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Members of SCO outline bloc's strategy

By Wu Jiao, Ding Qingfen and Zhou Wa (China Daily)

08:10, June 07, 2012

President Hu Jintao and leaders of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. [Zhong Xin / China News Service]

SCO summit stresses cooperation as route to growth and security

Leaders of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization began to forge a path ahead for the bloc, as they kicked off their annual summit, amid a rapidly changing regional and global landscape.

After a slew of bilateral meetings on Tuesday, the leaders of the bloc, which groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, held their first meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The summit focused on consolidating unity and planning direction.

Trade, food and energy security were identified as key areas of cooperation and new funding models were explored.

The summit will continue on Thursday and will be joined by leaders and officials from the bloc's observer and dialogue partners.

President Hu Jintao told the summit that the members should enhance economic cooperation and be better prepared to navigate the choppy waters of the global economy.

He also urged members to coordinate closely on important regional issues, and step up support for each other on matters relating to territorial integrity, national security, social stability and development.

The president called on the bloc to enhance its cooperation with other multinational groups to expand its global influence.

Founded in 2001, the SCO has become an important player in regional affairs, especially regarding development, combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, drug trafficking and cross-border crime.

In a written interview with the People's Daily newspaper, Hu stressed regional security.

Hu said that the organization will also play a greater role in Afghanistan's "reconstruction".

The SCO was set up to primarily focus on security concerns. But experts said the organization is expected to shift the focus of cooperation from politics to economic projects in the next 10 years.

The summit is expected to yield important agreements on political, economic and security cooperation, diplomats from the member countries said.

A program on fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism for the 2013-15 period will be ratified. The bloc will also speed up its work in building a transport network covering all SCO members. The establishment of a regional investment bank to fund key projects in the region is also a priority.

The Beijing summit represents an important moment for the SCO to plan its development as it enters its second decade, Zhang Deguang, former Chinese ambassador to Russia, said.

The bloc has exerted a key role in maintaining regional stability, he added.

The summit will focus on the direction and emphasis of SCO development, Zhang said.

Sun Zhuangzhi, a Central Asian Studies scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the bloc faces challenges from the changing global landscape, as some of its members, in various stages of social development, may be buffeted by economic and security changes.

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