Secretary-General of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Bolat Nurgaliev: SCO Will Grow in Importance
Exclusive interview of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) with Bolat Nurgaliev, Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Nurgaliev is a former Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the USA, South Korea, and Japan. He was the Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2007-2009.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a mutual-security organization founded in 2001 in Shanghai. Its members are China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has existed since 2001, building upon its predecessor, the Shanghai Five founded in 1996. What are its greatest successes so far?
For its eight years of existence, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has made its way to a position that other international organizations take dozens of years to reach. Our organization is already playing an important role in the international arena.
The SCO member states have established a solid legal framework – we signed about 400 papers in the fields of security, economic and humanitarian cooperation. I would like particularly to point to the SCO Charter, the Treaty on Long-term Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, and the Program of Multilateral Economic Cooperation.
A foreign relations network has been established extending to different areas. In the framework of the SCO, the Council of Heads of State, Council of Heads of Government, the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Institute of periodic meetings of heads of relevant ministries and departments of the Member States all operate on a regular basis.
Coordination and executive functions are assigned to a permanent body - the SCO Secretariat in Beijing and the Regional Counter-Terrorist Structure in Tashkent.
Along with the Council of National Coordinators, there are the permanent representatives to the Secretariat and the Executive Committee on the Regional Counter-Terrorism Structure, ad hoc expert groups of the SCO permanent bodies dealing with comprehensive promotion of practical cooperation.
As the main achievement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, I will point to the high level of solidarity and cohesion of our member countries in the joint response to common challenges and threats.
It can be concluded that through the joint efforts of the parties, our organization has established its place in the international architecture to ensure peace, security, stability and sustainable socio-economic development.
The SCO has made it clear that it is not directed against a third party. Yet, media and analysts in the West constantly present it as a rival trying to counterbalance NATO. What do you think is the reason for that? How does the SCO see its relations with NATO? Do Western states have any reason to feel threatened in any way by the SCO, which includes powerful states with enormous resources?
Such assessments are not founded on the actual situation of the affairs. The aims of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are transparent and have nothing to do with the devision of countries according to bloc, ideological or other confrontational characteristics.
We are ready for a constructive interaction with all countries, international and regional structures, interested in the rehabilitation of the international relations, and its liberation from the stereotypes of the past. The availability of enormous resource must be a matter pleasing the others in our more and more interdependent world rather than being a matter of concern.
How likely is it that the SCO will become a full-fledged collective security organization (i.e. one in which each member is supposed to come to the aid of the others in case of attack) in the foreseeable future?
In accordance with the main aims and tasks fixed in the SCO Charter and other founding documents of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the transformation of our organization into a military political alliance is not envisaged.
I can cite the corresponding section of the Treaty on Long-term Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, signed in 2007. It literally states the following: “... with intent to promote the democratization of international relations and the emergence of a new architecture of global security on the basis of equality, mutual respect, mutual trust and benefit, the renunciation of bloc and ideological divisions. … In the event of the occurrence of situation placing under threat its security, a Contracting Party can conduct consultations within the Organization with other Contracting Parties to respond adequately to the situation.”
The SCO members have held joint military exercises for a few years now. What is the purpose of those exercises? Have the operational capabilities of the members’ militaries become more compatible as a result?
The aim of the regularly held joint anti-terrorist exercises is increasing the level of cooperation of the combat units, and the coordination and operative capabilities of the specialized units of the armed forces of the member states in the common fight against terrorism.
These exercises which, I would like to underscore, invariably happen according to the scenario for a joint reaction to a terrorist attack have reached the desired result, and will be practiced in the future.
The members of the SCO are countries whose political traditions are different from those of Western states. Would you say that the political model of the SCO states presents a viable alternative to the model of Western liberalism?
There is no collective political model of the member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. No such goal has been set, and I do not envisage that there will be attempts to somehow unify the models of development.
The Shanghai spirit that guides the SCO rests on the principles of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for the diversity of civilizations and desire for common development.
Our organization has always advocated the democratization of international relations, the strict adherence to the UN Charter and universally recognized norms of international law, respect for the rights of the people of any country to choose their own path of development, non-interference in internal affairs of states.
Does the SCO view the involvement of NATO and the USA in Afghanistan as positive or destabilizing for the region of Central Asia? Do you believe that the US military presence in Central Asia is justified?
Representatives of NATO participated with great interest in the International Conference under the auspices of the SCO on Afghanistan, held in Moscow in March 2009.
The joint declaration which was adopted as a result of it assessed the role of the various international organizations, including NATO, in the process of normalizing the situation in Afghanistan, creating conditions for successful peace and stability in that troubled country.
The main conclusion is that it is necessary to combine the efforts of Afghanistan's neighbors, including members of the SCO, with the efforts of others involved in the regulation of Afghan structures.
Regarding Central Asia, I emphasize the important and growing role of this region in guaranteeing global energy security. Therefore, the interest of the US and other Western countries in Central Asia is natural.
Cooperation in solving common problems related to a stable and reliable security of energy resources, their safe transportation, combating terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational organized crime has no alternative.
Of course, those who work in the Central Asian region, must respect first and foremost the legitimate interests of the Central Asian states which realize on their own their sovereign rights to determine the scope and extent of cooperation with other countries, including in the military sphere. In any case, it is clear that the SCO is not going to exert pressure on anybody on that issue.
