meeting. 

Second, he renewed Afghanistan’s interest in acquiring full SCO membership, which was unanimously supported for consideration. 

Third, he highlighted terrorism as a key common security threat, which he asked SCO to join Afghanistan in fighting and defeating. 

Fourth, he discussed the importance of peace and reconciliation based on the Afghan leadership and ownership, calling on the SCO member-states to use their leverage and influence over militant groups and to bring them to negotiation table for results-driven peace talks. 

Finally, he noted the important role of SCO in helping Afghanistan achieve its economic potential, as well as its integration with the SCO economies through increased trade, transit, and investment.

China offered to host the next meeting of the Contact Group in early 2018. This was welcomed by the participants as a step forward in beginning to use various SCO mechanisms of cooperation to deliver on the deliberations that took place in the meeting.