Ambassadors of the member-states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to thank you all for your presence and participation in this meeting.
It is an indication of your strong commitment to the SCO and the implementation of its mission objectives for ensuring peace, stability, and prosperity in the SCO region.
I hope this meeting will help us explore more ways to expand further cooperation between Afghanistan and the SCO member-states in the coming months.
And in the coming years, we look forward to achieving full membership of the SCO, on which we need the support of all of you, as you rendered such support to India and Pakistan, which acquired full membership in 2017.
Also, please allow me to extend my appreciation to each one of you for further deepening ties between Afghanistan and your respective countries.
As we all know, our nations share common needs and are confronted with similar challenges, which require us to work together to maintain peace and stability in the SCO region and to free our region from such threats as terrorism, radicalism, separatism, and criminality.
Regional Cooperation lies at the forefront of our foreign policy, and SCO with one-third of the world’s population and a growing economy in our own broader neighborhood, is naturally very important for Afghanistan.
Indeed, we are an organic part of the SCO region, neighboring near and far all SCO member-states.
This demonstrates the inevitable inter-dependence of the SCO region where peace and prosperity in one member-state spills over into another, as much as the threats, which I pointed out, transcend the borders of the SCO region.
That is why the Government of Afghanistan applied for the full membership of the SCO in 2015.
This will help enable us to address the challenges that commonly face all of us in the SCO region, while enhancing collaboration on the many shared opportunities for regional connectivity for increased trade and people-to-people ties among our respective nations.
As our SCO membership remains pending, we continue requesting support from all member-states to back our consistent efforts to join the SCO.
In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established a coordination group, which consists of representatives from Office of the President, Office of the Chief Executive, and the Parliament, helping speed up the process of our full accession to the SCO.
Moreover, the Afghanistan-SCO Contact Group resumed its activities in 2017.
A protocol was signed between Afghanistan and SCO in 2018, on the sidelines of the Qingdao Summit in China, to conduct consultations on political issues and the fight against terrorism, extremism and illicit drug trafficking, as well as involving Afghanistan in the regional economic cooperation processes.
I would like to thank the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China for holding the first and the second meetings of the Contact Group.
We will have the next meeting of the Contact Group on April 19 in Bishkek, and I wish to thank the Kyrgyz Republic for hosting the meeting.
The upcoming meeting is of particular significance, as Afghanistan, based on the agreed protocol, will co-chair it with Kyrgyzstan for the first time.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our region is facing numerous security challenges. Terrorism remains our primary concern, as the Afghan people have borne the brunt of attacks by terrorist networks, which continue to find easy and safe havens in the region.
That is why we must cooperate under the SCO umbrella to fight this transnational menace.
The protocol on counter-terrorism cooperation was signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO in 2015.
We are committed to fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism, while exchanging our experience and public information analysis with the RATS.
I am confident that our full membership in the SCO would enable us to do more, working with others more closely to achieve the intended goals of the RATS against the common security threats facing the SCO member-states.
Connectivity improves regional economic cooperation, spurring economic growth and development of our region for integration.
As the Heart of Asia, Afghanistan is a natural land-bridge in the SCO region, connecting the member-states with each other and providing land-routes for goods from East Asia to Europe, as well as serving as a hub for the Silk Road’s trade and transit routes.
With these potentials for security and economic cooperation in mind, I renew our call for your kind support to expedite Afghanistan’s full membership of the SCO.
The sooner we are a full member, the more we will be able to contribute to the SCO efforts to further enhance regional economic and security cooperation.
Thank you again for your participation. Deputy Foreign Minister Zaman will be here to chair this meeting, and I look forward to your productive discussions throughout the meeting.