A number of states have applied to join the SCO. Which of them is the most likely new member of the SCO? Is the SCO working on a procedure for admitting new members?
Indeed, in the framework of SCO a proper document is being developed on the criteria and procedure for accepting new members. The issue of expanding the ranks of the SCO is very important and we have approached it with all due responsibility, guided by the main criterion – the accession of a new state must strengthen the Organization, and not create any problems or dilute the results already achieved.
Where do the greatest security threats for the member states of the SCO come from today? How is the organization addressing them?
The greatest threat to the security interests of the SCO member states represent the "three evils" - terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.
For all these kinds of threats there is a system for collective response. We are improving the legal framework and mechanisms for security cooperation, on a scheduled basis to undertake joint activities to enhance our abilities to counteract those threats.
As an example I will point to the adoption of the 2009 Regulations on the joint response to situations that threaten peace, security and stability in the SCO space. By adopting this document, our Heads of State agreed on a clear mechanism of interaction in the event of threatening situations.
Iran is an observer at the SCO. The 5+1 states, which include SCO members China and Russia, have threatened sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. What is the official position of the SCO on the Iranian nuclear program issue? Does the SCO believe that sanctions against Iran would be justified?
The SCO member states have consistently maintained the principle of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The international community and the relevant parties must properly handle issues related to Iran's nuclear program through diplomatic negotiations.
As a member state of the additional protocol to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Iran has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. As we understand, the dialogue between the IAEA and Iran continues.
We must continue the policy of encouraging Tehran to the closure of all issues arising from its nuclear dossier. I hope that collective efforts will achieve the desired results of the international community.
How has the SCO improved the economic cooperation among its members? How significant is energy as a sector for cooperation among the SCO members?
During our last Summit in Yekaterinburg in June 2009, the SCO Heads of State recognized the feasibility of taking effective measures to minimize the impact of the global financial crisis and to promote closer regional economic and trade and investment cooperation within the SCO.
In this regard, an important priority of our Organization is to intensify cooperation in various spheres of the economy.
In the framework of the SCO, there are more than 20 instruments in various areas of economic cooperation, including working groups on customs cooperation, according to modern information and telecommunication technologies, development of transit potential, and others.
The SCO was one of the first to react to the global financial crisis. Thus, in October 2008, the Heads of Government approved an update of the plan of action to implement the Program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation of SCO member states, which was updated in light of the trends in the global economy and the priorities of our countries in economic cooperation.
At the Meeting of Ministers responsible for trade and economic relations, it was recommended that the Business Council and SCO Interbank Association craft proposals for long-term development of economic cooperation within the SCO framework in light of the trends in innovation and technological progress.
Lastly, in October 2009, during the Beijing Summit of Heads of Governments a joint initiative was adopted to strengthen the multilateral economic cooperation in order to help combat and overcome the global financial crisis, ensuring the further development of the economies of our states.
I note in this the particular role of the People's Republic of China. Despite the crisis, our Chinese partners decided to provide for the states of the SCO soft loans totaling USD 10 B, which will focus on implementation of joint projects of regional significance.
On the interaction in the energy sector. Countries such as Kazakhstan, Russia and Uzbekistan have significant oil and gas reserves, China is one of the leading positions in the world to use unconventional sources of energy and mining coal, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have large hydroelectric potential. The volume of attracted investments is a testimony to the growth of cooperation in the energy field.
In the context of sustainable development of Central Asian countries the management and efficient use of water resources occupy a special place.
An updated version of the Action Plan to implement the Program of multilateral trade and economic cooperation of SCO member states provided for the holding of joint seminars, research and conferences on topical issues of cooperation in the energy industry, sharing of information on the progress of market reforms in the electricity sector and the prospects of the industry, cooperation and information sharing for the introduction and use of renewable energy, as well as the development and implementation of innovative technologies in this field, creating an information base on the planned international tender for power plants.
We will continue to work to achieve a reasonable balance of interests between producers, transit countries and energy consumers.
After decades of animosity on the former Soviet-Chinese border, has the SCO managed to improve the image that peoples of its six member states have of one another?
Border issues between China and former Soviet countries have been resolved. The situation throughout the Chinese border with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan is characterized by an atmosphere of peace and friendship.
Border crossing points have become a bridge, allowing close contact between our countries. The Treaty signed at the Bishkek summit in 2007 strengthens further the foundation for the development of good-neighborly, friendly and partnership relations between the SCO member states.
Relations of good neighborliness, friendship and cooperation between China and the rest of the SCO are developing in the spirit of the traditions of historical, geographical and cultural closeness of our peoples.
The SCO is one of the most important international organizations in the world today. What are the top priorities for its future development?
The priority direction of cooperation within the SCO framework in the future will remain all-round development of practical cooperation in the fields of security, economy, culture, external relations, the comprehensive implementation of agreements already reached on the practical cooperation, as well as the application of efforts required to ensure that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is distinguished by even greater activity and concentration .
There is no doubt that our organization will play an increasing role in ensuring peace, security and stability in its area of responsibility, as well as in global efforts to promote universal social and economic progress. The SCO is open for constructive cooperation with all countries and organizations that seek to achieve similar goals.
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