Putin: No Obstacle to Iran’s SCO Membership

Putin: No Obstacle to Iran’s SCO Membership Putin: No Obstacle to Iran’s SCO Membership

There is no hindrance to Iran's membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.

"I think that after the resolution of the Iranian nuclear problem and lifting of the UN sanctions, there are no obstacles for a positive answer to Iran's request," TASS quoted him as saying in an address to the SCO summit in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

"Iran has been taking a proactive part in the organization's work as observer for a long while, since 2005," the Russian president noted.

Iran submitted its request to join in 2008. The international punitive restrictions over the country's nuclear program that had kept the issue off the table were removed under Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. The deal was signed in July 2015 and implemented last January.

In recent months, Russian officials have supported Iran's full SCO membership and have emphasized that the process needs to be expedited. Late last month, SCO Secretary-General Rashid Alimov told Sputnik that the security and economic cooperation body agreed with Tehran's admission as a full member, but member states needed to reach consensus on the inclusion of this issue in the agenda of the Tashkent summit.

  Technical Nuances

However, Bakhtiyer Khakimov, the Russian special envoy to the SCO, said the members had failed to put the matter on the agenda of the meeting.

"Russia's position is definitely in favor of launching the process of Iran's admission to the SCO without dragging it out as much as possible," Interfax quoted him as saying on Thursday. "But there are technical nuances as to when the process should be launched."

"We failed to reach an agreement with our colleagues this time, but the work continues."

India and Pakistan applied to join the organization in 2005 and the process of their membership began last year. At the Tashkent summit, the two Asian neighbors were to move the process to final stages. They are expected to have a formal seat among the bloc's members in the next SCO summit in Kazakhstan in June 2017.

Late last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China backs Iranian membership in the SCO. But he added Beijing first wants to focus on the ongoing accession of India and Pakistan before moving on. The summit opened under the chairmanship of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif represented Iran at the gathering.

Besides the heads of the six member states of the SCO (Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), the meeting was also attended by the heads of states of Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and India. Founded in 2001, the SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military cooperation organization.  On the sidelines of the summit, Zarif met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, to discuss Iran's relations with Moscow and Kabul.

  Meetings in the Netherlands

Before arriving in Tashkent early on Friday, Zarif was in the Netherlands on the second and final leg of a European tour that began last Tuesday. In a meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday, Zarif described the two countries' relations as "long-standing".

He welcomed the growing interaction between the two nations that he said has made the Netherlands the third trade partner of Iran among EU members, IRNA reported.   Zarif invited the Dutch premier to visit Tehran.  

Rutte said his government is willing to forge closer bonds of friendship with Tehran and take mutual cooperation to a higher level, pointing to the regular trips of high-ranking Dutch officials to Tehran as a proof.  Last year, Iran hosted several Dutch delegations and officials, including Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp and Foreign Minister Bert Koenders.

"Big Dutch firms are eager to boost interaction with Iran's private sector," he said.  Earlier in the day, Zarif met his Dutch counterpart, Koenders, after which they met the press.  Speaking at the presser, Zarif said "There are lots of opportunities for cooperation in various fields."

Koenders said the removal of sanctions on Iran has created an ideal chance for developing ties between the two states.

During his stay in the Netherlands, Zarif also met the Speaker of the Dutch House of Representatives Khadija Arib and Kamp, among others.

Before the Netherlands, Zarif was in France, where he met top officials to discuss bilateral relations and regional developments, including President Francois Hollande, President of the French Senate Gerard Larcher, Parliament Speaker Claude Bartolon and his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault.