SCO defense ministers underline the need to actively support Afghanistan’s peace process

SCO defense ministers underline the need to actively support Afghanistan’s peace process
The 18th session of the Council of Defense Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member nations took place in Dushanbe on July 29.
Defense ministers of Russia, China, Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan participated in the meeting.  The SCO secretary-general and the defense minister of Belarus also attended the meeting.  The Belarusian defense minister attended the meeting as a guest, Colonel Faridoun Mahmadalizoda, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of Tajikistan, told Asia-Plus in an interview.  
This year Tajikistan is chair of the Organization, and the meeting, presided over by the Tajik Defense Minister Sherali Mirzo, focused on issues related to the defense cooperation among the SCO member nations.  
Xinhua says the meeting participants spoke highly of the SCO's achievements in maintaining regional peace and stability and promoting defense and security cooperation over the past 20 years.
They reportedly decided to continue to strengthen communication, build consensuses and expand cooperation so as to create favorable conditions for the sustained development of the SCO.
The growing instability in Afghanistan topped the agenda of the meeting.  All parties reportedly underlined the need to actively support Afghanistan's peace and reconciliation process, beef up counter-terrorism cooperation, combat terrorists and safeguard regional security and stability.
Speaking at the meeting, the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu noted that Russia jointly with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will conduct military maneuvers in Tajikistan next week to rehearse coordination and interaction in combat missions against illegal armed formations that intervene into the territory of an ally country, the press center of the Ministry of Defense of Russia noted
Russian defense minister reportedly also noted that SCO joint anti-terrorist command and staff exercise, dubbed “Peace Mission – 2021,” will be conducted in September this year at the Donguz training ground in Orenburg oblast, Russia. 
Shoygu expressed hope that by joint efforts it will be possible to preserve peace and stability in the region, the Russian Defense Ministry press center said. 
Shoygu also pointed out the importance of expanding the format of participation by attracting military contingents and observers from friendly countries and regional organizations such as Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the CIS.  
Meanwhile, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe noted that China would never make concessions in safeguarding its core national interests.
China is committed to maintaining world prosperity and stability, and its development will benefit mankind and the world at large, Wei was cited as saying by Xinhua.  
He said that the SCO member states should continue to maintain close communication and exchanges, improve cooperation mechanisms, deepen cooperation in professional fields, innovate cooperation models in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and strive to create a security landscape featuring joint contribution and shared benefits, so as to make greater contribution to the building of the SCO community with a shared future.
As the situation in Afghanistan is undergoing major changes and regional security risks are rising, the SCO member countries need to step up coordination and cooperation to jointly prevent and combat the "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, and cement regional security barriers, Wei said.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization was founded at a Summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  It was preceded by the Shanghai Five mechanism.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization currently has eight full members -- China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, India, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.  As a grouping SCO occupies 60 per cent of the Eurasian continent, with a collective population of 3 billion people.
Besides, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are four observer states, and SCO’s dialogue partners include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Turkey.  ACEAN, CIS, Turkmenistan and the United Nations are guest attendances.
The SCO now represents around 42% of the world’s population, 22% of its land area and around 20% of GDP.

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