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SCO will be 'fortress of security and stability'

By  WuJiao, Zhou Wa and Cui Haipei  (China Daily)

09:32, June 08, 2012

he leaders of the six Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries sign agreements in Beijing on Thursday.(Wu Zhiyi / China Daily)

President sets out vision for bloc as Afghanistan gets observers status

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization granted Afghanistan observer status on Thursday as President Hu Jintao said the bloc aimed to become a "fortress of regional security and stability and a driving force of regional economic development".

The current summit of the organization in Beijing, which witnessed the signing of agreements covering security, politics and the economies of the members, will be a landmark in the bloc's history as it set out a clear vision of its direction, analysts said.

By granting observer status to Afghanistan, the SCO, which groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, consolidated ties with the war-torn country ahead of the pullout of most foreign troops by the end of 2014.

The organization also announced that Turkey, a NATO member, will join Sri Lanka and Belarus as a dialogue partner.

Observer status will strengthen "political, economic and civilian cooperation between the SCO states and Afghanistan," Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Cheng Guoping said after the summit.

Central Asia's stability is a pressing issue for the regional bloc, analysts said, especially considering the turmoil in the Middle East and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Chen Yurong, a researcher of regional affairs with the Institute of International Studies, said as the security situation in Central Asia has changed, the SCO must revise security policies.

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